Monday, March 23, 2009

Accreditation and Quality Control?

As opposed to many other countries where the government has an educational body that takes responsibility for accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education does not accredit schools. Rather the principle of peer review is used. If I understand it right, in practice this means that accreditation groups are formed by members of the academic community that the group will then accredit. What are the pros and cons to this version of quality control?

The peer review system could push itself to higher standards as peers will most likely ask more of the other schools than a government agency would.

The system is self-regulating and not driven by a government agency which may lack the resources and time to maintain high accreditation standards.

Academic organizations get some form of cross pollination of ideas.

Conflict of interest, it seems that because members' schools get accredited and these same members accredit others there may be an occasionaly conflict of interest.

Peers may fail to hold a high standard because they may not want to meet that standard at their own organization.

Not as unified accreditation standards across different accreditation groups. Maybe this isn't a con.

I still like the peer reviewed system but is that the best quality control for higher education? What about industries getting involved in accreditation since they are the secondary client receiveing those students educated at schools into their companies and organizations. Also, what student quality control is taken into account for accreditation. I don't think that student ratings count as student quality control and it seems that students may be a good source for quality control data. What about an international accreditation body so that the peer group is expanded and includes more ideas and different standards. Do we do this at all in any way?

1 comment:

MikeGriffiths said...

I really like the idea of businesses being involved in accreditation. In a round about kind of way they do this in the UK university system. The government asked industries to create outcomes that they wanted for all university disciplines. Universities have to show how they are meeting those outcomes when they have their peer reviews. In this way, it is still peers that perform the accreditation evaluations, but it is business that helps to shape the criteria. This seems like a fairly pragmatic solution, but there may be better ways.

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