From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Accreditation is a process by which a facility's
services and operations are examined by a third-party
accrediting agency to determine if applicable standards are met.
Should the facility meet the accrediting agency's standards, the
facility receives accredited status from the accrediting agency.
United States, the term is most often used with reference to
schools and hospitals. Accreditation of these institutions is
performed by private nonprofit membership associations known as
Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees
accrediting agencies and provides guidelines as well as
resources and relevant data.
 In contrast, in many other countries the authority to
operate an educational institution is at the discretion of the
central government, typically through a Ministry of Education
(MOE). In these countries, the MOE may provide functions similar
to those of accreditation body, depending on resources and
Accreditation in the United States
When discussing accreditation in the
United States, it is important that the concept of
accreditation not be confused with the authority to operate. The
authority to operate a school in the U.S. is granted by the each
of the states individually. As the U.S. is federal republic, the
authority of the
U.S. Department of Education does not extend to authorizing
schools to operate, to enroll students, or to award degrees. In
addition, the U.S. Department of Education is not responsible
for accreditation of institutions.
In the United States the accreditation of schools has long
been established as a
peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions
and the members, and predating the U.S. Department of Education
by many decades. As the U.S. Department of Education officially
, it does not accredit
schools. Instead, accreditation commissions are formed, funded,
and operated by their members to create an academic community
that is self-regulating.
With the advent of the U.S. Department of Education and under
the terms of the
Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the
U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a
nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the
Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the
quality of education or training provided by the institutions of
higher education and the higher education programs they
accredit. The federal government makes no distinction between
accreditation bodies, giving all equal standing. There is no
similar federal government list of recognized accreditation
agencies for primary and secondary schools. There is wide
variation among the individual states in the requirements
applied to non-public primary and secondary schools.
There are six
regional accreditors. They include among their membership
nearly all elementary schools, junior high schools, middle
schools, high schools, community colleges, public universities,
and private universities.
There are 52 recognized national accrediting bodies.
The national accreditors include a variety of religious,
professional, and vocational accreditors, and get their name
from their common policy of accrediting schools nationwide or
even worldwide. Requirements for accreditation vary from each
national accreditor according to the specialty.
In general terms, the national accreditors may be divided
into those that accredit academic programs leading to a degree,
those that accredit vocational programs leading to preparation
for a career, and those that offer specialized and professional
accreditation as an add-on to other accreditation.
The major national accreditors for academic programs include
Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) for
nationally accredited distant learning institutions, and the
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
Accreditation bodies for institutions that focus on
developing career-oriented skills include the
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of
Technology(ACCSCT), Accrediting Council for Continuing
Education and Training, Accrediting Commission of Career Schools
and Colleges of Technology, Council on Occupational Education.
Of the specialized and professional accreditors, the more
visible include the
American Dental Association Commission on Dental
American Bar Association (whose accreditation is a
prerequisite to sitting for the bar exam in all states except
Association of American Medical Colleges for medical
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
for business schools, the
American Veterinary Medical Association for schools of
veterinary medicine, and the
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology for
Religious schools may seek regional accreditation or a
secular national accreditation, or they have the option of four
different specialized agencies, which include
Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools
Association of Theological Schools in the United States and
Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), and
Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools
(TRACS). These groups specialize in accrediting theological and
religious schools including
seminaries and graduate schools of theology, as well as
"normal" universities, which teach from a religious viewpoint
and may require students and/or faculty to subscribe to a
Statement of Faith.
The remainder of the accrediting organizations are formed by
groups of professional, vocational, or trade schools whose
programs are industry/profession specific and at times can
require technical oversight not provided by the broader
accrediting organizations (i.e. the
Commission on Opticianry Accreditation, the
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education).
Despite the widely recognized benefits and accountability of
accreditation, some institutions choose, for various reasons,
not to participate in an accreditation process. According to the
United States Department of Education, it is possible for
postsecondary educational institutions and programs to elect not
to seek accreditation but nevertheless provide a quality
 Yet, other unaccredited
schools simply award degrees and diploma without merit for a
Some religious schools claim that accreditation could
interfere with their mission or philosophy even though
organizations do exist specifically to accredit religious
institutions without compromising their doctrinal statements.
Some states, such as California, allow exemption from
accreditation for religious schools. Thus, occasionally
diploma mills operate as religious universities to avoid
laws against diploma mills.
Meanwhile institutions, such as
Strassford University, claim "none of the recognized
regional accrediting organizations accept as members
institutions that are not dedicated to traditional education,"
and thus, Strassford does not "desire" traditional
The Strassford University is listed by the
Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization as part of a
diploma mill operation.
Furthermore, other schools simply do not have the means or
organizational structure to meet accreditation standards and
San Diego Christian College, have had their accreditation
status revoked after failing to meet minimum requirements.
An ongoing problem within higher education accreditation is
the existence of
diploma mills and
accreditation mills. These organizations exist to grant
apparent degrees without course work to give a willing buyer a
degree for money. Sometimes both the buyer and seller know this
or a potential student is not aware of the fraud. In some cases
a diploma mills and/or its "accreditor" is
unrecognized and exists only at a
post office box or
Web page owned by the proprietor of the school.
Accreditation of certification bodies
Organizations which certify third parties against many
official standards are themselves formally accredited by the
standards bodies, hence they are sometimes known as "accredited
The accreditation process ensures that their certification
practices are acceptable i.e. they are competent to test and
certify third parties, behave ethically, employ suitable quality
assurance and other measures etc.
Examples include accredited test laboratories and
certification specialists that are permitted to issue official
certificates of compliance with physical, chemical, forensic,
quality, security or other standards.
Without accreditation, anyone would be able to issue
certificates and bad practices or incompetence might discredit
the certification process as a whole. The flip side, of course,
is that accreditation and formal processes incur additional
United States, unaccredited degrees may not be acceptable
for civil service or other employment; criminal penalties
sometimes apply should such a degree be presented in lieu of one
from an accredited school. The use of such degrees are
Washington where improper usage can result in misdemeanor
charges punishable by fines. For instance, the state of
Washington passed a bill in March 2006 "prohibiting false or
misleading college degrees.".
The state senate "unanimously amended and approved a bill that
would make issuing or using a false degree a class C
felony, a crime of fraud that could warrant five years in
prison and a $10,000 fine"
 unless the degree were accredited or otherwise
recognized. Oregon has a procedure in which unaccredited schools
can apply for authorization from the state, which maintains a
list of approved and exempt unaccredited schools which are
permitted there. An Oregonian wishing to use an unaccredited
degree not approved by the state must make it clear that the
school is not accredited.
Some state laws allow authorities to shut down large illegal
operations of unaccredited schools or
diploma mills. In November 2005, a group of operators in
Seattle was caught running several diploma mills. The group was
indicted after a
Secret Service investigation.
Tyndale Theological Seminary was fined $173,000 for issuing
degrees as a seminary without a license.
Accreditation outside the U.S.
In much of the world, institutions of higher education are
authorized to operate by the government, typically through a
Ministry of Education (MOE). The MOE is responsible for ensuring
the institutions meet government standards, so in a sense the
government serves as an accreditation body, too. For example, in
Australia, higher education providers generally need approval of
the federal or state governments (or a non-government body to
whom this power has been delegated), or an Act of Parliament,
depending on the nature of the institution.
Accreditation for universities in
are required by law unless it was created through an act of
Parliament. Without accreditation, "It is emphasized that these
fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as
University/Vishwvidyalaya and to award ‘degree’ which are not
treated as valid for academic/employment purposes.".
University Grants Commission Act 1956 explains,
"the right of conferring or granting degrees shall be
exercised only by a University established or incorporated
by or under a Central Act, or a State Act, or an Institution
deemed to be University or an institution specially
empowered by an Act of the Parliament to confer or grant
degrees. Thus, any institution which has not been created by
an enactment of Parliament or a State Legislature or has not
been granted the status of a Deemed to be University, is not
entitled to award a degree."
Accreditation for higher learning is overseen by autonomous
institutions established by the
University Grants Commission:
In Russia accreditation/ national recognition is directly
overseen by the
Education Ministry of Russia.
Since 1981, Russia has followed the
UNESCO international regulations to ensure Russian
institutions and international institutions meet high quality
standards. It is illegal for a school to operate without
It is illegal to falsely claim a degree in South Korea if it
does not meet accredited approval. For example, in March of 2006
prosecutors in Seoul "broken up a crime ring selling bogus music
diplomas from Russia, which helped many land university jobs and
seats in orchestras."
People who falsely used these degrees were criminally charged.
In the UK it is illegal to offer a qualification that is or
might seem to be UK degree unless the body offering it is on a
statutory list maintained by the
Department for Education and Skills.
Prosecutions under the Education Reform Act are rare, as many of
the bodies on the internet are based outside UK jurisdiction. It is also worth noting in this
context that the Business Names Act 1985 made it an offence for
any business in the UK to use the word "university" in its name
without the formal approval of the
Prosecutions under other legislation do occur. In 2004 Thames
Valley College in London was prosecuted under the Trade
Descriptions Act for offering degrees from the 'University of
North America', a limited liability company set up by themselves
in the US with no academic staff and no premises other than a
mail forwarding service.
Council for Higher Education Accreditation (United
List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning
List of unrecognized accreditation associations of higher
List of recognized accreditation associations of higher
Regional accreditation (United States)
U.S. Department of Education,
Accreditation in the United States
U.S. Department of Education,
State Regulation of Private Schools, June 2000.
Accreditation Search from the
United States Department of Education
United States Department of Education.
Diploma Mills and Accreditation (accessed 15 Sept
Christian Liberty Academy School System. (n.d)
What Is CLASS - Accreditation
Butler, D. (n.d.)
Ivory Tower Rip Offs - How Online Degree Mills Work.
(Originally printed on about.com).
Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization
A stress-free PhD? A snap at $250
The Higher Education Supplement 25 November 2005
The Education Reform Act 1988, section 214 (Unrecognised
Evidence given by
Charles Clarke, then
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
MP, to the Parliamentary
Select Committee on Education and Skills, 7 July
Alex Thompson, 2004. College fined £1,000. East End
Life 29/11/04, Tower Hamlets Council.
Database for Accreditation in the United States (CHEA)
Database for Accreditation in the United States (USDE)
Database for Accreditation in the United Kingdom
Database for Accreditation in Australia
Database for Accreditation in India
Database for Accreditation in Malaysia
Database for Accreditation in the Netherlands
Database for Accreditation in Pakistan
Database for Accreditation in the Philippines
Database for Accreditation in Russia
Database for Accreditation in Sweden
National Recognition Information Centres
List of non-accredited colleges/universities by State of
List of non-accredited colleges/ universities by the
State of Texas
List of unacceptable/illegal schools by
Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization
List of non-accredited colleges/ universities by State
The World Higher Education Database (IAU/UNESCO) List of
accredited schools throughout the world
The World Higher Education Database (IAU/UNESCO)
Bogus accreditation resources
Warning on Bogus Claims of Accreditation/ affiliation with
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