What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a process for recognizing educational institutions and professional programs affiliated with those institutions for a level of performance, integrity, and quality which entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public they serve. In the United States, this recognition is extended primarily through nongovernmental, voluntary institutional or professional associations. These groups establish criteria for accreditation, arrange site visits, evaluate those institutions and professional programs which desire accredited status and publicly designate those which meet their criteria.
- Accreditation is about quality assurance and quality improvement.
- It is private (nongovernmental) and nonprofit – an outgrowth of the higher education community and not of government.
- It is a process to scrutinize institutions and programs.
- It has a complex relationship with government, especially in relation to funding higher education.
- It adds value to society through assuring quality, enabling government to make sound judgments about the use of public funds, aiding the private sector in decisions about financial support, and easing transfer of credit.
The ACAE Difference
ACAE accreditation is focused solely on doctoral-level audiology programs. Among allied health professions (i.e., dentistry, optometry, physical therapy, occupational therapy) no accrediting body is responsible for the accreditation of professionals who practice with a master’s degree and those who practice with a doctoral-level degree.
ACAE works collaboratively with programs throughout the accreditation process. We are rigorous gate-keepers of the ACAE educational standards, but we also want to see programs succeed. ACAE fosters continuous improvement which is analyzed during site visits and monitored through annual reporting by the programs.
ACAE accreditation standards are focused on student outcomes. ACAE asks programs to measure student competency outcomes – can students efficiently demonstrate skill and knowledge related to an area of practice upon progression to the subsequent year of study and upon graduation? – instead of checking off a set number of hours spent teaching the topic. This focus on student outcomes allows each program maximum flexibility on how to achieve and measure them.
ACAE encourages a process of continual self-study for quality improvement. Ongoing measurement of how a program is meeting its goals and objectives is expected. Measures should be valid and reliable, and it is critical to initiate constructive improvement as a result of any feedback that is collected.
ACAE’s web-based accreditation platform is used by all programs beginning with an application for Developing Status, through Accreditation and Reaccreditation. All data is maintained and carried forward for the next stage in the accreditation process.