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Recognition Purposes and Requirements


IACUE recognition of accrediting organizations has three basic purposes:

(1) To confirm that accrediting organizations have standards that advance academic quality in higher education; that those standards emphasize student achievement and high expectations of teaching and learning, research, and service; and that those standards are developed within the framework of institutional mission.

(2) To confirm that accrediting organizations have standards that ensure accountability through consistent, clear, and coherent communication to the public and the higher education community about the results of educational efforts. Accountability also includes a commitment by the accrediting organization to involve the public in accreditation decision-making.

(3) To confirm that accrediting organizations have standards that encourage institutions to plan, where needed, for purposeful change and improvement; to develop and sustain activities that anticipate and address needed change; to stress student achievement; and to ensure long-range institutional viability.

IACUE acknowledges, respects, and is committed to the enhancement of the mission of accrediting organizations. IACUE has responsibility to advance, through the recognition process, the quality and public understanding of accreditation and of recognized accrediting organizations.

IACUE’s primary responsibility is quality assurance. Accrediting organizations that seek IACUE recognition must demonstrate the quality of their activities and the pertinence and value of their activities to higher education and the public interest.

Applicants for recognition shall supply information to enable IACUE to determine whether recognition is warranted and what the scope of recognition shall be, including: 

P         a clear statement of proposed scope of accreditation activity

P         a clear statement of the accrediting organization’s purposes and why those purposes are in the public interest

P         a description of the accrediting organization and its activities; the quality, pertinence and value of those activities; and the ways in which those activities serve higher education and the public interest.

Accrediting organizations that seek recognition by IACUE must demonstrate that they meet IACUE eligibility requirements and recognition standards.

To be eligible for IACUE recognition, the accreditation organization must: 

P         demonstrate that the organization’s mission and scope are consistent with the IACUE institutional eligibility and recognition policy, including that a majority of the institutions and programs accredited by the organization grant higher education degrees. The Policy provides, in part, that the recognition process will place increasing emphasis on the effectiveness of accrediting organizations in assuring academic quality of institutions;

P         accredit institutions that have legal authority to confer higher education degrees;

P         have written procedures that describe, officially and publicly,

P         the organization’s decision-making processes, policies, and procedures, that lead to accreditation actions, and

P         the scope of accreditation that may be granted, evaluative criteria (standards or characteristics) used, and levels of accreditation status conferred;

P         have procedures that include a self-evaluation by the institution and on-site review by a visiting team, or have alternative processes that IACUE considers to be valid;

P         demonstrate independence from any parent entity or sponsoring entity for making judgments related to accreditation status; and

P         have a specified and fair appeals process that authorizes continuation of current accreditation status of the institution until an appeal decision is rendered.

When seeking recognition, the accrediting organization must address five IACUE standards that correspond to IACUE purposes:

Advances academic quality;

Demonstrates accountability;

Encourages purposeful change and needed improvement;

Employs appropriate and fair procedures in decision-making; and

Continually reassesses accreditation practices.

Advancing academic quality is at the core of voluntary accreditation. "Academic quality" refers to results associated with teaching, learning, research, and service, within the framework of institutional mission. To be recognized, the accrediting organization must provide evidence that it has:

P         a clear definition of academic quality in the context of its mission;

P         clear expectations that the institutions have processes to determine whether quality standards are being met;

P         processes that encourage institutions to relate quality indicators to planning, assessment, and improvement strategies; and

P         expectations of institutional academic quality that are consistent with institutional mission.

The accrediting organization must demonstrate public accountability in two ways. It must have standards that call for institutions to provide consistent, reliable information about academic quality and student achievement and thus to foster continuing public confidence and investment. Second, the accrediting organization itself must maintain and encourage public involvement in its decision-making related to quality and accountability. Representatives of the public may include students, parents, persons from businesses and the professions, elected and appointed officials, and others. To be recognized, the accrediting organization must provide evidence that it has:

P         expectations that institutions routinely provide reliable data and information to the public on their performance;

P         policies and procedures that include representatives of the public in decision-making and policy setting;

P         implemented procedures that inform the public of accreditation decisions; and

P         appropriate processes to respond to legitimate public concerns and complaints.

The accrediting organization must encourage, within its institutions, planning for purposeful change, and scrutiny for needed improvement through ongoing self-examination. Such planning and self-scrutiny shall entail thoughtful assessment of quality (especially student achievement) in the context of the institution’s mission. Encouragement of such planning and self-scrutiny should not be confused with a demand for additional resources. Such planning and self-scrutiny are means to enhance the usefulness of accreditation, notably for institutions with a long history of successful accreditation that wish to use the review to help address specific institutional changes and improvement goals they have identified. To be recognized, the accrediting organization must provide evidence that it has:

P         policies and procedures that stress self-examination and self-analysis by institutions;

P         policies and procedures that stress planning and implementing strategies for change, and that call for scrutiny for needed improvement in the context of institutional mission and resources;

P         expectations that encourage responsible institutional innovation and experimentation; and

P         policies and procedures that clearly distinguish between actions required for accreditation and actions that are considerations for improvement.  

The accrediting organization must maintain appropriate and fair policies and procedures that include effective checks and balances. The accreditation process shall include ongoing participation by higher education professionals and the public in decision-making about accreditation policies and procedures. To be recognized, the accrediting organization must provide evidence that it has: 

P         policies and procedures for its decision-making that are not subject to interference from professional organizations and special interest groups;

P         policies and procedures that require participation by higher education professionals and the public; and

P         policies and procedures that foster reasonable consistency in accreditation reviews of varying institutions.   

Even as higher education institutions undertake self-assessment to maintain and improve quality, accrediting organizations need self-scrutiny of their accrediting activities, including review to determine if resources are adequate to accomplish the accreditor’s mission. Such review should also include examination of the accreditor’s impact on institutions and responsiveness to the broader accreditation community, including its willingness to conduct cooperative institutional reviews with accreditation colleagues. To be recognized, the accrediting organization must provide evidence that it has: 

P         sufficient staff and financial resources to implement and sustain effective accrediting procedures;

P         ongoing critical self-review that encourages responsiveness, flexibility, and accountability when the accrediting organization works with institutions and the public;

P         working relationships, where appropriate, with other accrediting organizations to encourage cooperative reviews;

P         ongoing review of its value to institutions and the higher education community; and

P         assessed, within its resources, the impact of its criteria and procedures on institutions.


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