Accreditation is a voluntary process that entails both self-review and evaluation by an outside body in order to assess the academic quality of an institution of higher learning. Accreditation in the United States is non-governmental and must by done by a non-profit accrediting agency. However, there are specific accrediting agencies that have been designated as approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and the department keeps a comprehensive record of all the schools in the United States that have received accreditation by a recognized accrediting body. The purpose of accreditation is to set common standards for institutions of higher learning so students have a way to determine whether or not prospective schools will have quality academic programs, credits can transfer among insitutions of equal caliber, and the government can determine which schools should qualify for federal funding.
There are two types of accreditation in the United States – institutional accreditation and specialized accreditation. Institutional accreditation involves review of an entire school, including its complete academic regimen, its facilities, its faculty and the overall quality of the educational experience provided. Specialized accreditation involves review of one particular program within a college or university, such as a nursing program. Programs that receive specialized accreditation are evaluated by accrediting agencies with expertise in one particular discipline.
AACSB accreditation is a specialized accreditation available in the areas of business management and accounting. According to Aacsb.edu, The accrediting function of the AACSB began in 1919, and the organization views rigorous accreditation as one of the best methods to improve the quality of business schools in the United States. Since 1919, the AACSB has continued to revise its accreditation standards in order to respond to all changes in the world of business and the needs of students pursuing a management education. The AACSB is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA and has a reputation world wide as a standard-bearer for the accreditation of business programs. The AACSB evaluates schools according to a set of distinct standards including the institution’s mission, faculty qualifications and contribution to the field, academic programs, and all other areas the AACSB has deemed important in quality education. The AACSB offers accreditation to both business and accounting schools.
How It Works
In order to become accredited by the AACSB, a school must be a member institution of the AACSB and offer degree-granting programs in business or management. If a school is a member and would like to apply for review, it must submit an application for accreditation. The AACSB carefully evaluates the application and determines whether or not a school has the potential to receive accreditation. The most current AACSB International accreditation standards were published in the Eligibility Procedures and Accreditation Standards for Business Education, adopted by the AASCB on April 25, 2003 and revised as recently as January 31, 2011.
If it is determined that a program’s overall educational experience has the potential to reflect the standards of quality required for AACSB accreditation, that school will begin the laborious process of evaluation. According to Aacsb.edu, the school will work with mentors, committees and AACSB staff to carve out a Standards Alignment Plan. This means that the school will develop a plan to meet, or demonstrate that it already meets, all the standards of education outlined by the AACSB. A school will have to realize its alignment plan before it may begin its initial accreditation review. Once it realizes its alignment plan, a Peer Review Team chief is assigned to the school about two years before an on-site review will begin. The chair works with school administration to create a schedule for the evaluation visit and directs the school in developing a Self-Evaluation Report. In the self evaluation process, schools prepare a detailed review ot its own academic program and outline how it compares to AACSB standards. The peer review team will assess the Self Evaluation Report before visiting the school for the on-site evaluation. After the Peer Review Team visits the school, it will develop a report to recommend accreditation, deferral or no accreditation. Review committees and the AACSB Board of Directors make the final decision about accreditation of the school in question. All in all, accreditation with the AACSB is a very long and rigorous process that entails a great deal of work by the school seeking accreditation. All AACSB online programs have undergone this process of strict evaluation.
Accreditation with the AACSB is reviewed every five years to make sure that schools are upholding the same standards of quality that were in place during the original accreditation review. AACSB International outlines the main responsibilities of institutions with AACSB accreditation. These responsibilities include maintaining educational achievements, accurately and appropriately representing AACSB International accreditation, participating in the AACSB International accreditation review process, and representing degree and non-degree programs accurately and with integrity. An institution must apply on its own for accreditation review if it has made substantive changes to its degree programs or institutional goals.
Also, students and other members of the academic community have the right to report possible infractions to the AACSB, in order to bring to light circumstances in which an accredited school may not be living up to the standards of AACSB International.
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