ACE on Accreditation and Standards
In the United States, higher education accreditation is a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and member institutions, with the goal of ensuring that the education provided by colleges and universities meets certain measures of quality. The Department of Education (ED) and the non-governmental Council for Higher Education Accreditation both recognize accrediting bodies, although neither accredit individual institutions. The process is managed by regional and national accrediting agencies, which are all accountable to ED. These agencies develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met.
ACE’s National Task Force on Institutional Accreditation released a report in June 2012, urging the higher education community to strengthen and improve the quality and public accountability of the institutional accreditation process. The report, Assuring Academic Quality in the 21st Century: Self-Regulation in a New Era, considers the central characteristics of accreditation and outlines common criticisms of the process. It then offers six major recommendations for steps colleges, universities and regional accreditors can and should take to ensure accreditation meets its public accountability responsibilities given the enormous diversity of American higher education.