Accreditation

Accreditation

 Accreditationis a process in which one one determines an education program (a university) meets the criteria of quality set by an accreditation agency, which criteria guarantee the level of education considered as minimal (sometimes very high)satisfactory level. The result of accreditation is the opinion whether the program or institution meets the threshold standards of quality (decision ""yes-no""). In the course of accreditation, learning objectives and their implementation are assessed and compared to standards. A positive result of accreditation is given to the public by the university concerned. The aim of the assessment is a decision on the quality of a level of education achieved, by comparing the performance of a school with certain pre-defined standards and placing the results on the scale of assessments. It allows a comparison of the achievements of different schools, which the accreditation does not allow for. Assessment is usually performed by a body (government, professional, sponsor) external to the one assessed it is given to the public and may have financial implications for the evaluated university. Licensing, i.e. vesting an educational institution with the right to operate is of a different character. It may be granted ex ante or renewed after a certain period of activity. In both cases, the licensing body verifies whether a school fulfills certain formal requirements - pre-established indicators, and decides on the operation of an academic institution. Licensing, as a prerequisite for schools' operation, precedes any form of quality assurance and is performed by national or regional institutions. The above-quoted ""definitions"" were taken from the paper "Akredytacja w szkolnictwie wyższym w Polsce: doświadczenia i propozycje" ("Accreditation in Higher Education in Poland: Experiences and Prospects") delivered by Ewa Chmielecka, PhD, during the Conference of Vice - Rectors for Education of Polish Technical Universities held between 19 and 20 of April, 1999, at Gdansk University of Technology. It was at this conference where a discussion began on the evaluation of the quality of education at technical universities, on the desirability of introducing accreditation and on the accreditation procedures already applied, both in Poland and a broad. Nowadays, when more and more young people are studying at universities, one should pay special attention to the quality of education. Specifically one should pay attention to the level of the educational offer, which mainly for extramural and evening courses may be inappropriate. Increasing the number of students, so burdensome to the generally not growing number of university teachers, forced primarily by the dependence on budgetary allocations, is certainly not beneficial to the educational process. There are many reasons that may lead to a deterioration of the level of education, while it is the responsibility of university authorities to oversee the level of teaching and learning and to apply control procedures. In 1999-2001, during the subsequent discussions, the vice - rectors found that not only the possibility of accreditation of courses, but also becoming acquainted with the requirements of standards of fields of studies, together with self–evaluation reports (that is with accreditation documents), and also the awareness that a large number of educational units will take the trouble of accreditation, will influence on the process of improving the quality of education, on the desire to meet accreditation requirements. It was therefore concluded that it was purposeful to prepare the rules and procedures for accreditation because, as already mentioned, even the knowledge of evaluation criteria, in terms of quality of education, can produce beneficial results. Consultation with the rectors of universities of technology confirmed the views of the majority of vice rectors for education, that the works on the establishment of the Accreditation Commission of Universities of Technology (KAUT) should be started. At that time, the University Accreditation Commission (UKA) already existed, whose documents and activities served as models and helped to go through the stage of setting up a committee, developing an accreditation procedure and preparing documents templates. Professor Bohdan Macukow and Professor Marek Witkowski participated very actively in the preparation of the first versions of the text of all documents, for which I am very grateful. The following assumptions were adopted: accreditation refers to fields of studies, it is voluntary, the costs associated with the accreditation procedure shall be borne by a unit applying for accreditation. Accreditation will be carried out by academic experts together with representatives of employers. Accreditation will be granted by the Accreditation Commission of Universities of Technology. The activities of the Commission will be supervised by the Conference of Rectors of Polish Technical Universities. KAUT activities should include the operation for the quality of education in a broad sense, also related to the promotion of the idea of accreditation, of standards for assessing the quality of education for individual fields of studies, of collaboration with accreditation committees already existing in Poland, as well as with structures abroad.

Professor Alicja Konczakowska
Honorary KAUT member