We often read, especially in the Arab world, that a university is following specific standards in applying for accreditation. The choice is mainly between American and British systems.
So what are the differences? Generally, all accreditation systems focus on four main pillars:
- Management, staffing and administration
- Teaching, learning and assessment
- Student welfare
- Premises and facilities.
The difference lies in how these pillars are prioritised. American accrediting organisations traditionally placed more value on “input” factors, such as adequate facilities, properly credentialed faculty, number of students, and students’ scores on college entrance exams. British standards tend to focus more on the quality of a school’s educational outcomes, such as graduation rates and job placement rates. In recent years, however, the American accrediting associations have been focusing more on outcomes, too.
Arab universities—that is, institutions authorized by their own country’s education ministries that do not seek international accreditation—mainly mix and match the two systems.
Why Accreditation Is Important
This takes us to an important question: who benefits from accreditation?
Accreditation assists in determining whether an institution meets or exceeds minimal quality criteria. Based on this information, parents and students can more easily identify appropriate colleges for enrollment, taking into consideration that in many Arab countries tuition fees are looked upon as an investment.
On the graduate-study level, it is essential for students to know whether their transfer credits are acceptable or not, particularly when they are planning to continue their education overseas. Most scholarships for graduate students are granted to graduates of accredited ’universities. In some countries, having graduated from an accredited faculty or programme establishes a foundation for ascertaining the eligibility for postgraduate student aid, mostly in the countries where scientific and cultural missions arestill limited to the state.