Institutional and political challenges of accreditation at the international level
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This contribution is a strong plea for approaches in quality assessment and accreditation, which honour diversity and promote innovation and creativity in higher education. For many reasons, accreditation has become an important issue for higher education, which has occurred during a period in which there has been a major shift in values. Higher education, always considered primarily a public good, is increasingly being transformed into a predominantly private good; a commodity that could be subject to trade rules. Basic questions should be answered before any action is taken in this field. Accreditation for what purpose and for which qualities? Who will be the gatekeepers of the system and what will be their criteria? The implications of the concepts of quality and of accreditation, and the methods adopted in this field, will produce consequences not only at economic and financial levels but also in terms of the cultural, social and political life of institutions and nations. In 1998, during the World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE, UNESCO, Paris), a consensus was reached and the idea of evaluation was accepted, based on the general acceptance that quality in higher education is multidimensional. The WCHE favoured a system in which quality and relevance should go hand in hand. Since then, accreditation, a method already used for a long time in some countries, in particular the United States, was added more prominently to the international agenda. The concept of quality is crucial here. Aproposal of the WCHE, requesting institutions of higher education to define or redefine their missions together with society, could serve to help create the necessary conditions for appropriate evaluations, by comparing what the institutions actually achieve with what the society as a whole expects from them. Standards could be defined through this mechanism instead of using models that do not relate to the cultural environment of institutions or the specific needs of society. These standards should guarantee appropriate quality, while at the same time enhancing diversity, innovation and creativity.
CitationVan Ginkel, Hans J.A.; Rodrigues Dias, Marco Antonio. Institutional and political challenges of accreditation at the international level. "Report: Higher Education in the World 2007: Accreditation for Quality Assurance: What is at Stake?", 2007.