Higher Education Accreditation

Accreditation of higher education varies by jurisdiction and may be focused on either or both the institution or the individual programs of study.

Higher education accreditation in the United States has long been established as a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and member institutions. The federal government began to play a limited role in higher education accreditation in 1952 with the reauthorization of the GI Bill for Korean War veterans. With the creation of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies for higher education.

Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of post-secondary educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the agency.

In most countries around the world, the function of educational accreditation for higher education is conducted by a government organization, such as a ministry of education. In the United States, however, the quality assurance process is independent of government and performed by private membership associations.

The United States-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a non-governmental organization, maintains an International Directory which "contains contact information of about 467 quality assurance bodies, accreditation bodies and Ministries of Education in 175 countries. The quality assurance and accreditation bodies have been authorized to operate by their respective governments either as agencies of the government or as private (non-governmental) organizations." In September 2012, University World News reported the launching on an international division of the CHEA.

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