Us Accreditation and Foreign Countries

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Globalization and internationalization of higher education has been a focus recently among various countries. Many countries are realizing that by incorporating the higher education standards of the United States can assist with improvements in quality assurance, as well as gaining, and applying knowledge to the workforce. Therefore, many foreign countries across the globe are seeking or planning to seek United States institutional accreditation or quality assurance processes as it relates to that particular country. If higher education can be standardized among all countries, there’s a greater opportunity for students to intertwine their education with schools abroad without having to sacrifice quality. With many more students going online for an education, quality and standardization across boundaries is of utmost importance. The goal of this review is to determine how the United States accreditation system effects and contributes to education and learning in foreign countries in an attempt to improve academic quality worldwide and the creation of an effective global accreditation system.

The purpose of this literature review is to provide insight into the effects and contributions of United States accreditation as it relates to foreign countries. As part of this review, an overview of the history of higher education is presented along with quality assurance and concludes with accreditation similarities, differences, and the contributions of this process. The goal of this review is to increase knowledge regarding United States accreditation standards in higher education and the effects and impact on foreign nations and how it can be leveraged in order to ultimately aid in the rise of academic quality and the creation of an effective global accreditation system.

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The history of higher education in general can be linked back to the creation of tertiary education, which is now known as postsecondary education. In the 1800’s there was only a small amount of individuals who could read and write, thus concluding in the need for only a few educational institutions at the time. At the time the correlation was not made between having the ability to learn to read and write and the education system. If one could not read and write, they could not attend college, however, if these individuals did attend college, it may have assisted them in learning these important skills. At this time in history, institutions of education had a more religious focus that trained members of the clergy.

In Western Europe the increased number of monasteries grew at an exponential rate between the 13th and 15th century, but suddenly came to a halt by the turn of the 16th century (Bennett, 2014). His interruption in the traditional religious monasteries of education was due to the creation of a new form of higher education – the university. As higher education institutions began to rise, monasteries began to decline, leading to the loss of the monopoly these religious powers once had over higher education. Universities were established as organizations free from direct control of the church or other religious institutions (Bennett, 2014). By making this strategic shift, it allowed for the academic freedom to question, research, and advance individual knowledge. Still, by the 18th century there were still only a few institutions of higher education located in Western Europe. In today’s higher education environment, there are two main purposes for existence, which includes preparing students with knowledge and skills that can be applied in the workplace and having the ability to further human knowledge towards an understanding of the world.

When European settlers arrived in the country now known as the United States (US), it wasn’t long after that the first higher education institute was created. It’s not surprising that the first higher education institution was established in Massachusetts since most Europeans first settled in the Boston, Cambridge areas of this vast country. In 1636, Harvard College was formed and noted as the first ‘colonial college’ (Bennett, 2014). Just as institutions of education in Western Europe were formed to prepare individuals for ministry, the same was also true for institutions of education established in the US. However, after the American Revolution, these educational institutions change and began also offering additional focuses in medicine and law. By the time the 19th century came around, the mission of higher education changed to also include subjects of practicality. Subjects of practicality was determined to enhance knowledge of work that was already or needing to be done in order to live. Some such practical subjects include agriculture and engineering. It was because of the Morrill Act (land-grant colleges) of 1862 that this focus on education was able to expand (Martin, 2001). Towards the second half of the 19th century, the academic culture of professional faculty and an academic teacher and scholar began to emerge (Platt, Chesnut, McGee, & Xiaonan, 2017).

The first known universities were established in Europe in the Middle Ages, beginning in the 5th century. The European higher education system took place for many years in churches or monasteries, where monks and nuns taught classes. In Europe, higher education began to expand in an attempt to satisfy their desire for knowledge. The assumption was that society would greatly benefit from the knowledge gained at these institutions, which would assist with addressing difficult problems to achieve desired results. The very first institution of higher education was founded in 1088, known as the University of Bologna. In 1999, the Bologna Declaration created, approved and launched by Ministers of Education in 29 European countries. The objective of this declaration was to adopt a system of comparable degrees and to promote similar quality standards across borders.

Quality assurance first developed as a key business approach in the Western world in the 1950’s, focusing on training of employees to prevent issues, strengthening organizational systems, and continuously improving performance (Elassy, 2015). While quality assurance may have first emerged as an approach to strengthen organizations in the business sector, it is now more tied to education and how to guarantee that quality education is being obtained. Quality assurance as it pertains to higher education takes on a different approach, relying on government controls, professional credentials, internal audits, external expectations to maintain standards, identifying poor performers, and solving problems (Elassy, 2015). As quality assurance is integrated into the higher education system, pressures and issues have been recognized, but there are lessons that could be learned from the business sector who have been facing quality assurance concerns for decades. A few examples of lessons to be learned include creating a quality culture, be knowledgeable about the needs of students and academics, meet social and economic trends while maintaining high-level academic integration and superior quality.

Throughout history, higher education has continued to develop, just as the accreditation process dictates continuous improvement of universities. The higher education system began in monasteries and has evolved to be inclusive of all people regardless of belief or religious affiliation. Many quality control measures were established through the years to ensure a valued education is earned for all learners. While international countries has established higher education systems, the passing of the Morrill Act allowed for growth of the American higher education institution. The Bologna Declaration assisted with taking the first step toward standardization of institutions worldwide. This allowed students to transfer between national and international universities without anxiety of losing quality in their educational pursuits.

Quality assurance in higher education is important for universities in order to maintain effective learning. Countries such as, South America, East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have all adopted the United States accreditation process even though there is a national quality assurance system in place in their home country (Blanco Ramírez, 2015-a). This is due to the strong quality assurance focus that American higher education accreditation strives towards. As more countries begin to implement accreditation standards into their higher education institutions, a case can be made for these countries to assist with standardizing the accreditation process, using the United States process as a framework.

Accreditation is the most widely recognized form of quality assurance. In the broadest sense of the term, accreditation is a peer-review process that include systemic management and assessment of procedures to monitor performance and to address areas of improvement that tie into expectations around quality assurance for higher education institutions (Dey, 2011). Currently, many universities apply for accreditation, even though it is not required to operate, in order to provide a way to ensure continuous improvement in processes, programs, assessment, evaluation, accountability, and the main reason, for access to federal financial aid funding. Quality assurance in the United States higher education system is defined by student outcome achievement data, retention rates, and graduation rates. As accreditors begin focuses on data to inform quality of the institutions, many universities are making strides to work towards this accreditor expectation. Determining quality in higher education revolves around the student experience, which encompasses student achievement in courses, continued persistence towards degree completion, and finally graduation.

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