What challenges exist in university accreditation? Is it more important to have institutional accreditation or program level accreditation? What is the experience of Brazil, the USA and the UK in this field? These were the questions addressed by a panel of international experts at the "Path to Excellence: Accreditation 2.0. An International Look“ seminar, organized by Universidad Andrés Bello at Casa Piedra.
Changes in the educational world are global: the technology is changing at breakneck speed, the demands of undergraduate and graduate education are constantly shifting, the public investment in education is always changing. However, excellence requires a permanent focus on quality.
Dr. Pedro Uribe, Rector of the Universidad Andrés Bello, stated this seminar is a contribution to the ongoing debate that is taking place at all levels to improve the quality of education in Chile. "We are growing in a globalized world, therefore, the analysis of the quality of our universities is becoming a key differentiator that determines how our graduates will perform in an increasingly global labor market," he said.
There is, he said, a worldwide debate about higher education quality assurance systems. That is why Universidad Andrés Bello considered it important to organize a roundtable on the topic that brings national and international points of view, to exchange models and continue to make positive forward progress in Chile.
The seminar was attended by international higher education experts such as Sir Howard Newby, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, Michael Whyte, Commissioner of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and director of WASC Proposal Review Commitee, Jorge Almeida Guimarães, President of Brazil’s Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), Iñigo Díaz, President of the National Commission on Accreditation of Chile (CNA), Juan Jose Ugarte, Director of the Higher Education Ministry of Education.
According to Sir Howard Newby, "The public and stakeholders of the education system do not want to know about the technicalities surrounding the accreditation system, but they do want to know if it is robust and fair. In the UK, universities are not subject to an accreditation system. However, each institution works with internal departments to ensure the quality of the education provided. In Europe, in addition, we work with quality standards throughout the region that allows a greater exchange of students."
The Brazilian case is different. Jorge Almeida Guimarães, President of CAPES, stated that in Brazil no institution can deliver a master's or doctoral degree, without being accredited by the agency. Today they are leaders in research worldwide.
Michael Whyte noted that in the U.S. system of accreditation, the institution undergoes a process that lasts between 3 and 7 years. "Thus, many universities have greatly improved the program quality by the end of the process".
During the meeting Juan Jose Ugarte, Director of the Higher Education Division of the Chilean Ministry of Education, described in detail the scope of the new university funding proposal submitted by the government and said the fundamentals for higher education are addressed, including funding, quality and transparency. He continued by saying that Chile appreciated the goal of this and similar meetings that show Chile’s progress and help to make good decisions for continued improvement. "This seminar allows us to contrast the local with the global reality and help Chile aspire to a system that provides greater confidence to the students, their families and society at large," said Ugarte.
Meanwhile, the President of the CNA, Iñigo Díaz said that one of the main benefits of the current system is its validation from the technical standpoint and as a basis for the generation of public policy; although he stressed that there are shortcomings in the model that must be addressed. "The system is still very young and we're looking to make continued improvements."
The seminar was attended by academic leaders and by representatives from UNAB’s board who greatly appreciated this global view of what is happening on campuses in Chile and around the world. Jorge Selume, Vice President of UNAB’s Board, said that this is a really urgent debate about quality and academic performance: "The world is changing and the new system has not adapted to the pace of new variables," he noted.
This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.