The goal of accreditation is to ensure that accreditation institutions meet acceptable levels of quality. Accreditation involves non-governmental entities as well as governmental agencies.

Accrediting agencies, which are private associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an organization's evaluation and that meet an organization's criteria are then "accredited" by that organization.

ACICS does accredit institutions and/or programs of nationally or internationally recognized accrediting agencies that determine to be reliable authorities as to the quality of training provided by the institutions of programs they accredit. An organization seeking recognition by ACICS must meet the procedures and criteria for the recognition of accrediting agencies. Some of the criteria for recognition, have no bearing on the quality of an accrediting organization; however, they do have the effect of making some agencies ineligible for recognition for reasons other than quality. The recognition process involves not only filing an application with ACICS but also review by the Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Board regarding recognition and makes the final determination regarding recognition.

ACICS also accredit institutions in foreign countries. The Board gives that committee the responsibility for reviewing the standards that foreign countries use to accredit institutions to determine whether those standards are comparable to the standards used to accredit in the region.

ACICS assume varying degrees of control over accreditation, but, in general, institutions are operating with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs.

In order to ensure a basic level of quality, the practice of accreditation arose as a means of conducting non-governmental, peer evaluation of accredited institutions and programs. Private accredited institutions of regional or international scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether or not they are operating at basic levels of quality.

Functions of Accreditation

  1. Verifying that an institution or program meets established standards;
  2. Assisting institutions in determining the acceptability of standards;
  3. Helping to identify institutions and programs for the quality of accreditation;
  4. Assist an institution against harmful internal and external pressure;
  5. Creating goals for self-improvement of weaker programs and stimulating a general raising of standards among accrediting institutions;
  6. Involving the faculty and staff comprehensively in institutional evaluation and planning;
  7. Establishing criteria for professional certification and licensure and for upgrading courses offering such preparation; and
  8. Providing one of several considerations used as a basis for determining eligibility for ACICSˇ¦ assistance.

 

Accrediting Procedure

  1. ACICS in collaboration with institutions seeking accreditation establishes standards.
  2. The institution or program seeking accreditation prepares an in-depth self-evaluation study that measures its performance against the accrediting standards.
  3. A team selected by ACICS visits the institution or program to determine first-hand if the applicant meets the established standards.
  4. Upon being satisfied that the applicant meets its standards, ACICS grants accreditation or preaccreditation status and lists the institution or program in an official publication with other similarly accredited or preaccredited institutions or programs.
  5. ACICS monitors each accredited institution or program throughout the period of accreditation granted to verify that it continues to meet the organization's standards.
  6. ACICS periodically reevaluates each institution or program that it lists to ascertain whether continuation of its accredited or preaccredited status is warranted.

 

Types of Accreditation

There are two basic types of accreditation, one identified as "institutional" and one referred to as "specialized" or "programmatic."

Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution's parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution's objectives, although not necessarily all at the same level of quality. The various commissions of the regional accrediting associations, for example, perform institutional accreditation, as do many national accrediting agencies.

Specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or departments that are parts of an institution. The accredited Team may be as large as a company within a business group or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. However, ACICS also accredit professional institutions and other specialized or vocational institutions that are free-standing in their operations. Thus, ACICS is function in the capacity of an institutional accrediting organization. In addition, ACICS accredit programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals.

ACICS does recognize accrediting bodies for the accreditation of institutions. If an accrediting body which is recognized by ACICS, the department's recognition applies only to ACICS accreditation of institutions.

ACICS is required to publish a list of recognized accrediting agencies that determines to be reliable as to the quality of training provided by the institutions programs they accredit. ACICS only evaluates accrediting agencies that apply for recognition, and certain criteria for recognition that are unrelated to the quality of accrediting activities limit the scope of ACICSˇ¦ recognition activities.

The commissions of the accrediting agencies that are recognized by ACICS, promulgate standards of quality or criteria of institutional excellence and approve or renew membership of those institutions that apply for meet their accreditation and standards or criteria.

Evaluation Team

ACICS Evaluation Team has been established to deal with accreditation matters. The team carries out the following major functions with respect to accreditation:

  1. Conduct a continuous review of standards, policies, procedures, and issues in the area of the institution interests and responsibilities relative to accreditation;
  2. Administer the process whereby accrediting agencies secure initial and renewed recognition by ACICS;
  3. Serve as accrediting agencies;
  4. Provide consultative services to institutions, associations, other agencies regarding accreditation;
  5. Interpret and disseminate policy relative to accreditation issues in the case of all appropriate programs administered;
  6. Conduct and stimulate appropriate research; and
  7. Provide support for the institutional quality and integrity.

 

The Recognition Process

Accrediting agencies desiring to be recognized by ACICS must apply for recognition and must demonstrate their compliance with the criteria for ACICS Recognition. An organization's application for recognition generally consists of a statement of the organization's requested scope of recognition, evidence of the organization's compliance with the criteria for recognition and supporting documentation.

There is no standard application form to be used by agencies applying for recognition. Rather, an organization's application for initial recognition or renewal of recognition consists of a narrative statement, organized on a criterion-by-criterion basis, showing how the organization complies with the criteria for recognition. For many recognition requirements, the narrative statement need consist only of a brief narrative demonstrating how that the organization complies with a particular requirement. This statement must, however, be accompanied by clearly referenced supporting documentation demonstrating that the organization meets the requirement. For example, an organization to have clear and effective controls against conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest by the organization's board members, commissioners, evaluation team members, consultants, administrative staff, and other organization representatives. The organization's narrative statement addressing this issue might simply be a statement that the organization's policies against conflicts of interest may be found in a particular policy document. The organization would have to submit a copy of that document and identify the pages on which the relevant policies were located. The organization might also choose to include a copy of the minutes of a meeting at which an organization representative abstained from voting because of a conflict of interest to demonstrate that it adheres to its written policies.

For other recognition requirements, because of their nature, the brief narrative statement, with supporting documentation, is insufficient to demonstrate compliance. In these cases, the organization's narrative statement should provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the organization's policies, standards, procedures, and practices comply with the requirement. For example, an organization maintain a program of review designed to ensure that its criteria and standards are valid and reliable indicators of the quality of the training provided and are relevant to the training needs. As this requirement is fundamental to sound accreditation practices, the organization's narrative statement would have to describe in depth the processes the organization uses to review and update its criteria and standards, the tests it uses to determine their adequacy and relevance in evaluating quality, as well as the results of those tests, and how it determines they are relevant to the needs. The organization would also have to provide relevant supporting documentation, such as policy statements pertaining to its review program for validating and updating its standards, surveys and the results of those surveys, the constituencies involved in the review process, etc. The organization's statement and documentation would need to establish that the program of review is comprehensive; occurs at regular, yet reasonable, intervals or on an ongoing basis; examines each of the organization's standards and the standards as a whole; and involves all of the organization's relevant constituencies in the review, affording them a meaningful opportunity to provide input. The organization would also need to establish that it has the requisite procedures in place for timely changing its standards in response to the results of the review.

If an organization's application for recognition does not make specific reference to the following documents and does not include them as supporting documentation for one or more of the recognition requirements, the organization must include them as additional supporting documentation:

The organization's accreditation standards and procedures
The organization's policies and procedures
The organization's most recent externally audited financial statement
Published lists of accredited programs

Self-study guidelines

Guidance aid training materials for visiting team members
Completed self-study reports
Site visit reports
Institution responses to site visit reports
Minutes of decision meetings

A list of all complaints received by the organization against an accredited program during the period immediately preceding the organization's submission of its application for recognition, together with a summary of the issues involved in each complaint, the organization's disposition of that complaint, and the current status of the complaint, if it is not resolved by the time the organization submits its application

The organization's constitution and by-laws.

It would be helpful if the samples provided by an organization for items above referred to the same institution(s) or program(s).

Copies of the Application

An organization's application for recognition plus three copies should be submitted to ACICS Evaluation Team. Only the original of bulkier exhibit items, such as self-study reports or team reports, need to be submitted with the petition; there is no need for three copies of these items.

Application for Initial Recognition

ACICS accepts applications for initial recognition at any time. To receive consideration an organization seeking initial recognition must submit its application at least six months in advance. Consideration of the organization's application after the six-month time frame is not guaranteed, however, as staff may need more time to complete its independent evaluation of the organization and to observe at least some of the organization's site visits and decision meetings.

An organization considering applying for initial recognition is encouraged to contact ACICS as early as possible to discuss its possible application and to afford staff the opportunity to observe its site visits and decision meetings. Because observation of an organization's site visits and decision meetings by ACICS is a critical component of the review of the organization's application, it is imperative that an organization seeking initial recognition submit a list of scheduled site visits and decision meetings with its application for recognition. If an organization does not provide ACICS with an opportunity to observe an adequate number of site visits and decision meetings the meeting at which the organization requests consideration of its application, ACICS may recommend that the organization's application be denied.

Recognition is granted by ACICS to an organization that meets certain eligibility requirements and can demonstrate compliance with all of the criteria for recognition, establishing through its accrediting actions and decisions that it is a reliable authority regarding the quality offered by the institutions or programs it accredits. In general, a new accrediting organization will need to have had at least two years' experience functioning as an accrediting organization - establishing standards, evaluating institutions or programs for compliance with those standards, and making accrediting decisions based on those standards - before it submits its application for recognition. In addition, a new organization will need to be mindful of the recognition criterion requiring it to establish that it has gained wide acceptance of its standards, methods of evaluation, and accreditation decisions. ACICS will also consider whether the new organization has been organized under conditions that reasonably ensure its stability and permanence.

Application for Continued Recognition

Agencies that have been granted recognition by ACICS are notified by the ACICS office, each time recognition is granted or renewed, of the expiration date of their recognition period. They should plan to submit their application for renewal of recognition approximately six months in advance of the spring or fall meeting of the committee that precedes the expiration date. ACICS usually notifies agencies a year in advance of the committee meeting at which their renewal application is to be considered and informs them of the date by which their application is due to ACICS. In the same notice, ACICS also requests a schedule of the agencies' site visits and decision meetings for the upcoming year in order to plan its observation of at least some of those activities.

Expansion of Scope

An application for expansion of an organization's scope of recognition may be included as an integral part of an application for renewal of recognition or it may be submitted separately. If expansion of scope is sought prior to the organization's next regularly scheduled review, organization personnel should consult with ACICS concerning the application format.