Accreditation Chameleon Part II: How to Sell a Contradiction

Today we’re going to pick up right where we left off in Part I on understanding issues related to recognized study in credential evaluation.

Imperfect Evidence

The most common threat to properly understanding the recognition status of an institution or program is lack of information. To understand situations in which, although you might regularly have access to good information, you can’t find the perfect information you need, we’ll explore the Philippines and the Commission for Higher Education Department (CHED). Accreditation in the Philippines is largely programmatic, meaning that each institution seeking recognized status must submit to the compulsory site visit and evaluation when they add courses and programs. Then, students’ individual transcripts are matched against the database of approved courses before being given a “special order number” that verifies the student completed a recognized program. Now, publicly chartered schools are exempt, as are those schools that undergo voluntary accreditation through one of the other non-governmental accrediting associations, so we can’t say that a student without a special order number on their transcript doesn’t have the equivalent of education at an accredited institution. At ECE we’ve compiled a library of period resources that covers education from the early nineties onward, as well as spottier, less comprehensive resources from earlier. This means that when we are in doubt as to the recognition of a program – because, say, it doesn’t have a special order number on the transcript of a student whose education we are evaluating – we can refer to this historical information to help clear the air.

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Tip! Consider saving archival information about accreditation when you find it. We encourage evaluators and agencies to build a library of recognition resources that’s easy to navigate, revise, and add new information to.

Recognition Roustabout

What about when an institution or program has been given recognized status and subsequently had the status taken or revoked? Legal proceedings, parliamentary action, or even shifting political situations can all lead to cases of uncertainty.

Sometimes institutions can get into regulatory trouble when they aren’t following the rules of the oversight body. To understand these types of cases, let’s look at India and case of CMJ University. This university has been in the news for the question of the validity of its degrees for almost a decade. The University Grants Commission (UGC), which oversees higher education in India, still lists this university, but that isn’t the full story. Based on our research, we’ve found that the status of every degree issued by this school is under question in what amounts to state supreme court-type decisions. Because the ultimate authority governing recognition of these schools is the state regulatory apparatus, we at ECE have decided not to consider the CMJ degrees from the disputed period as recognized.  

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Tip! Extra research is often required for these cases, but it’s worth it. Be engaged with the news in the regions and systems where changes happen rapidly, and look online for legal decisions and documents.

Identify the Body

As a final point, I bring the rare but important case of when identifying the appropriate body for the granting of recognition of academic study is the big question that needs answering.  For example, in countries where there is a public university that offers medical education, we are looking for academic degree-granting authority from the appropriate government authority over that public university. Sometimes though, a country may not have a public university that teaches medical programs, which begs the question: if the ministry doesn’t know how to do medical programs in its state school, how can it accredit those programs otherwise? ECE answers this question quite bluntly: they can’t. We wouldn’t consider any type of oversight from such a body sufficient for equivalence to U.S. regional accreditation.   But then how do those countries and their educational systems meet the need for quality medical care and educating nurses and doctors?  In the case of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the member states implemented CAAM-HP (Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and the other Health Professions). Starting in 2004, this multi-governmental organization began accrediting health professional programs in the region. Following a review by the NCFMEA (National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation) from the U.S. Department of Education, which found CAAM-HP comparable to U.S. standards, ECE found this body to be the acceptable alternative body for when the public university and attendant ministerial oversight do not exist for medical programs.

Tip! Make sure you have sound reasoning behind your recognition decisions. Sometimes a group of countries can be dealing with things in a similar way or in partnership, and you can learn a lot from evaluators and educational professionals with knowledge of those countries and systems. This will also help with applying your decisions consistently from credential to credential and student to student.

I could write forever regarding the vagaries of recognition and finding the best evaluation judgment for regional accreditation equivalencies.  If you have any additional questions or want to dive deeper into any of the subjects I’ve addressed, please feel free to post a comment below or on ECE® Connection Message Board

Happy Evaluating!

Charles Hoehnen is an Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2011. He specializes in country systems from Belgium to Zimbabwe, with particular focus on educational systems in transition. 



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