Academic accreditation is a quality review process used by an organization whose authority has been publicly recognized to grant official status to a program of study that has met or exceeded predetermined standard outcomes.
Accreditation status may be subject to periodic review, and maybe confirmed for a specific period of time, or, when specific criteria are not met, may be withdrawn.
In the UK educational system, academic achievement is ranked by an overarching accreditation and qualification framework, the Qualifications and Credit Framework.
There are 9 levels within the framework, from ‘Entry’ – a Level of achievement below level 1, up to level 8 which is Doctorate level study. Broadly speaking the majority of work-based learning and work-based assessment is below Level 6 – Honours Degree level, and most colleges of Further Education provide limited study opportunities for students above Level 4.
Higher Level skills are normally thought of as being skills at Level 4 and above – this coincides with Foundation Degree level which incorporates study at Level 4 in year1 and study at Level 5 in year 2.
Large employers such as police, health service and others have built up relationships with Higher Education over a number of years. These relationships have had beneficial effects such as providing students with work placements during their studies, and opportunities for the HEI and employer to learn from each other – the employer is able to make use of academic research and cutting edge modelling to provide a better product / service; the HEI is able to utilise the proximity of the employer to ensure that the academic learning is grounded in ‘real-life practice / reality’
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.
Colleges of Further Education typically offer vocational training courses up and including QCF level 3 (approximately the equivalent of GCSE ‘A’ Level). Colleges also run a large number of courses designed to support apprenticeships and other work-based learning / training initiatives.
The existence of the QCF might appear of little consequence for the majority of learners, and it is true that there limited need for learners to understand detail of the Qualifications Framework. However the QCF offering opportunities for learners and employers which did not exist within the previous qualifications framework and can provide learners transferable skills that can be built up over time and added to. Employers can have substantial input on the content of qualifications and the methods used to assess knowledge and skills.
Given that accreditation is a quality review process, accrediting in-house training programmes is a useful means of providing that 3rd party quality assurance process and, at the same time, providing employees with a means of showing that that they have not simply attended a learning programme, but that their learning has been subject to inspection and that they passed the inspection process.
Most accreditation is provided by developing units of assessment in conjunction with an awarding body and a sector skills council.
Where a professional body is involved in recognising the skills / competency of its members, the professional body frequently provides its quality assurance trough membership of a professional register.