HEI 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.
In most countries in the world, the function of educational accreditation is conducted by a government organization, such as a ministry of education. In the United States, however, the quality assurance process is independent of government and performed by private membership associations.
Most Canadian universities operated by the provincial governments for their respective provinces. There is no institutional accreditation in Canada. Membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada along with the provincial charter is considered de facto accreditation for not-for-profit universities and university-degree level colleges.
Accreditation is compulsory for all universities in India except those created through an act of Parliament. Without accreditation, “It is emphasized that these fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as University/Vishwvidyalaya and to award ‘degrees’ which are not treated as valid for academic/employment purposes.” The University Grants Commission Act (1956) explains,
“the right of conferring or granting degrees shall be exercised only by a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, or a State Act, or an Institution deemed to be University or an institution specially empowered by an Act of the Parliament to confer or grant degrees. Thus, any institution which has not been created by an enactment of Parliament or a State Legislature or has not been granted the status of a Deemed-to-be-University, is not entitled to award a degree.”
Accreditation for higher learning is overseen by autonomous institutions established by the University Grants Commission.
In Russia accreditation/ national recognition is directly overseen by the Education Ministry of Russia. Since 1981, Russia has followed the UNESCO international regulations to ensure Russian institutions and international institutions meet high quality standards. It is illegal for a school to operate without government approval.
The Russian Federation has a two-step recognition system:
In recent years, the Russian Government has been complaining about a ‘brain-drain’ of Russian academics taking up posts in universities overseas. A question that does not appear to be asked why non-Russian academics do not equally choose to join Russian universities.
In the UK it is illegal to offer a qualification that is or might seem to be UK degree unless the awarding body is recognised by the Secretary of State, a Royal Charter or Act of Parliament to grant degrees. Prosecutions under the Education Reform Act are rare, as many unaccredited awarding bodies are based outside UK jurisdiction. It is also worth noting in this context that the Business Names Act 1985 made it an offence for any business in the UK to use the word “university” in its name without the formal approval of the Privy Council.
Private higher (HE) and further education (FE) institutions (here distinguished from the qualifications that they offer) are unregulated, but may choose to become accredited by various non-regulatory bodies such as the British Accreditation Council or the British Council and Accreditation Service for International Colleges in order to demonstrate third-party assessment of the quality of education they offer. The Universities Funding Council, and Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council established in the UK under the 1988 Education Reform Act have responsibility for the public funding of the FE and HE sector.
Prosecutions under legislation other than the Education Reform Act 1988 do occur. In 2004, Thames Valley College in London was prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act for offering degrees from the ‘University of North America’, a limited liability company set up by themselves in the US with no academic staff and no premises other than a mail forwarding service. (Note that this organization differs from the current University of North America, a non-accredited institution.)
The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) (a non-governmental organization) both recognize reputable accrediting bodies for institutions of higher education and provide guidelines as well as resources and relevant data regarding these accreditors. Neither the U.S. Department of Education nor CHEA accredit individual institutions.
In the United States, higher education accreditation has long been established as a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and member institutions. The federal government began to play a limited role in accreditation in 1952 with reauthorization of the GI Bill for Korean War veterans. The original GI Bill legislation had stimulated establishment of new colleges and universities to accommodate the influx of new students; but some of these new institutions were of dubious quality. The 1952 legislation designated the existing peer review process as the basis for measuring institutional quality; GI Bill eligibility was limited to students enrolled at accredited institutions included on a list of federally recognized accredited institutions published by the U.S. Commissioner of Education.
With the creation of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary has determined to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit. There is no similar federal government list of recognized accreditation agencies for primary or secondary schools. There is wide variation among the individual states in the requirements applied to non-public primary and secondary schools.