Accreditation & Quality Assurance (US & UK)


sts

I have been doing a detailed research about the MBA and DBA degrees for a few months and I think I have gained some important information about the concepts of accreditation and quality assurance in general, specifically in the US and in the UK. Now, I want to share my take so far. All supporting, improving or challenging comments are more than welcome:

1. In the US:
1.1. Regional and National Accreditation (RA & NA): A higher education institution (I will say "university" hereafter) needs to be ?accredited? by either a National or a Regional Accreditation Agency which is recognized by CHEA. This is almost mandatory for a university since neither a state nor federal government recognizes the degrees issued by ?unaccredited? universities i.e. those holding neither of the 2 types of aforementioned accreditations. Unaccredited institutions in this sense can be called ?degree mills?, ?fake?, or etc.
1.2. Program/Subject Based Accreditation: These are programme-specific or subject-specific accreditations, which are not mandatory requirements generally, however seem to provide significant added prestige and value to the degrees issued. Within the concept of this site, the most well-known examples are AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS (Details can be discussed), among which AACSB is the prominent one in the US. Universities without any of these accreditations are not necessarily deemed ?degree mills?, as long as they have RA or NA, however when it comes to academic prestige, having one seems to be a big plus.
2. In the UK:
2.1. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA): Independently reviews the universities, makes assessments and publishes reports, emphasizing good practices and points of improvement, which can also be programme or school-specific. Undertakes an advisory role for relevant UK government authorities. ??QAA is the body entrusted with advising the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, via government ministers, on which institutions should be granted degree awarding powers and the right to be called a university.
(?) QAA has cooperation agreements with a number of other educational bodies and quality assurance agencies, both in the UK and internationally??(taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAA)
2.2. Program/Subject Based Accreditation: See 1.2. In this case, the more prominent body seems to be AMBA. Generally speaking, the penetration of this type of accreditation among UK universities seems to be relatively lower when compared to the situation in the US, with many universities including some highly reputable ones having none.
2.3. As it seems, the counterpart of ?mandatory accreditation? in the US, which is RA&NA, seems to be the ?approval of QAA? in the UK, which, by definition is not an ?accrediting body? but a ?quality assurance agency?.
(Not exactly the same, of course, since different regulatory practices are in place)

In a nutshell, a UK university (or programme) with QAA approval (a positive report), though may not have been ?accredited?, is not ?unaccredited? in the context of American accreditation.
The reason for me to share this post is that I came across too much confusion on this topic at various websites and since this site seems to have a significant amount of traffic, I thought it would be useful to start a discussion here.

I have been doing a detailed research about the MBA and DBA degrees for a few months and I think I have gained some important information about the concepts of accreditation and quality assurance in general, specifically in the US and in the UK. Now, I want to share my take so far. All supporting, improving or challenging comments are more than welcome:

1. In the US:
1.1. Regional and National Accreditation (RA & NA): A higher education institution (I will say "university" hereafter) needs to be ?accredited? by either a National or a Regional Accreditation Agency which is recognized by CHEA. This is almost mandatory for a university since neither a state nor federal government recognizes the degrees issued by ?unaccredited? universities i.e. those holding neither of the 2 types of aforementioned accreditations. Unaccredited institutions in this sense can be called ?degree mills?, ?fake?, or etc.
1.2. Program/Subject Based Accreditation: These are programme-specific or subject-specific accreditations, which are not mandatory requirements generally, however seem to provide significant added prestige and value to the degrees issued. Within the concept of this site, the most well-known examples are AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS (Details can be discussed), among which AACSB is the prominent one in the US. Universities without any of these accreditations are not necessarily deemed ?degree mills?, as long as they have RA or NA, however when it comes to academic prestige, having one seems to be a big plus.
2. In the UK:
2.1. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA): Independently reviews the universities, makes assessments and publishes reports, emphasizing good practices and points of improvement, which can also be programme or school-specific. Undertakes an advisory role for relevant UK government authorities. ??QAA is the body entrusted with advising the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, via government ministers, on which institutions should be granted degree awarding powers and the right to be called a university.
(?) QAA has cooperation agreements with a number of other educational bodies and quality assurance agencies, both in the UK and internationally??(taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAA)
2.2. Program/Subject Based Accreditation: See 1.2. In this case, the more prominent body seems to be AMBA. Generally speaking, the penetration of this type of accreditation among UK universities seems to be relatively lower when compared to the situation in the US, with many universities including some highly reputable ones having none.
2.3. As it seems, the counterpart of ?mandatory accreditation? in the US, which is RA&NA, seems to be the ?approval of QAA? in the UK, which, by definition is not an ?accrediting body? but a ?quality assurance agency?.
(Not exactly the same, of course, since different regulatory practices are in place)

In a nutshell, a UK university (or programme) with QAA approval (a positive report), though may not have been ?accredited?, is not ?unaccredited? in the context of American accreditation.
The reason for me to share this post is that I came across too much confusion on this topic at various websites and since this site seems to have a significant amount of traffic, I thought it would be useful to start a discussion here.
quote
Duncan

Well, I think in the terms of this website (http://www.find-mba.com/accreditations) meaningful accreditation means AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. Of course every real university has the minimal quality needed, and every fake one has at least someone accrediting it. The only way to meaningfully use the word 'unaccredited' on this site is to mean without AMBA, EQUIS or AASCB. Because even the worse diploma mill university is accredited by someone.

That said, the QAA is not like US national accreditation. A Royal Charter is like national accreditation, and the QAA polices schools awarding degrees under Royal Charters.

The other major status test in the UK is Russell League membership: most PhDs and research funds go to those universities.

Well, I think in the terms of this website (http://www.find-mba.com/accreditations) meaningful accreditation means AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. Of course every real university has the minimal quality needed, and every fake one has at least someone accrediting it. The only way to meaningfully use the word 'unaccredited' on this site is to mean without AMBA, EQUIS or AASCB. Because even the worse diploma mill university is accredited by someone.

That said, the QAA is not like US national accreditation. A Royal Charter is like national accreditation, and the QAA polices schools awarding degrees under Royal Charters.

The other major status test in the UK is Russell League membership: most PhDs and research funds go to those universities.
quote

"The only way to meaningfully use the word 'unaccredited' on this site is to mean without AMBA, EQUIS or AASCB."

True, but only on this site - and this site only.

"Because even the worse diploma mill university is accredited by someone"...

True again, but not by any recognized accreditor.

"The only way to meaningfully use the word 'unaccredited' on this site is to mean without AMBA, EQUIS or AASCB."

True, but only on this site - and this site only.

"Because even the worse diploma mill university is accredited by someone"...

True again, but not by any recognized accreditor.
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Duncan

Agreed.


In fact, it's an issue on any website when discussing MBAs. Insofar as an MBA is different from a master of science degree, with a experiential and skills element that's additional to an academic core, basic academic criteria will never be enough to act as a sign of above-average quality.

Agreed.


In fact, it's an issue on any website when discussing MBAs. Insofar as an MBA is different from a master of science degree, with a experiential and skills element that's additional to an academic core, basic academic criteria will never be enough to act as a sign of above-average quality.
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sts

Context and point of view differentiation is ok, however I should note that the difference between a "mill" and a "valid or officially recognized one" is significant-more significant than having or not having any type of professional accreditation, regardless of the site or context.

Duncan, you may be right about Royal Charter, but I read this on Wikipedia:
"...Most British universities operate under Royal Charters, giving them the authority to award degrees. The most recent generation of UK universities were granted the power to award degrees by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 instead of by Royal Charter, while some other universities operate under Acts of Parliament..." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_charter)

Anyway, the reason I say QAA is because QAA is the body "doing the assessment" of the universities, so in this respect it seems similar to the RA&NA in the US.

As for my point of view, I fully admit that professional accreditation is an indicator of quality, but not the only one.
For example there are very few professionally accredited (AACSB, etc.) universities (or programmes) in many countries, among which may be "fair" ones, and among the "unaccredited-in this site only" may be the very top ones.
So, I personally do not rule out any UK university just because it does not hold AACSB or the likes, since this can also be about the different management policies of the universities. Once I have done my shortlist, I prefer to dive deeper for a more thorough evaluation, trying to find concrete examples from "real life" as much as I can.
And yes, MBA is a professional masters degree, however it is still an academic programme offered by higher education institutions.

Context and point of view differentiation is ok, however I should note that the difference between a "mill" and a "valid or officially recognized one" is significant-more significant than having or not having any type of professional accreditation, regardless of the site or context.

Duncan, you may be right about Royal Charter, but I read this on Wikipedia:
"...Most British universities operate under Royal Charters, giving them the authority to award degrees. The most recent generation of UK universities were granted the power to award degrees by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 instead of by Royal Charter, while some other universities operate under Acts of Parliament..." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_charter)

Anyway, the reason I say QAA is because QAA is the body "doing the assessment" of the universities, so in this respect it seems similar to the RA&NA in the US.

As for my point of view, I fully admit that professional accreditation is an indicator of quality, but not the only one.
For example there are very few professionally accredited (AACSB, etc.) universities (or programmes) in many countries, among which may be "fair" ones, and among the "unaccredited-in this site only" may be the very top ones.
So, I personally do not rule out any UK university just because it does not hold AACSB or the likes, since this can also be about the different management policies of the universities. Once I have done my shortlist, I prefer to dive deeper for a more thorough evaluation, trying to find concrete examples from "real life" as much as I can.
And yes, MBA is a professional masters degree, however it is still an academic programme offered by higher education institutions.
quote
Duncan

Well, I think the reality is that there are very few candidates on this site who cannot get into internationally-accredited programmes, and the issue is that they don't appreciate the big difference between internationally-accredited MBAs and MSc degrees and those which are really no different from undergraduate programmes.

That's especially hard for Indian applicants who are often pressured by family into very rapid decisions, often leading to a terrible MBA from a school in a distant country that no serious businessperson there would actually attend.

In fact, very few are fooled by diploma mills but the real issue is low-quality, for-profit schools with great marketing, terrible outcomes and post-boxes in Switzerland or Scandinavia. Schools (some like the EU at at least as well run as coffee shops, others much worse) are much more expensive than mainsteam universities and can really no better than diploma mills - in fact worse because they take a year of someone's life.

PS Of course Parliament has had the exclusive right to create universities for a very long time, but laws need royal approval and every university has a Royal Charter. As schools get their degree awarding powers, they describe it as getting their charter, even very new ones like Regents university and Ashridge.

Well, I think the reality is that there are very few candidates on this site who cannot get into internationally-accredited programmes, and the issue is that they don't appreciate the big difference between internationally-accredited MBAs and MSc degrees and those which are really no different from undergraduate programmes.

That's especially hard for Indian applicants who are often pressured by family into very rapid decisions, often leading to a terrible MBA from a school in a distant country that no serious businessperson there would actually attend.

In fact, very few are fooled by diploma mills but the real issue is low-quality, for-profit schools with great marketing, terrible outcomes and post-boxes in Switzerland or Scandinavia. Schools (some like the EU at at least as well run as coffee shops, others much worse) are much more expensive than mainsteam universities and can really no better than diploma mills - in fact worse because they take a year of someone's life.

PS Of course Parliament has had the exclusive right to create universities for a very long time, but laws need royal approval and every university has a Royal Charter. As schools get their degree awarding powers, they describe it as getting their charter, even very new ones like Regents university and Ashridge.
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sts

Ok, let's put those with post boxes in Scandinavia or wherever else into the same category with the mills, or even into a lower category.
Now seemingly we have: 1. AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS accredited UK universities/programmes, 2. Mills and the worse.
Still, I see another category: Real, established universities or programmes not holding AACSB, AMBA, or EQUIS accreditation, however being included in the rankings (QS, The Guardian, CUG, Eduniversal,etc.), also in subejct based rankings, in some cases with higher ranks than some professionally accredited ones. These also have hundreds or thousands of graduates working in many sectors and with employers of varying scales, including the very big multinationals. This category is which I would not simply rule out while shortlisting. Of course, you may not pay attention to these within the view point of this site.

Ok, let's put those with post boxes in Scandinavia or wherever else into the same category with the mills, or even into a lower category.
Now seemingly we have: 1. AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS accredited UK universities/programmes, 2. Mills and the worse.
Still, I see another category: Real, established universities or programmes not holding AACSB, AMBA, or EQUIS accreditation, however being included in the rankings (QS, The Guardian, CUG, Eduniversal,etc.), also in subejct based rankings, in some cases with higher ranks than some professionally accredited ones. These also have hundreds or thousands of graduates working in many sectors and with employers of varying scales, including the very big multinationals. This category is which I would not simply rule out while shortlisting. Of course, you may not pay attention to these within the view point of this site.

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Duncan

Well, I don't think anyone makes such a simple binary divide. I would say, and in fact did same a couple of weeks ago, that there are three main layers of schools:
- Internationally accredited
- Nationally accredited
- Unaccredited.

I certainly would not rule out a nationally-accredited programme, but I think that anyone who is taking an masters in business as a rational commercial investor in themselves should attend the best school they can, and that should be an internationally-accredited school - even if that means an MSc at a state-funded college in Europe rather than an MBA.

Well, I don't think anyone makes such a simple binary divide. I would say, and in fact did same a couple of weeks ago, that there are three main layers of schools:
- Internationally accredited
- Nationally accredited
- Unaccredited.

I certainly would not rule out a nationally-accredited programme, but I think that anyone who is taking an masters in business as a rational commercial investor in themselves should attend the best school they can, and that should be an internationally-accredited school - even if that means an MSc at a state-funded college in Europe rather than an MBA.
quote
sts

Categorization agreed. Now the question is: Shall we assume that "all" internationally accredited schools are better than "all" nationally accredited ones? Or could a candidate possibly find a nationally accredited school as a better fit to his/her requirements when compared to some internationally accredited alternatives-without sacrificing quality? My answer to the 2nd question is"perhaps", since in my view there may be schools simply not seeking international accreditation due to management policies but still offering some quality programmes. This is why I prefer to take this type of schools also into consideration along with the internationally accredited ones and do further examination.

Categorization agreed. Now the question is: Shall we assume that "all" internationally accredited schools are better than "all" nationally accredited ones? Or could a candidate possibly find a nationally accredited school as a better fit to his/her requirements when compared to some internationally accredited alternatives-without sacrificing quality? My answer to the 2nd question is"perhaps", since in my view there may be schools simply not seeking international accreditation due to management policies but still offering some quality programmes. This is why I prefer to take this type of schools also into consideration along with the internationally accredited ones and do further examination.
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Duncan

That certainly depends on your goals. If you want to work in Canada then a degree from a local university is better than from IIM-A unless you're approaching firms that hire a lot from IIM-A. But that would certainly be a sacrifice of quality, even if the outcome was better.So while there are some good schools without international accreditation, the reality is that it's almost without exception that it's a very reliable guide to quality.

Just to make it clearer: is a degree from London Metropolitan University better in the UK than a top international school?

That certainly depends on your goals. If you want to work in Canada then a degree from a local university is better than from IIM-A unless you're approaching firms that hire a lot from IIM-A. But that would certainly be a sacrifice of quality, even if the outcome was better.So while there are some good schools without international accreditation, the reality is that it's almost without exception that it's a very reliable guide to quality.

Just to make it clearer: is a degree from London Metropolitan University better in the UK than a top international school?
quote
sts

I am confident in the reliability of international accreditation. I just question the discriminating power of this feature per se, other measures being more or less equal or slightly different between any two schools or even being sometimes in favour of the nationally accredited one.
From this point of view, the sample question is not about "Top International Schools in the UK" and London Met. Instead, the question is -for example- " is a degree from Kingston always better than a degree from Chester?"

I am confident in the reliability of international accreditation. I just question the discriminating power of this feature per se, other measures being more or less equal or slightly different between any two schools or even being sometimes in favour of the nationally accredited one.
From this point of view, the sample question is not about "Top International Schools in the UK" and London Met. Instead, the question is -for example- " is a degree from Kingston always better than a degree from Chester?"
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Duncan

If they are business degrees in the same specialisation, certainly.

If they are business degrees in the same specialisation, certainly.
quote
sts

If they are business degrees in the same specialisation, certainly.


This is the point where I do not think the same way. I would also say "certainly" if I were sure that both of them pursued the same type of accreditation and one failed to achieve. However, "unaccredited-this site only" one simply might not have preferred to seek this type of accreditation, as is the case for some UK universities as far as I know, among which are those with similar or higher rankings when compared to some professionally accredited ones, even when ordered by research scores or subject scores. This is the point where a candidate should make a more detailed comparision between the two, investigating for more insight, in my opinion.
(I have even seen a case with programme/school based accreditation [AMBA, etc], but at the same time a "limited confidence" report from the QAA as an institution, which seemingly has been revised later due to some improvements.)

<blockquote>If they are business degrees in the same specialisation, certainly. </blockquote>

This is the point where I do not think the same way. I would also say "certainly" if I were sure that both of them pursued the same type of accreditation and one failed to achieve. However, "unaccredited-this site only" one simply might not have preferred to seek this type of accreditation, as is the case for some UK universities as far as I know, among which are those with similar or higher rankings when compared to some professionally accredited ones, even when ordered by research scores or subject scores. This is the point where a candidate should make a more detailed comparision between the two, investigating for more insight, in my opinion.
(I have even seen a case with programme/school based accreditation [AMBA, etc], but at the same time a "limited confidence" report from the QAA as an institution, which seemingly has been revised later due to some improvements.)


quote
sts

Here comes an update from QAA. It is about the use of QAA quality mark by the eligible higher education institutions. They say "...This development was a response to feedback from institutions that they would welcome the opportunity to use our logo in this way, given in the 2010 consultation on the new review method for England and Northern Ireland..."

Interested readers may follow the link below:
http://www.qaa.ac.uk/Publications/CircularLetters/Pages/CL0614-RevisionstothetermsandconditionsoftheQAAQualityMark.aspx

Regards,

Here comes an update from QAA. It is about the use of QAA quality mark by the eligible higher education institutions. They say "...This development was a response to feedback from institutions that they would welcome the opportunity to use our logo in this way, given in the 2010 consultation on the new review method for England and Northern Ireland..."

Interested readers may follow the link below:
http://www.qaa.ac.uk/Publications/CircularLetters/Pages/CL0614-RevisionstothetermsandconditionsoftheQAAQualityMark.aspx

Regards,
quote
Duncan

Of course there is the theoretical possibility that a great school would not be accredited, and that there are some wonderful arbitrage opportunities in UK higher education but in practise it's Europe's most competitive market and business schools are the bleeding edge of that.

Of course there is the theoretical possibility that a great school would not be accredited, and that there are some wonderful arbitrage opportunities in UK higher education but in practise it's Europe's most competitive market and business schools are the bleeding edge of that.
quote

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