Purposes and Goals of Accreditation

The primary purposes of accreditation are to support quality assurance and quality improvement, and to ensure accountability, including the following core elements:

a) a self-study based on standards

b) a peer review of evidence

c) a determination by an accreditation agency

Accreditation offers a way to indicate that a program is meeting basic quality standards in several key areas. Program accreditation creates quality benchmarks for programs that help students and their families who are in search of high-quality higher education programs. Accreditation also provides recognition for programs that meet the standards and guidelines for colleges and universities considering establishing high-quality programs.

In addition, accreditation provides programs with the official recognition of meeting Program Accreditation Standards. As implemented, the goal of the standards is to move the field forward by offering accreditation to college programs that enroll students with an ID.

The Program Accreditation Standards, found in Section 3 of this guide, are available for voluntary usage and implementation by higher education programs that enroll students with ID. The field of inclusive higher education is a collaborative one. Program staff, including university and college faculty and staff, policymakers, and advocates have worked together for decades with the common goal of increasing college opportunities for students with ID. The approach to accreditation is similarly collaborative. The IHEAC uses a self-study and peer review process, including a campus site visit, as essential elements of the accreditation process. Higher education programs know best what they offer to students on their campus. The accreditation process is an opportunity to tell your story and engage students, alumni, staff, faculty, college leadership, and parents in the conversation about quality.

Accreditation is a process that has a beginning, middle, and end, with the goal of continuous improvement. Programs may be accredited for a period of up to seven years. Programs at institutions of higher education (IHE) begin the process by completing the application for program accreditation. The Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council (IHEAC) staff review this application for completeness, and programs receive information to assist and support them in the pre-accreditation and accreditation processes. Next steps could include creating a plan and timeline to pursue accreditation in the future. You can find a more detailed description of the three phases of accreditation later in this guide.

You can find a Glossary of Terms at the end of this guide.

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