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Does Accreditation Assure Quality?

By Jeanny Wildi-Yune

Abstract

This thesis delves into the question of whether accreditation can assure quality. To answer this, an accreditation scenario of a private international higher education institution is studied in depth. There are four principal objectives to the research question which are:\ud 1. To investigate how quality is conceptualised by various stakeholders\ud 2. To assess the effectiveness of accreditation standards\ud 3. To examine whether the accreditation process is valid, reliable and relevant, and\ud 4. To evaluate if the accreditation agency enacts what it purports to do.\ud Based on current theories and approaches to quality and quality assurance, certain elements are highlighted in the research process such as the use of quality standards, issues of accountability and continuous improvement, and the culture and context surrounding an accreditation event. The methodology used is one of participant observation applied to a case study. The occasion of the decennial reaccreditation of a for-profit Swiss school by an American accreditation agency serves as the field of research. Data were collected firsthand from the various constituents engaged in this reaccreditation. Fundamentally, the process comprised of self-evaluation and an on-site peer review, so there is focused discussion on these two critical audit methods and their interrelationship. The field notes are supplemented by longitudinal data representing the last twelve years of involvement in accreditation of the case study school including two other quality assurance approaches, one Swiss and the other, ISO.\ud After a review of the various school activities which come under the remit of the agency, the accreditation procedures are examined for validity, reliability and relevance. An analytic induction of the findings confirms that accreditation does indeed assure baseline quality, albeit its current orientation towards publicly funded establishments. Thus accreditation of for-profit schools represents an imminent domain of future research

Topics: accreditation, quality assurance, self-evaluation, peer evaluation
Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9583

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