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Higher Education Accreditation

The single most important way that a profession can maintain its standards is by having a system of accreditation to ensure threshold entry levels for new entrants to the profession.

Overview

Author(s): John Chellew and Katherine Chow

Higher education accreditation involves universities, and other higher education providers, offering courses that lead to formal accreditation with a professional association. For example, to become an accountant in Australia, a student needs to complete a university course that complies with the requirements set by either of the two, main accounting professional associations: Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) and CPA Australia. To ensure courses lead to accreditation, universities work with the relevant professional associations to develop and agree on the content of the relevant courses. This can involve not only agreeing on the technical content of a course, but also what units or unit combinations will lead to accreditation and what student outcomes are required, both in terms of technical knowledge and practical skills. Such higher education accreditation is the bedrock of maintaining standards with the professions, particularly for new entrants to the professions.

In addition to these private, civil society arrangements, a national statutory body, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), was created in 2011 by the TEQSA Act  to improve and standardise higher education requirements, including those leading to professional accreditation. As such, the development and implementation of higher education accreditation in Australia has three main ‘actors’: the universities, and other higher education providers, the professional associations and the statutory regulator.

This title discusses the following issues relating to higher education accreditation:

  • The benefits of accreditation;
  • Ensuring consistency across universities;
  • Statutory versus non-statutory accreditation bodies;
  • Levels of accreditation detail; and
  • Increasing use of technology in education.