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Sep 28, 2021

Global accreditation can boost an institution’s internationalization efforts for higher education. An expert admits it may start as a hefty investment but comes with far-reaching benefits that improves the quality of the institution and its programs, transforms its stakeholders, and influences financial outcomes.

Dr. Christophe Terrasse, Director of the European Foundation for Management Development  International Projects, says accreditation is a process:  long-term, collective, difficult, and resource-consuming. At its heart, it is a quality improvement process that engages all of an institution’s stakeholders. “It allows the institutions to evaluate their quality level and lets them compare with their competitors. It helps determine progress plans,” he says.

Dr. Terrasse spoke from EFMD Global’s experience as a globally-recognized accreditation body for business schools, business school programs and corporate universities. The Belgium-based organization has several accreditation programs and assessments worldwide.

In a recent ANTENA online conference, he explained that institutions can undertake accreditation at an institutional level or with specific programs or do a mix of both. He differentiated them from certifications, assessments, and rankings. While these other procedures may be helpful, accreditation is the deep dive into quality systems conducted through external peer evaluation.

Rather than a compliance check, the accreditation process involves self-assessment with qualitative criteria. Only after this institutional self-evaluation can a peer review visit be conducted, and recommendations made. This process can take up to 18 months (about one and a half years).

“The goal is to stimulate reflection. It is not checking boxes. It is to check that on your side, you did everything to ensure quality,” he says.

The actual accreditation can then be awarded, denied, or given conditionally. Accreditation is conferred for 3 to 5 years during which periodic checks are made. The reaccreditation process is then undertaken.

International accreditation provides market transparency that recognizes a quality institution. It allows comparisons, giving students a choice, and helps companies hire the graduates they need. Schools develop international networks that help their internationalization strategy.

Dr. Terrasse cites another benefit some might miss:  the financial impact of being an internationally accredited educational institution. It can increase support from the board or help the school obtain other resources, from alumni or government or other organizations. It can also justify higher tuition fees, especially for foreign students.

With the pandemic on, student mobility is being addressed by different programs. Now, even the accreditation process has had some changes. Document submissions are done online, and different formats have been adopted for peer reviews. Data privacy and confidentiality has led to using different platforms.

“Before you had 12 to 15 professors all together in a room and now that is not possible,” he recalls. “The general feedback on what we have missed most is stepping into an institution and getting that general impression of quality. The institutions also miss those extra exchanges with their peers.”

“As soon as we can go back, we can go into a hybrid format. You need to touch and see people so you can gauge a quality system.”

ANTENA is a capacity building cooperation project co-funded by the Erasmus + program of the European Commission. Partners include the Ateneo de Manila University , Benguet State University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle University, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Saint Louis University, University of the Philippines, the University of San Carlos, Xavier University–Ateneo de Cagayan, and the Commission on Higher Education.