We often read, especially in the Arab world, that a university follows specific standards when applying for accreditation. The choice is mainly between the American and British systems.
So what are the differences? Generally, all accreditation systems focus on four main pillars:
- Management, personnel and administration
- Teaching, learning and assessment
- Student welfare
- Premises and facilities.
The difference lies in the way these pillars are prioritized. American credentialing bodies have traditionally placed more value on “entrance” factors, such as adequate facilities, suitably credentialed faculty, student numbers, and student performance on college entrance exams. British standards tend to focus more on the quality of a school’s academic outcomes, such as graduation rates and placement rates. In recent years, however, American accreditation associations have also become more focused on outcomes.
Arab universities, that is, institutions authorized by their own country’s education ministries that do not seek international accreditation, mostly mix and match the two systems.
Why Accreditation Matters
This brings us to an important question: who benefits from accreditation?
Accreditation helps determine whether an institution meets or exceeds minimum quality criteria. Based on this information, parents and students can more easily identify suitable colleges for enrollment, taking into account that in many Arab countries, tuition fees are considered an investment.
At the tertiary level, it is essential that the student knows whether his transfer of credits is acceptable or not, especially when he plans to continue his studies abroad. Most graduate student scholarships are awarded to graduates of accredited universities. In some countries, graduating from an accredited faculty or program establishes a basis for determining eligibility for postgraduate student aid, primarily in countries where scientific and cultural missions are still limited to the state.