Q – What is conformity assessment?

Conformity assessment is the demonstration that what is being supplied actually meets the requirements specified or claimed. Conformity assessment can be applied to a product or a service, a process, a system, an organization or persons and includes activities such as testing, inspection, and certification.

Demonstrating compliance with standards and other criteria assumes greater importance to consumer confidence as products and services become increasingly technically complex. Conformity assessment is therefore an indispensable part of an economy’s business and standards and conformance infrastructure.

Q – What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the independent evaluation of certification bodies against recognized standards to ensure their impartiality and competence to carry out specific activities, such as tests, calibrations, inspections and certifications.

Accreditation is a formal and transparent process of quality control, during which an independent body, based on internationally recognized defined standards, examines whether institutions and/or programs offered at university level comply with minimum quality requirements.

The accreditation process decides on the status and recognition of institutions and academic programs for a certain period of time. Accreditation in the field of higher education guarantees to society and to all involved stakeholders, the security that the quality of teaching and learning meets the minimum international standards. At the same time, accreditation increases the transparency in the increasingly complex offers of national and international educational providers.

Q- What are the Core Functions of Accreditation?

  • Protection of students against offers which are not provided to lead in achieving the foreseen results (employability, international recognition of degrees etc.);
  • Transparency, comparability and therefore increased opportunities for choices in the educational and the labour market both at home and abroad;
  • Facilitation of international mobility through mutual recognition of studies and improvement of opportunities for the graduates at the labour market;
  • Establishment of a fair basis of competition between institutions of higher education for students, namely for public and private funds.

Q – What is an accreditation body? 

An accreditation body is an authoritative body that performs accreditation.

Its primary function is to assess, against internationally agreed standards, organizations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services (collectively known as conformity assessment bodies). Accreditation demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these organizations.

Q – What is certification?

Certification is a “third-party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons,” as defined by ISO/IEC 17000 Conformity Assessment—Vocabulary and General Principles.

Certification is most often associated with ISO 9001 and the environmental management systems standard ISO 14001. However, certification programs exist for a range of management systems standards, including the ISO/IEC 2700 program for information security management and the ISO 22000 program for food safety management.

Product certification is the process of verifying that a product, including services and processes, meet requirements specified in contracts, regulations, or specifications.

In most countries, accreditation is voluntary, however, many certification bodies choose to seek accreditation in order to demonstrate third-party confirmation of their competence.

Q-How Schools and Programs Become Accredited

According to the CHEA, accreditation is not only a status but a process as well. Obtaining accreditation is neither easy nor quick, particularly for educational institutions seeking approval for the very first time. However, while the main purpose of accreditation is to demonstrate proof of a legitimate school, some universities gain important benefits themselves through accreditations.

Online colleges are finding themselves in competition with each other to offer career preparation services and provide valuable education to students. In addition, these online universities often strive to be considered among the top colleges in the country. Accreditation can help them to meet these goals and therefore attract the best students. The basic steps in the process for schools, whether on-campus or online, to achieve and maintain accreditation, are as follows:

  • Self-study:

The first step is a written self-assessment that the school prepares for itself. The purpose of the self-study is to evaluate the institution’s operations as they measure against the accrediting agency’s standards. The self-study may also include a detailed review of the school’s objectives and goals as well as any challenges that the institution has faced.

  • Peer review:

A committee formed from other schools is guided by the accrediting agency and evaluates the resources, course materials, and curriculum of the school seeking accreditation. The committee then compares the institution’s operations against the standards of the accrediting agency for learning resources, support services, faculty, educational programs, effectiveness, administration, and institutional mission.

  • Site visits:

This step usually takes the form of a series of meetings in which the accrediting agency sits down with students, administrators, and faculty to gain a more in-depth view of the institution and how ‘real people’ feel about the school.

  • Decision:

Following the initial evaluation, the accrediting agency makes a decision as to whether or not the school has successfully met its standards. In addition, the decision may include recommendations that the school agree to constant monitoring to ensure that the standards continue to be met.

  • Periodic review:

Once a school is granted accreditation, the agency conducts reviews on a regular basis to ensure that the school is continuing to perform as expected; these reviews can also allow the agency to identify any areas in which the institution may need to improve. How often a college is reviewed will vary according to the level of the degree program and the type of institution itself; time frames range from every two years to every 10 years.

Q- Why Accreditation is Importance for Students

Prospective students have likely spent some time comparing various programs and schools. Knowing the accreditation status of each institution in which a student is interested can help him or her to make the best choice from programs in his or her chosen field of study. There are also several other reasons why accreditation matters:

  • Transferring Credit

No institution is required to accept transfer credits from any other school, but accreditation can help. Most colleges will not consider accepting transfer credits if they were earned at a non-accredited school. Students enrolling in courses and expecting to be able to transfer those credits farther down the road are advised to examine the accreditation of their current college as well as the guidelines of the schools to which they may wish to transfer.

  • Getting Financial Aid

Students interested in applying for and receiving federal financial aid requires institutions to hold accreditation if they will be offering financial aid to students.

Q- Why Accreditation is Important for Finding a Job

In many cases, employers view graduates of accredited colleges as more valuable than those who earned their degrees from unaccredited institutions. Accreditation offers some assurance that the school maintained high academic standards and prepared its student in terms of skills and knowledge. Accreditation may also be required as part of certification or licensure procedures in some fields.

  • Continuing Education

Similar to how employers might view a graduate of an accredited school, graduate school admissions offices may also look more favorably on students who successfully completed accredited undergraduate degree programs. In many cases, graduation from an accredited university is considered a prerequisite for application and enrollment in graduate-level programs.

Q- What is the difference between an Accreditation Body and an accredited body?

There is one Accreditation Body per Member State according to Regulation (EC) No 765/2008. As an authoritative body appointed by its national authorities, the Accreditation Body performs accreditation by assessing Conformity Assessment Bodies against international standards. The accreditation process determines the technical competence and integrity of organizations that offer testing, examination, validation and verification, inspection, calibration, certification and proficiency testing provision services (collectively known as conformity assessment). Accreditation operates in the public interest across all market sectors, providing a transparent and impartial assessment of these services against internationally recognized standards and other national or sectoral requirements.

Conformity Assessment Bodies carry out certification, testing, inspection, verification and calibration services, collectively known as conformity assessment activities.

An accredited body is a body that has successfully undergone accreditation. It means it has been assessed and a positive decision has been taken to grant accreditation for an agreed scope. The accredited body is entitled to use the Accreditation Body mark for the scope(s) for which it has been accredited.

Together, conformity assessment and accreditation are important parts of a nation’s quality infrastructure, along with metrology and standardization. They build confidence that goods and services, processes, management systems and the work of individuals comply with national and international standards and regulations. They also assist in the risk-management and decision-making of manufacturers and regulators.

Q- How does ASSCU support Higher Education Institutions?

ASSCU offers information and support to the Higher Education Institution at all steps of an accreditation procedure. We offer free consultation concerning the accreditation process before starting a procedure. To give guidance during a procedure, ASSCU provides for example guidelines for preparing an application for program accreditation or for an institutional accreditation. The agencies give continuous feedback during all steps of a procedure.

Panels of experts are individually chosen for each accreditation procedure. The experts are nominated by the respective ASSCU accreditation commission. Together with the Higher Education Institution ASSCU defines the profile of each panel of experts and prepares the experts for their tasks. For a better preparation we provide the Higher Education Institution with preliminary statements of the experts before a site visit takes place. A consultant will accompany the panel of experts during their site visit and prepare the group for their task. A consultant will also help in the process of report writing. The report is sent to the HEI for comments before it is forwarded to the respective accreditation commission. Once the accreditation procedure is finished, ASSCU informs the HEI about the results. If required, appeal procedures are in place at all stages in the procedure.

ASSCU strictly differentiates content-related consulting from accreditation. For an accreditation procedure this implies that ASSCU only provides procedural consultation concerning the accreditation process. Content-related consulting, on the other hand, is not part of the services of ASSCU.