Accreditation: Case Studies Abroad

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In contrast to the superficially 'lax' American accreditation system, recognition of credentials for admission particularly of foreign credentials is nothing short of a highly regulated process since the heterogeneity of national education systems further complicates the concept of academic equivalency. Several national systems show this range of variation.

Governed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (available only in French), French public universities must offer admission to regional students who received a baccalauréat, a diploma recognizing successful completion of secondary school. The baccalauréat is issued by a regional recteur d'académie (i.e., a regional academic rector) and each rector is appointed by the French Ministry of National Education (available only in French). In contract to its universities, France's grandes écoles are traditionally smaller in size, highly selective, and specialize in the engineering and business management disciplines.

Two regulatory bodies Commission des Titres d'Ingénieur (CTI) and Commission d’évaluation des formations et diplômes de gestion (CEFDG) grant institutional and program accreditation in the aforementioned fields. In addition to granting institutional and program accreditation, CTI also issues the titre d'engénieur, the French equivalent of a Master's in Engineering. If, for example, CTI does not grant accreditation to an engineering program, the corresponding grande école no longer has the authority to continue that engineering program. In addition, no titre d'engénieur will be awarded to those students enrolled in the program because the grande école is not the legal degree-issuing institution in France – CTI is.

Poland, on the other hand, has only one legal agency, Panstwowa Komisja Akredytacyjna (PKA or the Polish State Accreditation Committee), which is authorized to issue institutional and program accreditation within the country's public and private higher education system. PKA members are chosen by Poland's Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Given India's vast population, one could expect even greater stratification of its academic accreditation system. In order to enter Indian HEIs, a regionally-administered compulsory test, the Higher Secondary Examination, must be passed. At the tertiary level, institutional accreditation is governed by two main bodies: the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). UGC consists of 12 autonomous accreditation agencies servicing Indian institutions and programs. AICTE acted as the main regulatory body for India's large technical education sector.

In response to numerous incidents of improper accreditation procedures, including bribery, the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) was instated as an autonomous agency responsible for accreditation of higher education programs in professional and technical fields, such as engineering, pharmacy, computer applications, etc. Despite the NBA's efforts, many private Indian HEIs still offer unaccredited degrees to unsuspecting students. Similar to the US, such unaccredited institutions, commonly known as degree mills, often attract unsuspecting students seeking economic mobility via educational attainment. 

Simply put, accreditation is a standard benchmark for recognition and it is vital to various stakeholders. Whether one is a prospective international student wishing to study abroad or a foreign graduate seeking employment in the US, it is imperative to have one's foreign credentials translated and evaluated by a reputable agency or specialist much akin to the way institutions and their programs greatly benefit from accreditation.

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