Accreditation is an activity long accepted in the United States but generally unknown in most other countries, which rely on governmental supervision and control of educational institutions. The record of accomplishment and outstanding success in the education of Americans can be traced in large part to the reluctance of the United States to impose governmental restrictions on institutions of postsecondary education and to the success of the voluntary American system of accreditation in promoting quality without inhibiting innovation. The high proportion of Americans benefiting from higher education, the reputation of universities in the United States for both fundamental and applied research, and the widespread availability of professional services in the United States all testify to postsecondary education of high quality and to the success of the accreditation system that the institutions and professions of the United States have devised to promote that quality.
Accreditation is a status granted to an educational institution or a program that has been found to meet or exceed stated standards of educational quality. In the United States, accreditation is voluntarily sought by institutions and programs and is conferred by non-governmental bodies.
Accreditation has two fundamental purposes: to assure the quality of the institution or program and to assist in the improvement of the institution or program. Accreditation, which applies to institutions or programs, is to be distinguished from certification and licensure, which apply to individuals.
Bodies conducting institutional accreditation are national or regional in scope and comprise the institutions that have achieved and maintain accreditation. These bodies consider the characteristics of whole institutions. For this reason, an institutional accrediting body gives attention not only to the educational offerings of the institutions it accredits but also to such other institutional characteristics as student personnel services, financial conditions, and administrative strength.
Bodies conducting programmatic or specialized accreditation, such as the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA), conduct accreditation of a program preparing students for a profession or occupation. Such bodies are often closely associated with professional associations in the field. A specialized accrediting body focuses its attention on a particular program within an institution of higher education and provides a basic assurance of the scope and quality of professional or occupational preparation.
In fulfillment of one of its primary objectives, i.e., to encourage the assessment and enhancement of quality hospitality administration/management programs, a group of respected faculty members and industry representatives established ACPHA. The agency’s specific duties, responsibilities, and functions are to insure a continual and effective system for the accreditation of hospitality education programs at the associate and baccalaureate level. The ACPHA Commission consists of 11 Commissioners, including hospitality educators, representatives from hospitality and the related industries, and a public-at-large member. The Commission members meet twice a year to review, assess, and evaluate two-year and four-year hospitality programs at colleges and universities across the United States and internationally.
The objectives of the accreditation body derive from the minds and experiences of individuals and groups who are seeking to realize certain educational values and fulfill certain educational purposes. The overall (general) objectives may be derived from the early history of the accrediting body, in articles of incorporation, bylaws, and subsequent amendments to these. Such statements may also include terms like “accreditation,” “quality,” etc., which require clear definition.
Overall objectives are usually stated so broadly as to make it difficult, if not impossible, for evaluators to make a reasoned judgment about whether or not they are being achieved. It is necessary, therefore, to find specific objectives in official documents of the accrediting body or to construct a set of specific objectives that relate back to, and are consistent with, the overall objectives.
The following represents the overall and specific objectives developed by ACPHA.