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In a sense, the USA is the country of origin of accreditations in education. Quality assurance in higher education is almost exclusively carried out this way.
There is no uniform national education policy in the USA. Each of the 50 states regulates its own university affairs. For this reason, quality assurance in higher education in the USA plays an important role.
The conditions vary greatly and the quality of the courses on offer varies enormously. There are top universities such as the Ivy League and many good to very good universities. However, there are also rather weak or even academically dubious educational institutions in the US university landscape.
Relevance of accreditations in the USA
Accreditations – a core component of quality assurance in higher education in the USA – provide a remedy here. They prove that certain uniformly defined quality standards are adhered to. With regard to the study system in the USA, it is important to distinguish between two forms of accreditation. There are:
- Regional accreditation of universities
- National accreditation of higher education institutions
Regional and national accreditation
In order to be considered official, US-American accreditation agencies must be members here:
- in the CHEA (Council of Higher Education Accreditation)
- in the ASPA (Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors)
Alternatively, recognition by the U. S. Department of Education is generally sufficient.
Regional accreditation is superior to national accreditation in terms of value – unlike the terms suggest. The quality standards required to obtain regional accreditation are correspondingly higher than those required for national accreditation.
However, there is no compulsory accreditation in the USA. That is why, in addition to higher education institutions that are only nationally accredited, there are also institutions of higher education without accreditation.
The following six regional accreditation agencies currently exist in the USA, which make a significant contribution to quality assurance in higher education in the USA. They are responsible for a specific part of the country:
- MSCHE (Middle States Commission on Higher Education)
- NEASC-CIHE (New England Association of Schools and Colleges – Commission on Institutions of Higher Education)
- NCA-HLC (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools – The Higher Learning Commission)
- SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Commission on Colleges)
- NWAC (Northwest Accreditation Commission)
- ACCJC-WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges) and WASC-SCUC (WASC Senior College and University Commission)
What students should consider when it comes to quality assurance in higher education in the USA
In order to ensure the recognition of academic achievements or degrees in Germany, it is imperative that the US university attended be regionally accredited. Scholarships or student loans are also often only granted to students who attend a regionally accredited university.
Programme accreditations in the USA
As a matter of principle, accreditations of programmes are also an integral part of quality assurance in higher education in the USA, as is customary in Germany. Individual study programmes or specialist areas are accredited here. However, the possession of this form of accreditation is not mandatory for every degree programme. Only in certain fields of study, such as medicine, dentistry or safety-related engineering, is a program accreditation of the course of study a prerequisite for being allowed to work in this area later in the USA.
Official website of the CHEA: