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Conventional Accreditation Inhibits Innovation

“Reforming education is no use anymore, that’s
simply improving a broken model. What we need is
not an evolution, it’s a revolution.

~Sir Ken Robinson, Education Revolutionist

Alexander L.’s (2015) proposal on higher education reform states that accreditation often inhibits innovation and competition. Critics often criticise that the structure and design of the accreditation restricts innovative and new providers of higher education from entering the marketplace, continually protects and favours market incumbents with high barriers to entry, and reinforces existing and often expensive delivery models. Many college and university leaders have said that accreditation is costly, burdensome and sometimes an overly-bureaucratic endeavour, with little or marginal benefits provided to the institution.

Below are some of Alexander L.’s (2015) recommendations:

Refocus on Quality

Repeal accreditation-related regulations and statutes that are unrelated to direct institutional quality and improvement. Observers of accreditation remark that the role of accreditation in quality assurance has shifted from a focus on quality to a compliance in performing complex duties (hundreds of pages of regulation, sub-regulatory guidance and 93 criteria) for which it is not well suited. Freeing accreditation responsibilities from federal regulations may restore the vital focus of accreditation back to quality curriculum and quality improvement of institutions.

Encourage gradation in accreditation status and reviews

Decisions about whether to grant accreditation status to a college are the result of a binary “pass-fail” decision. Given a lack of gradation and distinctions, accreditation standards may not be seen as aspirational, but rather simply the bare minimum needed to achieve recognition.

Establish new pathways to accreditation and eligibility for non-college providers of higher education

Injecting greater competition in higher education by breaking down regulatory and accrediting agency barriers to entry has the potential to challenge the higher education status quo, drive costs down and stimulate new delivery models of education. To allow businesses, trade associations, labour unions or any knowledge provider the opportunity to provide an accredited educational offering, with the ultimate goal of making “more kinds of students and more kinds of education eligible.”

As reported by Evolllution, Blue Marble University and other alternative universities, the real cost of accreditation lies in the spread of quality-guarding “helpers” who want to add to the pile of unneeded, unvalidated, and often outdated processes and requirements. It is not uncommon for a state university to have to respond to 40 or more different accreditors. Stanford University, ranked usually top five in the world, spends eight cents of every tuition dollar on accreditation. The good news, as we have seen on social media lately, is that more and more people around the world are embracing the advantages of innovative online education and are “voting” their acceptance by increasing their attendance at online universities—accredited or not. The focus of higher education has increasingly shifted from institutions to students. Online learning has provided a platform for rethinking delivery models, and much of the current accreditation process is not designed to account for these new approaches.

According to David Bergeron – who joined the Center for American Progress after a long stint at the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation should be based on learning outcomes, rather than on the credit-hour standard. This could promote clusters of learning in education to be classified as “recognised credentials” under the Higher Education Act. Bergeron said that the currency for accreditation could be a set of learning activities and the outcomes it produces. On the same vein, the CEO of StraighterLine Courses said that if a non-college provider can meet the standards of a college course, it should be treated the same way as an accredited institution. He has called out to U.S. lawmakers to allow accreditation to be approved at the course level, rather than the degree level.

References
Alexander L. (2015), Higher education accreditation concepts and proposals https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/files/Accreditation.pdf

About alternative education at Blue Marble University
https://bluemarbleuniversity.com/2018/08/29/about-alternative-education-at-blue-marble-university/

Unaccredited providers are changing the shape of the higher education industry
https://evolllution.com/managing-institution/higher_ed_business/unaccredited-providers-are-changing-the-shape-of-the-higher-education-industry

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