This guest post comes to us from the British Accreditation Council. BAC was set up in 1984 to provide a comprehensive quality assurance scheme for independent further and higher education in the UK. They accredit around 230 educational providers in over 20 countries.
Making a decision on which institution to study at can be a difficult one, with a wide variety of choices available. In the global market, students no longer just focus on their country of domicile, but also look wider afield.
It is relatively easy if a student has the interest, academic qualifications and funding to enrol at an internationally recognised institution, such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. However, it becomes more complex when looking at institutions which are not as well known or well established. The increase in the number of students wanting to continue to higher education often exceeds the availability of places available at public universities, so increasingly private universities are becoming an important part of the higher education public sector.
But how does a student know if the institution is legitimate- with the power to award degrees and qualifications that are recognised- both in the country where the institution is operating and internationally? The answer is simple; a university should be recognised by the government of the country where it is based. Look at the relevant Ministry of Education’s website and find the list of registered institutions, and check that your institution of choice has the authority to operate.
One of the things that can help students determine the quality of an institution, is finding out if it is accredited by a quality assurance or accreditation organisation. Accreditation means that an institution has undergone external review or inspection, which will require the Institution to meet specific standards in order to gain accreditation.
Accreditation can be at an institutional level, or at a programme level. For example, the British Accreditation Council (BAC) undertakes institutional accreditation. A BAC inspection team would look at an institution as a whole, including its management, finance and governance. They would then publish a report detailing the outcomes of the inspection, which would be available to see on the BAC website. Published reports are common in the European Higher Education Area, but this varies globally.
Programme accreditation organisations would focus on the specific programme’s curriculum, and if it meets industry expectations. Accreditation at a programme level can also count towards membership of a professional body, such as the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Some top tips:
- Look beyond the league tables – they are a good indicator, but there are many other institutions that can offer a high-quality education that won’t be in there.
- Don’t leave the decision completely to an educational agent- you may have briefed them on your requirements, but remember you will be studying there, so ensure the final decision is yours.
- Above all, do your research! Undertaking a degree can be time-consuming and expensive, so it is important to ensure that you have made the best decision for you. Choose a legitimate institution which will give you a high-quality educational experience.