Accreditation is the mot de jour at the moment, it seems that one can hardly turn a page of a reputable industry magazine without reading about efforts to uphold quality, evolve best practice and safeguard industry reputation through quality accreditation schemes.
In the USA, there is currently a bill in congress pushing for student visa issuance to be linked to evidence of an institution’s quality, ie accreditation status (page 10) and in the UK, this scenario becomes a reality next year (page 33), bringing the UK in line with competitor destinations such as New Zealand and Australia.
In Canada, a rapid and well organised re-accreditation process for half of the membership of Languages Canada to ensure all institutions are singing from the same hymn sheet now means that over 140 schools can attest to the same quality standards and enjoy unprecedented government backing. Already, only accredited Languages Canada-member schools can access study fairs organised overseas by Canadian embassies (page 6), so it may only be a matter of time before accreditation-linked visa issuance is discussed here.
As the prestige and clout of accredited status becomes more apparent within the industry, the number of educators seeking accreditation is bound to rise. (Although according to Chief Executive of English UK, Tony Millns, the current enrollment rate for Accreditation UK is slower than expected, given the impending deadline. See our webzine, Your World on Monday, for his “View from the Desk of” analysis 10/03/08).
The slow cultivation of credentials has moved some educators to point out that simply being accredited will cease to be a unique selling point (page 31). This is true, but surely more competition within the accredited sector will motivate institutions to find other ways to stand out from the crowd. Far from accreditation status becoming devalued, I think it raises the operating benchmark from adequate to excellent and does enormous good for a country’s reputation as a whole.
A far greater risk, I think, in terms of compulsory accreditation, is the falsifying of company literature by dodgy operators to suggest thay they, like most others, are accredited, and an easy acceptance of this by (local) students. Students may check a school’s claims but what if they don’t? Given that schools themselves fund the cost of accreditation, should governments fund a whistleblowers’ forum to monitor and penalise the misuse of a valuable quality brand?