Accreditation in the European Higher Education Area
The ECTE operates in the field of accreditation within the overall context of European higher learning where the progressive enlargement of the European Union has generated a process of profound change and the realisation of a common European Higher Education Area (the EHEA). In this process, a major role is being played by the “Bologna Process” which has united over 47 European Ministers of Education and numerous educational and governmental agencies around the project of creating a common framework of reference for European tertiary education.
In recognising the value of the EHEA educational framework and desiring to better contextualise to the European situation, the ECTE has integrated several of the EHEA tools into its own standards and procedures. These include, for example, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) that have been incorporated into the Standards and Guidelines for ECTE accreditation to define levels and standards. The European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) have also been used as points of reference for ECTE’s own internal quality assurance. The ECTE also uses of specific EHEA tools such as the ECTS credit system, the Dublin Descriptors and the Diploma Supplement as well as the implementation of educational strategies such as learning-outcome based programmes and the recognition of non-formal and informal learning.
Although it is beyond the scope of the ECTE to determine the status of institutions nor their ability to award formal degrees (this is normally the domain of local authorities), the ECTE aims to determine the quality and level of learning opportunities within the European frameworks of higher education.
Accreditation in the global community of theological education
In addition to being uniquely European, ECTE accreditation also reflects global evangelical theological education.
Over the decades, many evangelical theological institutions have been established in many parts of the world and a number regional accrediting agencies, such as the ECTE, have risen up to provide networking and quality assurance services to these agencies. Eight such regional accrediting agencies cooperate in the international network know as the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE), representing nearly 1000 schools in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Euro-Asia, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa and North America.
ICETE’s origins are rooted in the emergence of networks of evangelical theological schools in the majority world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. From among these new associations came a call for some means by which they might be in regular contact and collaboration at the international level. The WEA Theological Commission agreed to sponsor the project, and ICETE was formed in March 1980.
The ECTE reflects the values and standards of global theological education by endorsing key documents like the ICETE Manifesto on the Renewal of Evangelical Theological Education and by substantially including the ICETE Standards and Guidelines for Global Evangelical Theological Education (SG-GETE) into its own accreditation standards. The ICETE Qualification Comparability Framework is also an important tool in seeking to provide greater transparency and international readability to the levels of the ECTE accreditation.
Joint accreditation is also being implemented within the ICETE network. Occasionally ECTE has been asked to conduct a joint accreditation with an agency of the ICETE network (e. g. with the ATA or the MENATE). A procedural agreement for such a collaborative accreditation taking into consideration the standards of both agencies has then been defined as a work basis.
Use of the SG-GETE in the ECTE standards and guidelines and reference to ICETE and ISCED international nomenclature provides international recognisability by potential graduate employers and progression to further study. Having an accredited programme with the ECTE means that the institution’s degrees will usually be recognised by evangelical institutions worldwide.