The historic mission of the ECTE has been quality assurance of theological education. A theological school can choose to be a member of the ECTE, thus participating in the ECTE network but it may also decide to go a step further and have its programmes accredited by the ECTE.
Accreditation is a process which requires prolonged time for self and external evaluation, during which the total institution’s setting, programme, structures and life are carefully reviewed, an unquestionably worthwhile effort. Having an accredited programme means that the school’s degrees will be recognized by peer institutions worldwide and that the school itself has succeeded in reaching significant quality standards in theological higher education.
Here are some benefits for a theological school undergoing a quality assurance process.
- Accreditation helps to clearly formulate objectives and to evaluate educational programmes within the framework of these objectives to guarantee and improve fitness for purpose.
- Evangelical accreditation helps to develop quality objectives and criteria for evaluating both academic and spiritual fitness.
- ECTE accreditation process does not contradict, but rather contributes to schools wishing to obtain governmental or ecclesiastical recognition which graduates need for their ministry at home or abroad.
- Evangelical accreditation sends a positive message to churches concerning the evangelical ethos of a school. It is also an instrument that helps a school preserve its evangelical identity and stability over time, despite leadership turnover.
- Accreditation helps to establish reliable points of comparison to enhance communication between theological educational institutions.
- Accreditation helps to foster communication with partner churches, missions and Christian organisations, as well as with churches and organisations abroad. The quality assurance standards and their evaluation form a common vocabulary and frame of reference for mutual understanding and collaboration.
- Accreditation helps to facilitate the ongoing education of graduates, permitting the church to have a wider span of trained leadership for its various ministries
- The inclusion of elements of the Bologna Higher Education framework helps schools be prepared for future government review and accreditation opportunities.
- In a changing European scenario of accreditation, ECTE accreditation can provide stability in times transition. Schools may consider double accreditation schemes as a guarantee of continuity.
Theological schools that do not pursue accreditation may sacrifice quality and hinder hard-working students from attaining recognised degrees desired by the faith communities they serve.