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. Very simply stated, accreditation is the process whereby an external agent verifies the internal quality assurance processes of an institution and the achievement of mutually agreed upon standards.
Beyond the instrumental value of the recognition of learning qualifications (see…), accreditation also comes with a set of more intrinsic, generic values. As an accrediting agency, the ECTE aims to come alongside theological institutions to:
- help set appropriate outcome standards for programmes;
- ensure that institutional leadership and management are able to ensure these standards;
- encourage the creation and continuous development of a culture of inner quality assurance processes;
- verify whether or not the set standards are achieved;
- provide qualified guidance to institutions on issues of development and best practice;
- provide certification of quality to stakeholders, students and the general public.
Accrediting associations are often perceived as constraining structures that hunt out weaknesses in institutions and impose predetermined standards. Rightly understood however, the accreditation process is didactic and is meant to help institutions achieve their own objectives and increase their “fitness for purpose”.
At the heart of all quality assurance activities are the twin purposes of accountability and enhancement. Taken together, these create trust in the higher education institution’s performance.
The ECTE aims to help institutions ask the helpful questions, find the answers that fit their context and establish appropriate internal quality assurance procedures that will meet the desired outcomes. The ECTE’s main task is not to criticise institutions, but to lend expertise and assistance and to identify areas with potential for improvement in order to stimulate institutions to greater excellence and relevance.
Here are some further aims that are achieved through the ECTE accreditation 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;
- Subject specific accreditation in theological education helps to develop quality objectives and criteria for evaluating academic, ministerial and formational outcomes;
- ECTE’s accreditation contribute to institutions wishing to obtain governmental or ecclesiastical recognition;
- Accreditation within a faith tradition sends a positive message to churches concerning the evangelical ethos of an institution. It is also an instrument that helps an institution preserve its identity and stability over time;
- Accreditation helps to establish reliable points of comparison to enhance cooperation between theological educational institutions and student mobility;
- 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;
- Reference to good practice in the EHEA and use of the ESG in the ECTE standards and procedures can help institutions prepare for future governmental reviews and accreditation opportunities;
- Theological institutions pursuing and maintaining accreditation are investing to the fullest into the quality of their education and provide their students with recognized certification desired by the faith communities they serve