THE IMPACT OF ACCREDITATION ON THE SCHOOL OF CONTINUING EDUCATION: A CASE STUDY
The American University in Cairo (EGYPT)
Is there an impact of applying accreditation on continuing education and adult programs? A question that needs a clear answer based on actual facts, and that is what I’m trying to make clear in my paper. In this case study paper, I’m trying to investigate if there is any direct or indirect impact of accreditation on the quality of the educational process at the School of Continuing Education at the American University in Cairo.
The need for quality assurance tools at SCE was necessary especially after the strong competition in the Egyptian market. The rapid increase of the training service in the Egyptian market made the competition level for the School of Continuing Education a lot higher than it was before. This competition was due to the increasing need for training for fresh graduates in order to compensate the lack of the workplace skills that was a result of the deteriorating Egyptian public educational system.
The increasingly need for training raised the level of competition between adult education institutions. Accordingly, there was a strong need for improving the number of services that the school provides.
In 2007 the SCE decided to seek international accreditation in order to formulate all its educational processes and put it in an organized and professional way. The decision was made in order to guarantee some level of quality assurance to all SCE offers. The decision to choose the International Association for Continuing Education & Training (IACET) was a senior management decision from the Vice President for Continuing Education.
The process started with reviewing three things, the first was the policies and procedures manual that were available at that time and it was not updated for years. The second was the Middle State standards that the AUC follow, and the IACET standards. It took the school three years of work in order to initiate new policies and procedures manual that reflected the ten IACET standards. It took this long because everyone in the school was held responsible for this writing process.
Once the school finalized the policies and procedures manual (PPM), and they made sure that the final product was accurate, efficient, reflected the IACET standards, and reflected the actual facts, they started contacting the IACET institution to finalize the application procedures. The final step was done smoothly as the IACET institution sent a team to check all the documents and make sure that everything was aligned with their standards and their vision. Finally an agreement was signed.
During one of the interviews that I conducted and that I will talk about in details later, it was mentioned that before the IACET accreditation at SCE, there was a quality issue as the documentation was not complete, the information was not clear and there was no reference to go back to as the PPM was not updated and not complete and almost ignored. Educational institutions like SCE look at quality from the prospective of the specialized organizations of monitoring quality which is applying number of standards. These standards were not selected randomly, it was due to massive study to this particular field. “The IACET Council on Standards Development (ICSD) has used – and continues to draw from – a core collection of guides, references and publications to develop and ensure the quality of the ANSI/IACET Standard of Continuing Education and Training” (www.iacet.org).