8. Principles for Accrediting Accreditation Bodies
96. It is easier to build trust between agencies when there are some common standards to assess the authenticity and integrity of an accreditation agency. The U.S. Department of Education has benchmarks to guide its recognition processes of the numerous national, regional, and programmatic accrediting agencies. The following principles, drawn from those benchmarks and from good administrative practice, could be the basis of a MENA framework for recognizing QA or to develop mutual recognition of agencies.
To be successful, an accreditation agency must follow the following core operating principles:
- The agency should be singular in purpose; i.e., involved only in QA and not in the design or delivery of educational programs;
- The agency should have sufficient intellectual and fiscal capacity; i.e., be solvent and appropriately staffed;
- The agency should be separate and independent, not subject to direction or control in accreditation decisions by state funding agencies;
- The agency should be not for profit;
- The agency should be accepted by peer agencies, the academic community, employers, and relevant professionals;
- The agency should encourage public participation and transparency in governance;
- The agency should maintain accurate and open records of accreditation decisions; and
- The agency should be experienced and recognized for its work in the region, discipline, or programs of study.
The status of current quality assurance structures in MENA countries is as follows:
- There are QA agencies in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, and the UAE.
- The Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE) has sixteen member countries, which already have, or are in the process of establishing, a QA agency.
- Most QA agencies are independent or semi-independent, and accredit programs and institutions.
97. QA is an important driver to improve the quality of tertiary education, and QA methods and systems are being revised worldwide to be more efficient in serving students, institutions, and governments. One important trend is the need to measure tertiary learning outcomes in meaningful ways. In addition to serving domestic purposes, recognition of degrees obtained abroad or through foreign institutions operating in the home country is critical to promote student mobility as well as successful return of students who go abroad.
98. To make the most of cross-border tertiary education, international and/or mutual recognition of diplomas is critical, as it can facilitate student mobility and allow students with foreign qualifications to work in their home country or, more generally, in the international labor market. To promote student mobility and recognition both in the home and host country, MENA countries could engage in a regional and a cross-regional dialogue to promote mutual recognition of diplomas, and increase its engagement in the international convergence of QA practices. More information sharing could facilitate the recognition of domestic degrees and the understanding of foreign qualifications in general.
9. Maximizing the Returns from Cross-border Education
99. Overall, cross-border tertiary education can assist developing countries in strengthening their higher education systems and fostering economic development. Cross-border education can expand domestic access to post-secondary education, through outbound student mobility and inbound program and institution mobility. Student and faculty mobility builds international networks, which underpin national innovation and research and development systems. Partnerships between local and foreign universities through program and institution mobility can improve the quality of domestic education services.
100. MENA countries choosing to use cross-border tertiary education to build capacity and complement domestic provision face several policy challenges. To benefit from cross-border education, countries should create a framework that:
- Facilitates participation in cross-border education and co-operation between foreign and domestic tertiary education institutions;
- Sets clear goals and targets for the different forms of internationalization linked with the development needs of the nation;
- Develops sound QA principles and processes to ensure that cross-border education meets the needs of students and is relevant to meet national goals and labor market needs;
- Establishes policies and procedures for ease of movement of students, faculty, and skilled labor, including visa and immigration policies;
- Sets goals for intra-regional student mobility and for student and faculty flows into the region through accreditation, student and faculty exchange, hiring incentives, and research infrastructure, including competitive research grants and a clear policy on the “export of educational services and private investment in higher education”;
- Aligns regional and international agencies to promote mutual recognition of degrees and credit transfer; and
- Fosters innovation and research and development capacity to adapt and respond to a continuously evolving technology-driven environment.
10. A Basis for National and Regional Dialogue
101. The observations, data and examples set out here can be used as a basis for debate, discussion, and analysis with and between MENA nations.
102. Regional cooperation could begin with shared efforts to understand the complex interactions between student mobility, domestic higher education, and the economic and social development priorities of the MENA countries. Topics of mutual interest include a better understanding of student flows and the programs they study in other countries. This would provide some insights into areas of under-provision in the region and assist in labor market forecasting. Joint work on the relative successes of students studying abroad, in the region, in branch campuses, and in national institutions, including measures such as time to first job on graduation and relative earnings, would also have policy relevance, as would cross-national work on longer term destinations of skilled citizens, and the effectiveness of different incentives to return to the home country. An illustrative research agenda is presented in box 3.
103. The outcomes of such work can frame and inform a dialogue between ministries, governments, institutions, and stakeholders about the strategic directions for skill formation and the development of higher education within individual countries. They can promote systematic examination of different scenarios for the creation and application of human capital and provide opportunities for participation in policy formation for a wide range of constituencies. Similar suggestions were made in the World Bank (2009) report on longer term perspectives on labor and job mobility in the MENA region, which recommended a three stage process to assist the smooth integration of the region to the globalized skill market. Those steps would involve improving basic demographic and labor force projections and scenario building around the policy options in education, migration and social protection; and would be open to national governments and intra- and inter-regional cooperation between agencies.
104. The same observations, data, and examples supplemented by the outcomes of national discussions can inform an intra-regional discussion between principals (i.e., ministers, senior officials and institutional leaders) on the opportunities and benefits of regional cooperation on matters of common interest in the area of cross-border education and the mobility of highly skilled people. There are clearly synergies and cost savings from sharing expertise, experience, and development work in areas such as recognition of qualifications, QA, diversification of programs, and the due diligence appropriate for cross-border provision.
Key Topics for Regional Policy Options
- Efforts to develop a regional approach for accreditation and setting up qualifications framework need to be strengthened.
- The above needs to be coupled with a mutual recognition of qualifications between home and host countries.
- Joint research on building better pathways for student and skilled labor mobility will strengthen countries‟ individual capacities.
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