It seems there is a general belief that when a university fails to meet some accreditation body's standards then the university is somehow less than genuine.

Is there any objective proof that accreditation produces excellence in higher education ?

I ask this because I see my university always trying to game the system. Little effort is placed towards the real goal of being a better university. Rather, we merely try to jump through whatever hoop has been placed by the accrediting body. Rather than trusting faculty to have the best idea of how to structure the university (in which we build our careers, so, you'd think you might trust us) we instead restructure things merely on the whim of an external body which does not know nearly as much about what is best for the university!

It seems to me, at many universities the assessment process is largely financial with no real attention to excellence in education. Faculty pretend to engage in the assessment process, but, we don't really care or respect the process because it:

  1. reduces the autonomy of professors

  2. it has half-informed "experts" trumping the opinion professors who are actually already performing real assessment all the time.

It is by now obvious to me that assessment at my university is actually damaging to academics! Is this a quirk of my institution (which values the input of faculty at a tragically sad rate) or is this common?

My larger question, is there a publication in which a critical review of accreditation bodies and how they fail in their supposed mission ?

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    My larger question, is there a publication in which a critical review of accreditation bodies and how they fail in their supposed mission ? This what lawyers call a leading question ... Feb 24, 2017 at 7:43
  • I don't think even the accreditors would honestly say their job is to produce excellence. It's more accurate to say that their job is to prevent incompetence. Feb 24, 2017 at 17:13
  • @AlexanderWoo so they claim... but, at my institution, accreditation leads to incompetence. All of the meetings of my university are centered around meeting the demands of the accreditors. Consequently, we rarely have time for any sort of genuine introspection as an institution. When the accreditation body makes a demand we drop everything, ignore usual rules of changing rules for majors etc..., and make drastic changes without the reasoned approval of the faculty. The quickness of our response ought to raise red flags. But, no, they love us and even place us above other more real places! Mar 5, 2017 at 8:11
  • @ConcernedHuman: It's no secret that the standards of accreditors are very very low, and they prize obvious evidence of meeting these very low standards over less obvious but equally valid evidence of meeting higher standards. Ultimately, it's the fault of your institution, not the accreditors, that it doesn't value meeting a higher standard than that demanded by accreditation. Accreditation is not meant to produce excellence, just ensure that a very very low bare minimum is met. Mar 5, 2017 at 10:25

1 Answer 1


Is there any objective proof that accreditation produces excellence in higher education ?

This is a very broad question, and the answer may have varied over time and may presently vary from place to place. But at the present time, in the United States, there is considerable evidence that accrediting bodies are not just useless but harmful.

One case in point is the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), a regional accrediting body that came unmoored under president Barbara Beno. In 2013, ACCJC tried to shut down the City College of San Francisco. There was no evidence of any academic problem at CCSF. The problem was that they didn't check all the boxes on the forms as demanded by ACCJC.

Another good example is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which helped for-profit colleges such as Corinthian Colleges and ITT to bilk the US federal government of vast amounts of financial aid money.

As far as I can tell, the basic problem with accreditation in the US is that the federal government wants to subsidize education as a public good, and in order to do that they want to have metrics of quality. But as soon as we designate a metric of quality, we guarantee that people will game the system in order to boost that metric. The result is a Darwinian struggle in which schools, whether good or bad, compete to feed at the public trough.

  • For posterity's sake, one of the ACCJC's principal concerns about CCSF was that the college had no established procedure for updating its mission statement. Mar 26, 2020 at 4:51

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