Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-22, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 20 January, 2022 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2022.


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Programme accreditation

core definition

Programme accreditation establishes the academic standing of the programme or the ability of the programme to produce graduates with professional competence to practice.

explanatory context

Traditionally, programme accreditation was linked to competence to practice a profession. This is often referred to as professional accreditation (Harvey, 2004).

However, the mania for widespread accreditation in Europe in the first decade of the 21st century has meant that, in some countries, all programmes, whether linked to professions or not, have to be accredited by an external agency.

analytical review

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, 2003) definition focused on courses [programmes]

Accreditation is the approval of a higher education course by an authorised body.

In Western Europe, particularly linked to the Bologna process, accreditation according to CHEA (2001) is:

An evaluation and assessment of an institution or its programs in relation to its aims and objectives, its recognized standards, and its own goals. The assessors are looking primarily at the success of the institution in achieving its goals. Also refers to formal government authorization given to institutions to grant degrees. In Germany, normally refers to evaluation and assessment of the accreditation agencies that accredit only those programs leading to a B.A. or M.A.

The Manual of the University Quality Assurance International Board of Dubai (2012, p. 6) deferentiates programme accreditation from both programme validation and professional accreditation and defines the former as:

Programme accreditation: A process of external quality assurance that provides assurance to the public that an academic programme meets specific standards. In the UAE programme accreditation is provided by the CAA. It is a comparable but different process to programme validation [Provided by UQAIB].

In rather more generic terms, Vlãsceanu, et al. (2004, p. 20) refer to ‘Specialized Accreditation’, which has the characteristics of what others call professional accreditation:

The accreditation of individual units or programmes (e.g., professional education), by “specialized” or “programme” accrediting bodies applying specific standards for curriculum and course content.


Accreditation (and re-accreditation) of courses in North America tends to focus on professional areas. The six non-governmental voluntary associations recognise provision in institutions that have been found to meet stated criteria of quality. In addition there are about 50 disciplinary associations that inter alia judge whether the study programmes appropriately prepare graduates to enter a profession (Harvey, 2004).


This is very similar to the role played by the professional and regulatory bodies in the UK, who also control access to the profession by making accreditation of the programme a prerequisite for graduate entry. Perhaps more draconian than their US counterparts, some bodies in the UK set and grade their own examinations (Harvey & Mason, 1995). See professional accreditation.


The newer accreditation in Eastern European countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia has, at least initially, opted for programme accreditation in all academic fields (Westerheijden, 2001). This appears to be designed principally to provide academic rather than professional accreditation in the wake of the Soviet era. The mushrooming of new programme accreditation proposals in some Western European countries, linked to bachelor-masters conversion, also predominantly appears to be academic accreditation (Harvey, 2004).

associated issues


related areas

See also


accreditation body

accreditation portfolio

accreditation status

duration of accreditation

institutional accreditation

professional accreditation


regional accreditation

specialized accreditation



Council For Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2001, Glossary of Key Terms in Quality Assurance and Accreditation, last updated 23 October 2002, accessed 18 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

Harvey, L., 2004, ‘The power of accreditation: views of academics', Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 26 (2), pp. 207–223.

Harvey, L. and Mason, S. with Ward, R., 1995, The Role of Professional Bodies in Higher Education Quality Monitoring. Birmingham: Quality in Higher Education Project.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), 2003, About us: Glossary Updated 3 January 2003, no longer avialable.

University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) [of Dubai], 2012, Quality Assurance Manual, version 1.6, June 2012.

Vlãsceanu, L., Grünberg, L., and Pârlea, D., 2004, Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (Bucharest, UNESCO-CEPES) Papers on Higher Education.

Westerheijden, D.F., 2001, ‘Ex oriente lux?: national and multiple accreditation in Europe after the fall of the Wall and after Bologna', Quality in Higher Education, pp. 65–76.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2022

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