Accreditation can be described as both a status and a process. It is the status granted to an educational institution or programme that has been evaluated and found to meet or exceed stated criteria of educational quality. It is also the process used to evaluate the quality of the institution or programme and to assist in institutional or programme improvement, monitoring and periodic re-evaluation. It is a voluntary process for which all registered post secondary and tertiary education institutions are eligible. Institutions and programmes that are not accredited often do not enjoy public confidence or earn an international reputation.
The key components of the accreditation process are institutional self-evaluation and external evaluation. Institutional self evaluation is an internal self-study done by the institution. It documents and reports on how the institution has fulfilled the criteria established by the NAB for accredited status. External evaluation is conducted by a team of external expert evaluators appointed by the NAB. During the evaluation process, the team investigates the characteristics of the institution or programme with reference to the institution's self-study report and the NAB's established criteria.
There are several criteria that must be met by institutions seeking accreditation. The evaluation focuses on such characteristics as governance, administrative strength, academic policies and procedures, quality of faculty, physical facilities and financial stability. Accreditation goes beyond assessing an institution's capacity to deliver acceptable quality to include the evaluation of student learning outcomes. The criteria are intentionally broad enough to allow for diversity and innovation since there is considerable variation among institutions with characteristics, philosophies and purposes. They are also precise enough to ensure that critical aspects of acceptable quality are encompassed in the statement. An institution must be judged to have met all the criteria to merit accreditation.
Institutional accreditation reviews the characteristics of the institution as a whole and evaluates the organisational capacity to consistently deliver quality educational programmes at the post-secondary or tertiary level. Although individual programmes are reviewed as a part of the evaluation, institutional accreditation focuses on the broad characteristics of the organisation.
Specialised or programme accreditation evaluates specific educational programmes leading to the award of qualifications at the post-secondary and tertiary level and is primarily undertaken by specialised accrediting bodies or professional bodies. Specialised accreditation is generally required in fields such as medicine, engineering, law, teaching and other professions. The NAB collaborates with national regulatory bodies for the professions, and regional and international specialised accrediting bodies in the accreditation of programmes. This helps to ensure that the requirements for programme accreditation are related to the current requirements for licensure and professional practice.
Specialised or programme accreditation evaluates the quality of teaching and the support of learning, design and planning of programmes of study, assessment and feedback to learners, and programme evaluation and internal quality assurance mechanisms. The NAB conducts both institutional and programme accreditation.