Accreditation in Latin America and the Caribbean: El Salvador
In 1995, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador passed an education law sanctioning the creation of the System of Supervision and Betterment of the Quality of Higher Education Institutions. The Commission of Higher Education was created to enact the provisions of the new legislation, and it in turn has established a three-stage quality assurance process — qualification, evaluation and accreditation — for both public and private universities. All institutions of higher education are required by the Ministry of Education to undergo the first two stages of the quality assurance process while the final stage — accreditation — is voluntary.
In overseeing the first two stages of the quality assurance process, the Commission of Higher Education is empowered to authorize the creation or closure of academic institutions, approve new degree programs, and to support internal evaluation and quality assurance procedures. Qualification specifically refers to the requirement that all Salvadoran tertiary institutions provide detailed data, such as student numbers and financial resources, to the ministry. Evaluation refers to a more involved process, which requires all institutions to complete an internal evaluation as well as undergo an external evaluation by ministry-appointed evaluators every three years. These evaluations are reported to the Commission of Higher Education, and improvement policies are then imposed on the institution.
Separately, the Commission of Accreditation of the Quality of Higher Education in El Salvador (CdA) has functioned since 2000 to accredit universities volunteering to have the quality of their degree programs recognized. The CdA characterizes the process of accreditation as having the following objectives:
- Continuous improvement of higher education in El Salvador.
- Improving public faith in the quality of the country’s institutions of higher education.
- To create incentives for all institutions to fulfill their mission, purposes and objectives within the framework of the Law of Higher Education.
- To offer dependable information for potential students.
- To generate a culture of permanent evaluation supporting processes of internal assessment within the nation’s institutions of higher education.
- To serve as an international frame of reference that promotes the competitiveness of Salvadoran professionals and institutions of higher education.
The CdA is comprised of seven members who are appointed to four-year terms of service by both the Ministry of Education and the Commission of Higher Education. The organization functions autonomously but its policies are in part shaped by input from the Ministry of Education. Members of the CdA are top academics in their field with experience and expertise in the accreditation process.
The CdA evaluates an institution based on the quality of its students, professors, governance and administration, institutional mission, degree programs, research, social commitment, infrastructure, financial management, institutional integrity, and library resources.
Rather than accredit individual degree programs the CdA evaluates institutions. In making an accreditation decision the CdA considers all the information obtained by the Ministry of Education through the qualification and routine (every three years) evaluation process. In addition, institutions must submit an exhaustive petition of accreditation to the CdA that consists of:
- Information about the institution that illustrates that it is in compliance with the Higher Education Law
- A summary of the institution’s development
- A five-year plan outlining proposals for future improvement and recent progress based on the recommendations of previous evaluations completed by the Ministry of Education
- The results of all previous evaluations
- An outline of how the institution complies with the requirements for CdA accreditation
After considering all of the above information, consulting with experts in the field and conferring with other relative organizations the next step in the accreditation process is an interview with representatives from the institution. The members of the CdA and the representatives of the petitioning institution meet to deliberate and discuss any questions or concerns that might exist for either party concerning the eligibility of the institution for accreditation. The accreditation process is finalized later that day with the CdA presenting its final decision.
The CdA awards both full and partial accreditation. To receive full accreditation an institution must receive approval from 5 of the 7 members of the CdA. Institutions that are awarded only partial accreditation are not allowed to publicize this information and are given two years to correct institutional inconsistencies discovered through the evaluation process.
CdA Accreditation is valid for a period of five years and the CdA can petition the Ministry of Education to check on quality assurance issues at an institution at any time during the accreditation period. After the initial five years, accredited institutions must petition to participate in the process again to retain their status.
For a list of CdA accredited degree programs in El Salvador see the links section below.
Links to Additional Resources:
• CdA (Spanish)
• List of CdA Accredited Programs
• Ibero-American Network for the Accreditation of Quality in Higher Education: El Salvador Page (Spanish)
• International Institute for Higher Education in Latin American and the Caribbean (IESALC): El Salvador Page(Spanish): includes various reports concerning higher education in El Salvador and Accreditation in Latin America