Accreditation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Panamá
Universidad de Panamá (UP)
Under article 95 of the Panamanian Constitution and articles 1 and 13 of Law 11 of 1981, the Academic Council of the University of Panamá is designated as the national body overseeing the process of fiscalización , or approval and regulation of the country’s universities and centers of private tertiary education. All institutions of higher education in Panamá are required to undergo the process of fiscalización to ensure that they comply with minimum quality requirements in the following categories:
- Departmental curriculum for undergraduate and graduate programs
- Academic and administrative structure governing the development of departments or programs of undergraduate and graduate study
- Infrastructure and conditions of academic facilities
- Criteria for the selection of educators and other personnel
Institutions that receive certification through the fiscalización process are granted permission to operate indefinitely assuming they adhere to the original requisites of establishment as outlined above. If an institution is denied certification on its first attempt, a period of time, as dictated by the Academic Council, is given for it to successfully improve any deficiencies. Upon a second denial of certification, the information is made public and the prospective institution is barred from offering recognized degrees. For a list of recognized Panamanian universities consult this page (Spanish) at the Panamanian Council of Rectors website.
Developments in Accreditation:
The Academic Council of the University of Panamá ensures a certain degree of quality control at the nation’s universities and colleges through the certification procedures described above. However, this state-mandated undertaking differs from the development of an official policy for the continuous evaluation and official accreditation of Panamanian tertiary institutions, an approach that is typically voluntary on the part of the institution being assessed, and requires greater oversight as well as expertise in order to be executed. That said, the higher education community of Panamá has made headway over the last decade by participating in the larger Central American regional discourse on accreditation and by taking steps to create an autonomous national accreditation body to maintain quality control in higher education.
The Panamanian Consejo de Rectores (Council of Rectors ) was created by State law in 1997 with the mission of investigating and initiating the implementation of a national accreditation organization. In their strategic plan for the years 1998-2003, the Panamanian Council of Rectors first referenced the establishment of a national system for the evaluation and accreditation of institutions of higher education. Since 1998, the council, assisted by the Ibero-American Network for Accreditation of Quality in Higher Education (RIACES), has participated in numerous activities such as forums and training missions to build the necessary knowledge and human capacity to integrate an accreditation process into national higher education. In November 2006, the National Council for the Evaluation and Accreditation of University Education of Panamá (CONEAUPA) was created by Law 30 of the 20th of July 2006. CONEAUPA has begun the fundamental administrative and logistical courses of action to begin the evaluation of all Panamanian universities and colleges, both public and private.
In the absence of a national accrediting organization, various institutions of higher education in Panamá have undergone accreditation processes instigated internally or conducted by regional accreditation organizations. Universidad de Panamá , Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá and Universidad Autónoma de Chiriqui have initiated internal evaluation procedures as well as external evaluation by regional accreditor SICEVAES, the Central American System of the Evaluation and Accreditation of Higher Education. The University of Panamá has also created a management office for evaluation and accreditation to prepare for future accreditation from CONEAUPA.
Links to Additional Information:
- Ibero-American Network for Accreditation of Quality in Higher Education (RIACES) (Spanish)
- Panamanian Council of Rectors (Spanish)