THE NATIONAL SYSTEM OF ACCREDITATION IN COLOMBIA
The National System of Accreditation in Colombia was created by Act 30 of 1992, with the fundamental objective of guaranteeing society that the institutions of higher education that make part of it comply with the highest quality standards and that they accomplish their purposes and objectives. It is an instrument that fosters quality in higher education, different from inspection and control, which is constitutionally the role of the State, to guarantee the quality of education and the fulfillment of its objectives.
To begin the accreditation process it is necessary for the institution to express its intention, voluntarily before the CNA, to advance the accreditation of one or more of its programs, for which the fulfillment of certain essential conditions is necessary. These conditions are of normative, academic and administrative nature. In the normative aspect, the legal standing is taken into consideration for the operation of the institution and the program, as well as the compliance with norms that the Colombian law has established; In the academic aspect, requirements aim at the possession of a mission clearly defined within the frame of the Institutional Project, to have the appropriate body of teachers, several cohorts of students who have finished their studies, and the adequate infrastructure ; administratively, an organizational structure is necessary, with administration and management systems and the necessary financial resources. Once this documentation phase has been completed, the CNA will carry out a visit to the institution to verify the initial conditions of the institution, in which a recommendation will be emitted as to whether the process is to be continued or not.
The model is organized by stages of compulsory fulfillment on the part of the actors taking part in the process. Its success lies in the commitment of those institutions, the academic community, as well as the bodies in charge of the development of each stage, under transparent criteria of organization and responsibility among others.
The assessment leading to accreditation is accomplished in three stages:
Self-evaluation: It is the study carried out internally by each institution or academic program based on the model established by the CNA. In this phase, the institution stresses its commitment to quality standards, which derives from the institution autonomy granted by the Constitution and the Law. It is expected that the results of the self-evaluation serve no only the aims of accreditation, but fundamentally the formulation and development of actions to improve the quality of academic programs. The final report includes strengths and weaknesses of each aspect of the program, corrections when they have been applied, and the proposals for improvement.
The CNA has consolidated the following tools so that institutions of higher education accomplish this task: A self-evaluation user manual for undergraduate academic program accreditation; the documents denominated specific indicators of self-evaluation processes for accreditation programs in Education, in the distance, virtual, technical and technological modalities.
External Evaluation or Peer Evaluation: Here the starting point is self-evaluation. It is carried out by academic peers of ample and renowned experience in the field of the formation program and are designated by the CNA. Their task focuses on the verification of the coherence between what the self-assessment report states and what is effectively found in the institution. The peers emit judgments about quality based on the information obtained, including those aspects that were not taken into account during the self-assessment phase and that in like manner turn out to be relevant to assess the quality of institutions and programs of a specific field.
The Final Assessment: It is the final ruling emitted by the CNA, based on the self-assessment of the program, the report delivered by the peers and on the reaction of the institution to the report. This technical concept includes, if it is the case, a recommendation about the time the accreditation is in force (not less than 4 years and no more than 10), and it is handed over to the Ministry of National Education for the final accreditation act to be issued. If the verdict is not favorable, the institution is briefed, in a confidential manner, about the pertinent recommendations to apply again in no less than two years.
The public recognition granted to a program or institution that has obtained accreditation is rewarded with a series of advantages. In Colombia, special policies have been established to stimulate accreditation status. For example, the "Orden a la Educación Superior y a la Fe Pública Luis López de Mesa" and the "Orden a la Educación Superior y a la Fe Pública Francisco José de Caldas", a distinction of the national government to each accredited program, that highlights the quality of the institutions of higher education accredited. Other incentives that have been considered are the agility in procedures to extend the offer of the accredited programs or expeditious ways to create programs in the accredited institutions, among others.
To develop the conceptual and procedural aspects of the model of program and institutional accreditation, the Council has elaborated user manuals for the institutions with practical advice on each of the stages of the process of voluntary accreditation. Also, documents containing reflections over various aspects concerning the process were prepared and other academic documents related to areas of their competence were published. These texts were drafted by the CNA as preliminary versions, and were later submitted to the academic community as a stage for consulting their opinions, until accomplishing the final draft, which included the feedback from the communities. At present there are 14 manuals that explain in detail the approach and methodology used by the CAN and which are updated periodically.
Guidelines and conceptual documents
1. Lineamientos para la Acreditación de Programas (Guidelines for Program Accreditation). Tercera Edición, Noviembre 2006.
2. Lineamientos para la Acreditación Institucional (Guidelines for Institutional Accreditation). Segunda Edición Noviembre de 2006
3. La Evaluación Externa en el contexto de la Acreditación en Colombia (External Assessment in the context of Accreditation in Colombia). Enero de 1998.
Guidelines and procedures
4. Apreciación de Condiciones Iniciales (Assessment of Initial Conditions). Guía de Procedimiento CNA-01(Guidelines of Procedure CNA-01). Tercera Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
5. Autoevaluación con fines de Acreditación de Programas Académicos de Pregrado (Self-assessment for Accreditation of Undergraduate Academic Programs). Guía de Procedimiento CNA-02 (Guidelines of Procedure CNA-02). Segunda Edición, diciembre de 1998.
6. Autoevaluación con fines de acreditación de Programas de Pregrado (Self-assessment for Accreditation of Undergraduate Academic Programs), Guía de Procedimiento - CNA No. 03 (Guidelines of Procedure -CNA 03). Cuarta Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
7. Evaluación Externa con fines de Acreditación de Programas Académicos de Pregrado (External self-assessment for Accreditation of Undergraduate Academic Programs. Guía de Procedimiento CNA 03 (Guidelines of Procedure -CNA 03). Tercera Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
8. Renovación de la Acreditación de Programas Académicos de Pregrado (Renovation of Accreditation of Undergraduate Academic Programs). Guía de Procedimiento CNA-04 (Guidelines of Procedure -CNA 04). Noviembre de 2006.
9. Orientaciones para la Evaluación Externa con fines de Acreditación Institutional (Advise for External Assessment for Institutional Accreditation). Guía de Procedimiento CNA-05(Guidelines of Procedure CNA-05). Segunda Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
10. Indicadores para la Autoevaluación con fines de acreditación Institucional (Indicators of Self-evaluation for Institutional Accrediation), Segunda Edición, Noviembre 2006
11. Indicadores específicos para los procesos de Autoevaluación con fines de Acreditación de Programas en Educación (Specific indicators for the processes of self-assessment for Accreditation of Programs in Education). Primera Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
12. Indicadores para la Autoevaluación con miras a la Acreditación de Programas de Pregrado en las modalidades a Distancia y Virtual (Indicators for the processes of self-assessment for accreditation of undergraduate Programs in the modalities of Distance and Virtual training). Primera Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
13. Indicadores específicos para los procesos de Autoevaluación con fines de Acreditación de los Programas Técnicos y Tecnológicos (Specific indicators for the processes of self-assessment for Accreditation of Technical and Technological Programs). Documento Versión Preliminar, 2006.
14. Entornos Virtuales en la Educación Superior (Visual Environments in Higher Education). Primera Edición, Noviembre de 2006.
The information generated in the accreditation process is made public in all the systems after the final assessment has been accomplished. The means used by CNA for socializing and publicizing information about the results obtained in the assessment processes are the seminars, lectures, discussion groups, periodicals, bulletins, catalogues, the mass media, especially newspapers, audiovisual materials, electronic web pages, and portals.
SNIES National System of Higher Education: Provides reliable data about Institutions of higher education in Colombia and the programs they offer. It makes the construction of consolidated statistics and indicators easier.
OLE Labor Observatory for Education: It provides a permanent follow-up of students who have obtained their degrees in Colombia. It assembles a variety of data to interpret relationships among the world, Higher Education, and the world of labor.
SACES : Information System for Quality Assurance of Higher Education: Registers information for the process of Qualified Registry of academic programs.
SPADIES: System of Prevention and Analysis of Drop-out rate in Institutions of higher education. It follows up each student to calculate the risk of dropping out and prevent it.
The above is complemented with quality promoting programs guided and or coordinated by the Ministry of National Education with the support of various Higher Education bodies or entities.