What is ABET?
ABET is a registered accreditation organization accredited by a board for engineering and technology. It is worth noting that the organization is non-governmental and focuses on accrediting post-secondary education programs, especially in applied science, engineering, engineering technology, and computing. The accreditation mandate is focused on the entire globe, but the organization focuses more on the United States. Over the years, the organization has been able to accredit thousands of programs in different countries and universities. As such, ABET is the only legal organization in the US which is tasked with the accreditation of the programs. However, besides accrediting, ABET provides international leadership through consultancies, workshops, mutual recognition agreements, and memoranda of understanding. The organization works in a particular manner and through various departments. Therefore, those aspects will be the primary focus of this paper.
Background of the Organization
The history of ABET organization indicates that it was established in 1932 under seven engineering societies. Initially, the organization was called the ECPD or the “Engineers” Council for Professional Development. The mission of forming ECPD by the engineering societies was to have a body that would provide a framework of the program that would shape the discipline of engineering as a profession. Nevertheless, the organization did not live up to that mission because it started focusing on accrediting and evaluating engineering programs and institutions. The ECPD changed its name to the current ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) in 1980. Through the years, the ABET has been able to establish other related organizations, such as the CSAB (Computing Sciences Accreditation Board), which has been credited with increasing interest in computer science education globally.
It is worth appreciating that ABET works through professional membership and has, therefore, affiliated technical member societies representing technology, applied science, engineering, and computing. Full members of the accredited societies hold the mandate of ownership as well as operating the organization. However, worth noting is that the board of directors of the organization adopted revisions to the governance structure of the organization in 2014. Besides, the directors amended the organization’s constitution and the bylaws to have the current provisions.
The ABET organization has had the vision of providing world leadership in assuring quality and stimulating innovativeness in the disciplines of computing, technology education, engineering and applied sciences.
As seen earlier, ABET works through promoting and advancing education in the fields of computing, technology education, engineering as well as applied sciences. Therefore, the organization has shown dedicated efforts towards the following aspects.
- Accrediting programs of education
- Promoting innovation and quality in education
- Consultancy in assisting the development of financially viable advancement of education globally
- Ensuring timely and effective communication with the affiliated organizations and constituents
- Anticipating and preparing for future consultancy in the changing world, and
- Managing the operations as well as resources in an effective and responsible manner
The process of Accreditation
In fact, ABET only accredits the higher learning institutions that offer degree-granting programs, which are regionally accredited within the United States and nationally accredited in other regions. However, one would appreciate that the organization does not accredit the training, certification, and doctoral programs. The organization’s constitution stipulates that the accreditation process is voluntary and that the process is only commenced after initiation by the institution seeking accreditation. Moreover, ABET works by accrediting specific programs as against an institution. Equally, the accredited programs must request re-accreditation after six years to retain the accreditation status. If the accreditation procedures were not satisfactory, other additional evaluations would be engaged within six years. Besides, if the programs that were not accredited require accreditation, they could apply for the same as long as at least one graduate program has been produced.
The accreditation procedure requires that an institution of a program intending to be accredited would inform the organization by 31 January of the year the accreditation is being sought. Equally, an institution’s eligibility is established by the certification of a regional agency of accreditation. Then, the program would be assigned to a particular accreditation commission in ABET. It is worth noting that ABET has four accreditation commissions, which are ASAC (Applied Science Accreditation Commission), CAC (Computing Accreditation Commission), and EAC (Engineering Accreditation Commission), as well as the TAC (Technology Accreditation Commission). The commissions are based on the four disciplines targeted by the organization’s operations. Accordingly, as it appears on the transcript, the program name dictates the commission to which the program would be referred. However, the accreditation procedures are unique to all the commissions; therefore, the programs would not anticipate having the same procedure pursued in the accreditation process.
Therefore, every program undertakes accreditation through an internal evaluation and then completes a self-study report on the program. The commission establishes how well a program meets the stipulated accreditation criteria through the self-study. The observed criteria include the students, faculty, curriculum, facilities, institutional support, and administration. Accordingly, the program should have delivered the self-study report to ABET by 1st July within the same year. Later, there is a follow-up visit to the campus by the responsible Commission as headed by an interim chair who the commission elects for the particular case. The visit date is normally scheduled in the timeframe between September and December. The institution and the team chair decide on the particular date through negotiations. After establishing the appropriate date for a visit, the select team from the commission is assigned evaluators by the ABET appropriate commission. However, the evaluation team and the chair would be rejected at the point of established conflict of interest as perceived by the program. It is to be noted that the team chair and the evaluating teams are often volunteers from the government, the academic, and industry of the private practice firms.
The acceptance of the lead team then allows the program to hand over the self-study, which becomes the basis on which the evaluation would be conducted. The on-campus visit happens on the weekend, and the evaluation team has the mandate to evaluate the materials used in the course, review sample assignments from the students, and review sampled projects by the students. Moreover, the evaluating team would have to interview selected students, faculty representatives, and the administration. The team would also engage on touring the facilities for self-assessments and answering possible questions as would have been triggered by the self-study or the interviews. An interview with the program’s chief administrator will be conducted at the end to serve as a summary of the evaluation report.
The procedure provides that any error that would have been made in providing the factual information from the exit interview should have been corrected in the following seven days. After the seven days, the chairperson of the visiting team would engage in the preparation of a report to be delivered to the institution and which happens many months after the fact-finding visit. Thirty days are provided within which the institution would have to respond to the issues raised in the report provided. After the thirty days and possible response, the chair leading the team would deliver a final statement to the program or institution. The recommended accreditation and final statement by the team are forwarded and reviewed by ABET commission members in a meeting convened in July after the visit to the campus. The team then votes the findings, and the final ruling is made and revealed to the institution or program in the following month. Among other information that the school receives from the accrediting body is the perceived weaknesses, strengths, deficiencies, and the concerns raised. Besides, the report highlights strategic recommendations by which the institution would align with ABET’s accreditation criteria.
Accreditation Criteria by ABET
The organization has stipulations on the minimum curricular for the various engineering programs. For example, the minimum stipulated requirement for the graduates in baccalaureate program is that they would have at least a year in the study of mathematics, physical sciences, or other natural sciences, as well some programs in general education. It is also the requirement for ABET to ensure that students complete a capstone project or class in design for their education. As such, the ABET accreditation ensures that all the graduating students of the accredited institutions have minimal standardized skills after the school as they enter the job market, which would be essential for further studies. Besides, the criteria outline all the major elements specific to the accredited engineering programs, including the particular program curriculum, faculty type, and specific facilities. Nevertheless, later years of the 20th century saw the engineering community raise concerns about the stringent requirements stipulated by the accrediting organization. The outcome was that ABET tilted or shifted the attention from the input materials in the form of curriculum and the outputs in the form of the graduates and focused on the continuous improvement. Therefore, the EC2000 would focus on accounting for specific goals and missions as well as on the continuous improvement of the programs and the individual institutions. As such, the accreditation body would ensure that innovation is upheld in the engineering programs as against unifying the programs. Besides, the review would ensure that the assessment programs and processes are gradually improved.
ABET started the international activities in 1979, and the later years of the 20th century, the organization would serve as consultants for the established international boards of accreditation. Since 1997, ABET has been a recognized body by the CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation). Furthermore, ABET is a signatory to many mutual recognition agreements globally, enabling ABET to participate in recognition of ABET graduates indirectly. The current operation of the organization covers over 700 colleges as well as universities in different countries. Thousands of volunteers facilitate the working of ABET from the member societies. Through the volunteers, ABET ensures high levels of confidentiality and trust among the teams and the commissions.
ABET Accreditation Policies
Release of the accreditation information to the public:
ABET requires that the status and process of accreditation of the institutions and the programs are made public. Similarly, all the programs and institutions should present the findings accurately to avoid ambiguity. According to ABET’s operations, the results of the accreditation procedure are either that a program is accredited or not. Therefore, ABET has no ranking methods for the programs and thus does not facilitate competition of the programs. Thirdly, ABET has stringent rules on the use of the official logo, and the illegal use of the logo would be addressed through the judicial procedures. However, the accreditations procedures are legalized through special ABET logos as provided for use on catalogs, websites, and related publications.
It is worth appreciating that ABET does not provide reports on the quality of the programs but rather gives the nature of the subsequent review. Therefore, the length of the duration of accreditation and the length of the process is prohibited from being published. Besides, ABET provides that the accreditation of one program does not provide for the associated accreditation of another program by one institution. Equally, ABET indicates that all information the report provides to an institution would remain confidential. Only the institution has a legal mandate to make that information available to the public. Besides, the organization provides that the accreditation reports from other could not be used to infer any relation with the accreditation information by ABET.
Any ABET accredited program’s responsibility is to publicize the program enrollment and graduation rate. Similarly, if ABET fails to accredit a program or institution, the respective program or institution would have to make public the reasons ABET gave for the decision. Such shapes the public’s decision-making processes and safeguards the public’s interest against malice and deceit. However, a program or institution has the legal provision to appeal the ruling of accreditation by the Council within the stipulated duration of sixty days. Nevertheless, ABET ensures that all the information provided is accurate and therefore, in the case of an appeal, the institution and the programs would have to make public the basis of the appeal.
ABET provides that an institution would be allowed by the law to terminate the delivery of a given program at any time. However, suppose the termination would be in the period after the expiry of the accreditation period of six years. In that case, ABET provides that the accrediting authority would institute special plans to prolong the expiry date to cover the students who would be graduating in the stipulated time. ABET also includes the names of the administrators and the teaching staff in the accreditation report. Besides, the report highlights the various ways the accredited programs would help the students and in the course of professional service.
In another instance, a program or an institution would require prolonged accreditation. In the case, ABET requires that an official request be submitted with a clear rationale for making the request. However, the Commission only approves the extension requests on a very few occasions, as the organization is committed towards improved education and program quality. Nevertheless, when the prolonging is accepted, the extension time is only limited to one year unless otherwise stipulated. If the prolonging would be extended beyond a year, then ABET works to acquire an on-site report.
Revocation of Accreditation
In fact, only on rare occasions that ABET can withdraw an accreditation permit for any institution or program. Nevertheless, if the commission would prove that an accredited program fails to keep with the desirable standards of the accreditation, then the commission would decide to revoke the accreditation. A written document on the intention and the reasons for revocation of the accreditation would be duly delivered to the institution or program before the action is taken. However, a revocation does not prohibit an appeal from the decision, and ABET provides comprehensive guidelines for the appealing procedures.
ABET organization also works by considering possible complaints as would be raised by other stakeholders such as the students or the non-teaching staffs. However, the commissions would however not act on any complaints considered anonymous and which are not in the written manner. The reason for working with written complaints is for future reference and consultation. However, whenever the complaints warrant consideration, the appropriate commission would be authorized to investigate them and report accordingly. The outcome of the investigations would then confirm the decision taken by the organization to revoke accreditation or otherwise.
The report on ABET and the working highlight the primary features of the composition and mandate of the organization. The background information provided confirms the historical perspective of the organization. Besides highlighting the composition and operations, the report also highlights the global recognition of ABET. As a global accreditation body, ABET is registered with the board for engineering and technology. In addition, ABET is non-governmental and works in consultancy and accrediting programs and institutions in the higher education sector. Nevertheless, the report establishes that ABET focuses only on applied science, engineering, engineering technology, and computing. Workshops and consultancies on leadership and higher education in the stipulated fields are other areas of concern to ABET. The organization is also well organized through departments and commissions, which facilitate the general operations. The report highlights the procedure of accreditation followed by ABET. It illustrates that after making the intentions through writing, the institution or program seeking accreditation would provide a self-report, which the on-site visit and evaluation would follow. Interviews would then collect important information, and the commission involved would take time before compiling the outcome. The outcome from the Commission would inform the decision of ABET on accrediting or otherwise for the institution or program. In essence, the report also highlights various instances and explaining causes when a revocation would be applied to an accredited organization. The organization also provides for appeals to the institution or the public for any perceived injustice in the approval or the denial of the accreditation certificate.
“Accreditation Policy and Procedure Manual (APPM), 2016 – 2017.” ABET Accreditation Policy and Procedure Manual APPM 2016 2017 Comments. 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. <http://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/accreditation-policy-and-procedure-manual-appm-2016-2017/>.