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  • Writer's pictureThothathri Raman

What are the worries of the world of accreditation now?

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

What is the world of accreditation of business education is worried about in the Pandemic led world?

There is of course a huge number of seminars and workshops being conducted around the world as to how to manage the campuses in the Pandemic and post pandemic world. The biggest concern that is being debated across the world is whether academics would ever go back to the regular class room mode? Related to this question is how much digital technology is enough today and how much more may be needed in the foreseeable future. Even the SEAA's 13th annual conference addressed the concern about digital transformation in academics calling for a conscious adherence to equity and justice in the development and use of digital technologies in the classrooms.

UNCTAD in its response to the scenario in trade after the pandemic has passed said "A worrying economic symptom of the pandemic is the striking discrepancy between the massive national policy responses observed in developed countries and the woefully inadequate international response, which has left many developing countries searching for answers and options. The time is now to redress this situation with a new international approach that sets us on a path towards more gainful globalization and a more resilient form of multilateral-ism that can heal these fractures."

What should such a new approach to globalization involve? How do the campuses that produce leaders today respond in providing the kind of content that would help their pass outs draft out strategies which they may help to implement to bring about a new global world order?

The key to the answer may lie in revisiting the six principles enunciated by another wing of the United nations, the Global Compact Network which proffers the six principles for responsible management education PRME. The six principles relating to Purpose, Values, Method, Research, Partnership and Dialogue may have to be redefined in a connected world, while keeping the original intent in drafting these principles may be maintained. The Business Schools should initiate discussions on the subject in right earnest with the help of the Global compact network. In India the Global compact network India could initiate such a debate to advance the cause of the fourth sustainable development goal relating to education.

What are the other areas that are engaging the attention of the academic campuses in the post pandemic world? A quick review of the topics that were discussed at the recent annual convention of the CHEA & CIQG provides an interesting insight into the challenges ahead for higher education institutions.

Social Justice and Equality — "New Curriculum for a New Age" was the primary subject that was discussed at this summit which explored the hidden realities of global discontent and inequities that have touched every aspect of institutional norms. The other major aspect related to the online delivery mode in education which was a major disruptor resulting from COVID-19. The move was progressive. This relatively new instructional modality has rapidly become the norm of most colleges and universities. The questions that needed answers were: Does online teaching and learning promote desired learning outcomes or are there hidden detriments? What are the challenges for accreditors and institutions to respond to online delivery and will this shift in traditional 2-4 year colleges support the intended outcomes for current generation of learners?

Many questions have also arisen related to performance learning outcomes, re-examining “soft skills," “assessments” and “evidences” of value across the curriculum. The questions to be asked : What changes are examined for programs with clinical, field and practicum experiences? Do these inquiries have any import or correlation to possible changes in accreditation standards? Over the decades, university leadership and accreditors have evolved into clearer understandings of the inter-connectedness of accreditation. Often, accreditation processes though highly valued in institutions of higher learning are “minimized” during periods of transition. Veteran presidents and accreditors share their experiences on how they work with each other to institutionalize the values associated with self-study and quality assessments.

The academic community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic included a number of significant changes to higher education and quality assurance culture and practice. Travel restrictions greatly limited the mobility of students, faculty and other higher education professionals both within country and across countries and regions. The use of remote teaching and learning vs. campus-based education expanded throughout the world. Many colleges and universities experienced significant, at least short-term financial losses. Quality assurance standards and practices were tailored to examine quality remotely. Will these changes remain with the worldwide academic community following the pandemic and, if so, what will be the impact on what has been considered “international” in the future? What might be the major characteristics of international higher education and quality assurance communities going forward?

While the extensive use of remote learning in higher education may diminish following the pandemic, might we expect that at least some of the practices developed during that period will be retained? Will colleges and universities permanently expand the availability of online education and communication and, if so, how? What might this mean for what counts as “student mobility” and the nature of academics sharing and working internationally? How might this affect quality assurance and especially its international community?

Social unrest and attention to a number of vital equity issues have been central features of life during the pandemic, whether a direct result of the impact of Covid-19 or coincident to it. The equity issues varied by country and region and encompassed, e.g., race, gender, economic disparities, immigration and availability of technology. What are the major themes of these various conversations? What might they have in common? What are proposed responses? While multi-national organizations (UNESCO, OECD, World Bank, IIE) have long focused on some of these issues, what might be a next phase in these efforts, especially the role of higher education institutions and quality assurance?

The sum and total of the debates is to bring about equity and at the same time take into account the tectonic changes taking place in the learning needs, drafting of curriculum content, its mode of delivery using newly evolving technology options and assessing the students for their awareness and learning outcome. The role of accreditation agencies are more significant than yesterday in determining that the HEIs especially in business education that builds leaders are able to understand the impact of the Covid 19 and plan ahead to produce the leaders of tomorrow.

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