Why Universities Seek Accreditation: TIEC’s Collaboration with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani

By Lauren Bedsole

Accreditation is one of the most important steps any university can take to position itself for success in the global economy. As we have all seen over the past year of pandemic disruption, the flip side of diminished travel is an increased willingness to seek out digital options, including a drastically-widened array of choices in higher education.

Yet one of the remaining constants is that when it comes to marketability for universities, accreditation matters. The legitimacy conferred by accredited status, as well as the increase in alumni employability that comes from having completed an objectively-evaluated program, can only benefit institutions seeking to draw the world’s top candidates from an ever-widening pool.

Of course, being accredited is about far more than just adding a prestigious logo to your website. By committing to the processes that make accreditation possible — curriculum reviews, budget revisions, policy updates, multiyear data analysis, and a host of other tasks — universities also ensure that the programs they offer meet recognized standards. This, in turn, confers further legitimacy and confirms the integrity of their degrees, making their alumni both more employable and more rigorously educated.

These are just some of the many reasons why TIEC is proud to be working with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), as its administrators and faculty take the next steps toward certification by a U.S. accrediting body. Our bespoke approach to capacity building includes a two-layer curriculum review, modernization and analysis of institutional policies and procedures, a focus on developing international faculty networks, and tailored training on how to infuse concepts of diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI) into course materials. In addition to these nexuses of collaboration, this project is also guided by an all-female advisory board with representatives from AUIS and six Texas consortium members.

Earlier this month, project technical advisor Dr. Nancy Shankle, of the Texas A&M University RELLIS Campus, collaborated with the AUIS and Texas faculty involved in this U.S. Department of State-funded grant program to share her experiences of working with several different accrediting bodies. Dr. Shankle’s workshop focused on the inherent value of accreditation, as well as provided strategies based on her work with accrediting bodies including SACSCOC, AACSB, ABET, CACREP, CCNE, and COAMFTE.

Crucially, Dr. Shankle also sought feedback from attendees about what they hoped to gain from accreditation — including the process toward it. While their comments ranged from standardized and strengthened curriculum that produces more employable alumni, to increased access to partnerships and funding, to improved global recognition, all were clear about one thing: becoming accredited will provide tremendous benefits to AUIS as a whole.

However, Dr. Shankle was quick to point out that accreditation is far from a one-and-done event. Rather, it requires a mission-driven commitment to outcomes-based results that fosters continuous quality improvement in curriculum, teaching and learning, and university support services. Further, it necessitates consistent and transparent assessments in areas as diverse as institutional governance, financial and strategic planning, academic facilities and resources, and health and safety policies.

Alignment, of course, is another vital step on any path to accreditation and something that TIEC and AUIS will ensure permeates the university’s academic culture. By revisiting institutional goals and outcomes — and subsequently considering whether the department, program, and course outcomes support these — curriculum becomes more integrated, coherent, and mission-led. Even for degree programs that are not fully linear, a focus on outcome alignment can solidify a major’s structure and provide clarity to the students and faculty working in its component courses.

Another area of emphasis for any institution seeking to become, or remain, accredited is documentation. As part of this collaboration, coaching is also provided about best-practice methods and processes for not only conducting but also monitoring and recording the discussions, votes, trends, and other data that help institutions make their case for initial accreditation, as well as keeping it.

We are excited to be partnering with AUIS on this journey and showcasing the expertise of our Texas-based consortium members across the globe. If you would like to know more about TIEC’s curriculum services or preparing for (re)accreditation, please contact D’Andrea Weeks, TIEC’s director of business development, dweeks@tiec.org, to learn about the opportunities for collaboration, co-creation, and the sharing of knowledge and values that we can develop with you.

TIEC’s collaboration with the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, is part of a U.S. State Department-funded grant project, “Collaborative Capacity Building: Integrated, Sustained and Data-Informed Course Improvement.” 

about the author:

Lauren Bedsole, M.A., serves as lead project coordinator on TIEC’s grant project “Collaborative Capacity Building: Integrated, Sustained and Data-Informed Course Improvement” with AUIS to advance American-style higher education in Iraq. She came to TIEC from a municipal government appointment. Prior to that, she spent 15 years working in a variety of media settings, including working with OPEC, the World Economic Forum, G-7 summits, and the White House press pool.

She also spent a year working in international education as a program coordinator at Duke University’s International House. She holds a master’s degree in International Journalism from City University (London), as well as a Graduate Diploma in Law from BPP (London). Bedsole previously gained a BA in Public Policy and Political Science from Duke University and her TESOL certification from Duke’s Continuing Studies department.


News Alert: The Texas International Education Consortium Partners with American University of Iraq, Sulaimani to Build Capacity for Gender Inclusive and Streamlined Degree Programs

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