In response to increased demand for tertiary-level academic education in Central America over the past decades, we’ve seen many new universities and colleges opening their doors. However, this response came primarily from the private sector without the needed regulatory oversight. So check out this article with Central American news on Higher Education Accreditation
Usually, it was a state’s responsibility, or that of a state-regulated university, to safeguard the quality of education and degrees granted by the country’s institutions of tertiary education. The fact was thought that the relatively small and resource-poor governments in the Central American region not only had great difficulty to answer to the ever-increasing demand for higher education, they also were not in a position to monitor and guarantee the quality of academic standards and education provided by the private institutions that filled in the student demands.
The result was that the quality of education and degrees offered at colleges, universities, and other professional schools showed immense variety and has been questioned by citizens, businesses, and governing bodies who demanded better and regulated academic standards and equally granted access to quality education across all social classes.
The need for evaluation of quality educational standards started to grow among Central America’s higher education stakeholders in the 1990’s, and quite a few governments and organizations took the steps necessary to promote and safeguard quality education assurance practices and to guarantee the universities and colleges’ accountability to comply with higher and internationally accepted educational standards. Several national programs were set up to improve higher education standards across the region and many cross-border initiatives were stimulated. One of these initiatives and regional organizations is AUPRICA:
Asociación de Universities Privadas de Centro América (AUPRICA)
AUPRICA (The Association of Central American Private Universities) was established in 1990 with the goal of evaluating and accrediting Central America’s private institutions of higher education. AUPRICA was founded as a response to the growing number of private colleges and universities operating in Central America and the increased awareness of the necessity to monitor and assess quality standards and degrees granted in the region’s higher education institutions.
AUPRICA created a new way to accredit the schools, the Central American University Accreditation System (Sistema Centroamericano de Acreditación Universitaria), supported by the Council of Independent Colleges, a North American organization dedicated to the enhancement of the commitment of society of private higher education institutions. AUPRICA is only accrediting member colleges and universities of which the majority are located in Honduras and El Salvador. The universities and colleges screened and accredited by AUPRICA (members only) are typically not as large as the national state-run universities in Central America and therefore not recognized in the same way. Today, we can find many universities and colleges in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua that carry AUPRICA accreditation.
AUPRICA has no permanent headquarter location and is regulated by a board of directors that rotates among the organization’s members. The AUPRICA accreditation commission is also a non-permanent body and is formed in line with evaluation procedures and schedules. The accreditation commission consists of five members that are well-experienced in institutional evaluation and accreditation. Each of the four other member countries has a representative from a member university and there is one coordinator. The commission can also appoint an external evaluation team from AUPRICA member institutions.
When AUPRICA members wish to be evaluated and accredited, they contact the organization. AUPRICA then assigns an accreditation team that will guide the requesting institution through a lengthy process of internal assessments and evaluation as directed by the organization’s official guidelines. After the initial internal evaluation, the accreditation team will assign an external evaluator from a member institution in one of the other countries to visit the applicant and complete an evaluation. This assessment will validate all assertions that were made in the commission’s internal report. The general assembly of AUPRICA members, together with the accreditation team, consequently will look at the findings of both the external and the internal evaluations and will take a final decision on accrediting the requesting institution.