Accreditation and recognition are two frequently used terms when people are discussing academic courses and institutions. Unfortunately, the two terms are used interchangeably and the meaning becomes confused. Today we hope to help clear up some of the confusion in the discussion surrounding accreditation and recognition.

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According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (USA), accreditation can be defined as:

“a collegial process based on self and peer assessment for public accountability and improvement of academic quality. Peers assess the quality of an institution or academic program and assist the faculty and staff in improvement.”

In short, accreditation is a process that evaluates and communicates the quality of academic qualifications or the institution offering them. It measures if the qualification or institution meets the expected standards and quality benchmarks set by the particular accreditation body.

Accreditation inspections usually look at things such as class sizes, the levels of student support, the professionalism of lecturers, facilities, graduation rates, and more.



Recognition is a trickier concept to understand and is responsible for most of the confusion when people speak of accreditation and recognition in higher education.

Recognition can be understood as the actual legal status of the institution or academic qualification with respect to certain countries and their higher education legislation, boards, and authorities.

For example, Business School Netherlands’ International Action Learning MBA is recognised as a Dutch qualification because it is registered with the NRTO (Nederlandse Raad voor Training en Opleiding), which for non-Dutch speakers translates to Dutch Council for Training and Education.

This means that the qualification and Business School Netherlands are both recognised in the Netherlands. The physical campus is also based in the Netherlands and meets the country’s requirements to be recognised as a Dutch university of applied sciences.

However, it is important to keep in mind that recognition of an institution does not always automatically mean that the academic qualifications are recognised too. Graduates in most cases have to present their foreign qualifications to their country’s education verification authority if they wish to continue their studies in that country. Even if you studied at a very prominent university such as Harvard, Cambridge, or Oxford, you would still have to present those qualifications for equivalency checking and verification in most countries. This is due to the legal status of qualifications (i.e. their recognition in a particular country).

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Academic qualifications or institutions can be accredited and recognised. They can also be accredited but not recognised in a particular country. Finally, the institution or qualifcation can be recognised in a country, but not accredited by any accreditation bodies, which means that the quality cannot be guaranteed. 

It is very important that you always consider the accreditation and recognition status of any institution or academic qualification you are interested in. This helps to avoid falling into the trap of signing up with “fly-by-night” scams, degree mills, or fraudsters.



For more information on our accreditation, please click here

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