Accreditation is a process of external peer review. In the United States, the accreditation system is administered primarily by non-governmental, voluntary organizations that grant recognition to institutions or specialized programs of study that meet established qualifications and educational standards. Compliance with such standards is determined through initial and subsequent periodic evaluations.
The accreditation process:
- encourages educational institutions and programs to continuously evaluate and improve their processes and outcomes
- helps prospective students identify programs that meet nationally accepted standards
- protects programs from internal and external pressures to make changes that are not educationally sound
- involves faculty and staff in comprehensive program evaluation and planning and stimulates self-improvement by setting national standards against which programs can be measured.
Accreditation also benefits society by providing reasonable assurance of quality educational preparation for professional licensure and practice.
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) began operation as a free standing professional accrediting agency on January 1, 2001.