4. The AVMA and Accreditation
The AVMA was founded in 1863. In 1890 it established a Committee on Intelligence and Education and in 1906 the Committee took steps to initiate a college evaluation program. All of the colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States (US) and Canada were notified that during the next two years the AVMA would undertake a classification of the colleges considering curriculum, faculty, and physical equipment. It was planned that the colleges would be assigned an A, B, or C classification according to the quality identified by an evaluating committee.
After several years of struggling with the problem, the effort to classify the schools on a purely subjective basis was abandoned, and in 1921 the first detailed list of "Essentials of an Acceptable Veterinary School" was adopted by the AVMA. Since then the "essentials" statement has been revised many times, and a system of accreditation, rather than classification, has been used. In 1946 the entire structure of the AVMA was reorganized and the Council on Education (COE) was formed to replace the Committee on Intelligence and Education. Since that time the COE has conducted the AVMA accreditation program. In the year 2000, the term "essentials" was changed to "standards."
4.2. Scope and Purpose
The AVMA, through the COE* is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the accrediting agency for colleges and schools of veterinary medicine in the US. Every five years, the COE seeks renewal of recognition from each agency. Through a process of applying standard requirements reviewed by the AVMA House of Delegates, the COE ensures that minimum standards in veterinary medical education are met by all AVMA-accredited colleges of veterinary medicine, and that students enrolled in those colleges receive an education which will prepare them for entry-level positions in the profession.
The accreditation procedure used by the AVMA is specific to the DVM or equivalent degree program, and is not used to accredit other programs, which may be a part of the educational program in a college. Accreditation is non-transferable. Therefore all institutions or branches of a college offering educational programs leading to DVM or equivalent degree must be individually accredited. The COE's realm of accreditation consists of all veterinary colleges in the US and Canada. US and Canadian colleges voluntarily seek accreditation through the AVMA COE. The COE is the only recognized accrediting agency for colleges of veterinary medicine in the two countries. Additionally, the AVMA COE provides accreditation for foreign colleges of veterinary medicine which voluntarily seek such classification, and meet or exceed all standard requirements. As the recognized accrediting body for veterinary medicine, the Council considers the interests of the veterinary profession and society at large in the review of programs.
It is the objective of the AVMA COE to ensure that each graduate of an accredited college of veterinary medicine will be firmly based in the fundamental principles, scientific knowledge, and physical and mental skills of veterinary medicine. Graduates should be able to apply these fundamentals to solving veterinary medical problems for different species and types of domestic animals.
The fundamentals with which each graduate leaves the college are expected to provide a basis for a variety of career activities including clinical patient care, research, and other non-clinical options relevant to animal and human health. These fundamentals should be the basis for a lifetime of learning and professional development.
The Council attempts to conduct all activities in ways that best serve the interests of the veterinary profession, veterinary students, and society, without discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender, or creed. While recognizing the existence and appropriateness of diverse institutional missions and educational objectives, the Council subscribes to the proposition that local circumstances do not justify accreditation of a substandard program in veterinary education leading to a professional degree. Accreditation by the COE does not enable colleges to participate in Title IV student loan programs.
4.3. Charge of the Council on Education
- Have autonomous authority to evaluate schools and colleges offering a professional degree in veterinary medicine, according to established standards; make accreditation decisions; and assign a classification of accreditation to each such school or college;
- Meet the needs of society by promoting active programs in veterinary medical education by, among other things, encouraging and assisting schools and colleges of veterinary medicine to meet the requirements for full accreditation;
- Study and recommend methods of instruction, and promote the continual improvement of veterinary medical education in all its facets;
- Recommend standards for accredited colleges offering a professional degree in veterinary medicine; such standards shall pertain to organization, finances, physical facilities and equipment, clinical resources, library and information resources, students, admissions, faculty, curriculum, research programs, and outcomes assessment;
- Publish a list annually of the schools and colleges of veterinary medicine showing the current accreditation status of each;
- Provide consultation to proposed, developing, and existing schools and colleges of veterinary medicine;
- Review and make recommendations to the AVMA Executive Board concerning the activities of committees concerned with veterinary specialties, veterinary technicians, graduates of foreign colleges of veterinary medicine, and licensing examinations; and
- Recommend curriculum changes to enhance the veterinarian's ability to meet changing professional demands and societal needs.
A major function of the AVMA COE is to ensure quality professional veterinary education by conducting periodic accreditation reviews to determine the degree to which a college or school of veterinary medicine meets the Standards of Accreditation and its own stated goals and objectives; and through the accreditation process, protect the interests of the general public as related to veterinary medicine. The Council recognizes only those programs which meet the accreditation standards developed and agreed upon by various communities of interest, including the public. Additionally, the Council interacts and communicates with the AVMA Executive Board regarding veterinary specialty boards, veterinary technician programs, graduates of foreign veterinary colleges, and licensing examinations. The Council's accreditation program ensures quality education for veterinarians and ultimately leads to quality veterinary care for animals.
The AVMA voluntarily seeks recognition from the USDE to ensure credibility. The USDE recognizes accrediting bodies such as the COE that follow USDE guidelines of operation. Through this process, the COE adopts policies and procedures which ensure compliance with the published guidelines of the USDE. The COE demonstrates that accreditation decisions are independent of, and not influenced by the AVMA or its recognized affiliate organizations. In general, USDE guidelines seek assurance that the COE has clearly documented Standards of Accreditation which address all areas of the program leading to the DVM or equivalent degree, that the Standards are applied evenly and fairly to all colleges seeking accreditation, and that students are provided with accurate information regarding the program and given reasonable assurance of successful completion. Proper documentation of accreditation outcomes is sent to the USDE in a timely manner. The AVMA, through the activities of the COE, has been recognized as an accrediting body for veterinary medicine by the USDE since 1952.
Non-governmental recognition of accreditation is voluntarily sought by the AVMA through CHEA. CHEA is a highly respected, non-profit organization which assists accrediting bodies like the COE, in assuring quality in the accrediting process. The Council identifies CHEA as the "gold standard" to assure that: 1) standards are reviewed; 2) college evaluation is conducted in a manner which measures the educational quality of the program; 3) fair and informed means are used in the application of the standards and in the conduct of the site visit; 4) that the public is provided with high quality professional veterinary practitioners; and 5) the quality of teaching, research, and service is continually improving in veterinary medical colleges. Through the guidance of CHEA, the Council judges the appropriateness of institutional and program purposes, and the educational outcomes indicating that the purposes are being met on an ongoing basis. The AVMA COE has been recognized by CHEA and its predecessors as an accrediting body for veterinary medicine since 1949.
Foreign colleges of veterinary medicine may seek AVMA accreditation status, but neither the USDE nor CHEA recognition is required for the activity.