International Accreditation and the COE

Spring 2010

The COE's involvement in international accreditation is almost 40 years old. It was born at the 108th Annual Meeting of the AVMA, held in Detroit, in 1971. During the meeting the AVMA House of Delegates discussed proposed procedures for recognizing graduates of foreign veterinary medical colleges. A provision in the procedures allowed for an international veterinary college (outside the US and Canada) to apply for AVMA COE accreditation. The applying college had to satisfy all requirements of a US or Canadian school including hosting a site visit, paid for by the applying school.

The House of Delegates accepted the proposal, which went into effect on January 1, 1973. Under these procedures the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, State University, Utrecht in The Netherlands requested a site visit and was granted AVMA accreditation in November 1973. Since then Utrecht has maintained its accreditation.

Over 20 years would pass before additional international schools—the University of London, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Vienna—expressed an interest in applying for accreditation. International interest was growing.

The impact of increased international accreditation activities was unknown. How would this affect staff and volunteer time? What additional expertise would be required? Would this have an adverse influence on the domestic accreditation process and educational standards in general? The COE was moving in unchartered territory. To allow time for an investigation of these concerns the AVMA Executive Board, with AVMA House of Delegates' support, suspended additional international accreditation activities in July 1999.

The Task Force to Study the Approval Process for Foreign Veterinary Colleges was created. Formed with members from the COE, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, the AVMA Executive Board, and the AVMA House of Delegates, the Task Force was charged with investigating these international accreditation concerns and the AVMA's role and/or responsibility with these activities.

The Task Force concluded that the COE should resume international accreditation operations. They noted that the Council had established mechanisms for full cost recovery associated with international accreditation and that resumption of the approval process is consistent with trade agreements which call for mutually acceptable objective criteria for recognition.

The Task Force also observed that global economics, expansion in the trade of animals and animal products, and the continued emergence and spread of diseases without respect for national borders mandates an increased role for the AVMA and its members. Assuming a larger stake in the global aspects of veterinary medicine would also expand opportunities for US veterinarians, and enhance the AVMA's ability to meet concerns related to public health.

The AVMA Executive Board approved the Task Force's recommendations and international accreditation activities resumed.

With this resumption, the University of London and the University of Glasgow received accreditation in 1999. Six additional schools—University of Edinburgh, Massey University, University of Melbourne, Murdoch University, University of Sydney, and the University College Dublin—have received accreditation since then. Many others continue to express interest in the process.

The COE continues to discuss and evaluate its role in international accreditation. In 2007, the AVMA Executive Board, on recommendation from the COE, established the new Committee on International Veterinary Affairs (CIVA) charged to study various global issues affecting the AVMA including international accreditation of veterinary education.

Recently the CIVA asked the AVMA Executive Board to reaffirm the AVMA's commitment to international accreditation. Given the relentless advancement of globalization, AVMA leadership in One Health, and the World Organization for Animal Health's pursuit of minimum global standards for veterinary education this appears to be an inopportune time to withdraw the COE from international accreditation activities.

 


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