COE Accreditation Policies and Procedures: Evaluation

July 2021

6. Accreditation Evaluation

6.1. General Policies

Colleges of veterinary medicine are evaluated by the Council on the basis of compliance with the standards as each relates to the mission of the college. The Council bases its decision on compliance with the findings related to the particular standard, and not on impressions of the overall college program. Information on which standards are evaluated includes the college self-study report and the findings of a site visit team. It is recognized that assessment of compliance with a standard may change between the submission of the self-study, the site visit, and when the full Council makes its final determination. There must be a specific time frame in which the facts and data are considered and an accreditation decision is made. Failure to function within these parameters prohibits effective accreditation decisions. Procedures exist to provide a timely reevaluation by the Council at the request of a college that believes identified deficiencies have been corrected.

The COE, through the activities of AVMA support staff and the COE Chair, provides technical assistance to colleges seeking a letter of reasonable assurance, accreditation, or renewal of accreditation. This support is in the form of telephone conversations or written or electronic communications between the colleges and the Council Chair or AVMA staff. Information regarding the self-study document is provided based upon the inquiry. The Chair of the COE or AVMA staff responds to written inquiries. In conjunction with either the spring or summer meetings of the AAVMC, a session may be offered for the deans of veterinary colleges. The meeting focuses on changes to the standards and/or self-study procedure and is conducted by the AAVMC liaison and/or AVMA staff.

The Council and/or AVMA staff offers consultation to any US or Canadian college concerning accreditation or reasonable assurance evaluation. The Council responds to public requests for accreditation or preaccreditation by providing the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education manual. The identity of the Council's principal administrative staff is published in this manual.

6.1.1. Procedures for Accreditation Evaluation

The AVMA will evaluate and assign a classification of accreditation to any college of veterinary medicine at the request of the dean of the college and the chief executive officer of the parent institution. The accreditation procedure consists of the following:

  1. Receipt of written request for accreditation.
  2. Receipt and review of appropriate reports submitted by the college.
  3. A comprehensive site visit to the college.
  4. Preparation of a report of evaluation by the site visit team.
  5. Review of the evaluation report by the full Council on Education.
  6. Assignment by the full Council of a classification of accreditation.
  7. Interim reports including any changes to the application of Standards - annually for accredited schools, and every six months for those provisionally accredited, granted Reasonable Assurance, on probationary accreditation, or accredited with minor deficiencies.
  8. Reevaluation (self-study and comprehensive site visit) at intervals of no more than seven years or after any major change. Focused site visits may be rquired at Council discretion.
  9. Upon written notification a college may postpone or cancel a scheduled accreditation site visit or may withdraw from the accreditation process at any time.

In addition, the Council will publish a list of all accredited colleges after every Council meeting, including the classification of each and the date of last evaluation. A college may withdraw its request for initial accreditation at any time prior to the final action by the Council.

Procedures for reaffirming, changing, revoking, or reinstating accreditation status are identical with steps '2' through '9' above. Accreditation will be withheld only for cause, after review, or when a college does not permit reevaluation after notice.

6.2. Reasonable Assurance

If a proposed US or Canadian veterinary college seeking a Letter of Reasonable Assurance desires consultation and advice on planning, the college may request a consultative site visit. A fee will be charged for a consultative and initial comprehensive site visit. The consultative site team is composed of COE site visitors and AVMA staff who provide an unofficial appraisal of the program as related to planned compliance with the Standards. The proposed college must submit a detailed self-study report of evaluation noting the plan eight (8) weeks in advance of the site visit, and after the visit, the COE will provide an unofficial written report of evaluation noting the readiness for a complete site visit. All expenses for the consultative site visit are paid by the proposed college.

Upon request, the Council will consider evaluation of an existing, proposed, or newly established college. The Council and/or AVMA staff offers reasonable consultation to any college concerning accreditation including Reasonable Assurance and Provisional Accreditation. Procedures for Reasonable Assurance evaluations are identical to steps '1-6' and '8' of the "Procedure for Accreditation Evaluation" (Section 6.1.1). Reasonable Assurance does not confer accreditation of any kind on a developing college.

Upon request, Reasonable Assurance evaluations and site visits for proposed programs are conducted essentially the same as evaluations for established accredited programs. The self-study report, the site visit, and the report of evaluation address the standard requirements based on plans and existing resources such as budget, facilities, faculty, and administration. A Reasonable Assurance evaluation is based on planned action and preliminary arrangements so long as the Council deems the implementation of such planned actions to be reasonable, pragmatic, and feasible within an appropriate time frame.

A veterinary college is considered eligible to apply for a Letter of Reasonable Assurance if the parent institution:

  1. Is accredited by a regional or national institutional accrediting body recognized by the USDE (in Canada the institution must be recognized by the appropriate federal or provincial body),
  2. Is legally authorized to confer a professional degree, and
  3. Employs a veterinarian as dean or chief executive officer of the college of veterinary medicine.

A formal letter of application from the dean and/or chief administrative institutional officer must be submitted to the AVMA Council on Education to begin the process of obtaining a Letter of Reasonable Assurance. Once a college is granted Reasonable Assurance, a liaison committee shall be appointed by the COE chair. The committee will be composed of up to four COE members. This committee is charged with creating and maintaining a direct line of communication between the COE and the college. Members of the liaison committee will not participate in accreditation actions regarding the college.

The college must submit a self-study document as outlined in the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education manual (most recent edition) that addresses each standard. Through its self-study, the college must address business and educational plans. Programs must address each standard by carefully describing how compliance with that standard will be ensured. The self-study document and information gained on site are the basis for the Reasonable Assurance evaluation by the Council, and a decision to grant Reasonable Assurance is made by the full Council. The college is evaluated by the site team as though it were a comprehensive site visit for an accredited school.

A college that fails to be granted Reasonable Assurance following an evaluation by the COE may not apply for reconsideration for 12 months after the date of the Council's decision.

A college granted Reasonable Assurance must offer admission to and matriculate its first class of students within three years. A college that delays offering admission to and matriculating its first class beyond three years must submit a new formal letter of application to the AVMA COE.

Colleges granted letters of Reasonable Assurance or Provisional accreditation will submit interim reports to the Council every six months. A focused site visit can be conducted at any point at the Council's discretion.

6.3. Provisional Accreditation

If a college granted Reasonable Assurance is making adequate progress in complying with the Standards, Provisional Accreditation may be granted to that college on the date that letters of acceptance (admission) are mailed to members of the initial class. Following the granting of Provisional Accreditation status and during the first semester of the second year of the initial class matriculation, a comprehensive site visit will be conducted to determine whether the program is making progress in complying with the Standards. The Report of Evaluation from that site visit will clearly describe and identify compliance and/or non-compliance with each Standard at the time of the site visit. If the Council determines that deficiencies are severe and compliance with the Standards is unlikely, the college may be placed on Terminal Accreditation. If the Council determines that the program is making reasonable progress in complying with the Standards, Provisional Accreditation may be continued.

A focused site visit may be conducted at any time during the developmental period (i.e., period of granting Reasonable Assurance to granting Accredited status). A comprehensive site visit is conducted during the second half of the final year of the first class that matriculated. If the Council determines that the college is in compliance with each Standard, Accredited status will be granted. If the Council determines the college does not comply with the Standards, the college will be placed on Terminal Accreditation. Programs placed on Terminal Accreditation are required to follow the procedures outlined for Terminal Accreditation status to protect the interests of enrolled students.

When Reasonable Assurance or Provisional Accreditation is granted, interim reports are required at six-month intervals to monitor the program's progress in complying with the Standards. In particular, changes in business or educational plans must be addressed in detail.

Provisional Accreditation status may remain in effect no more than five years if the program complies with the necessary requirements. Reasonable Assurance or Provisional Accreditation status may be withdrawn at any time during the developmental period if the Council determines the college is unlikely to comply with a Standard(s). In the latter case (withdrawal of Provisional Accreditation status), the college may be placed on Terminal Accreditation.

The Council has no mechanism for providing assistance to developing colleges outside the US or Canada; the Reasonable Assurance process and Provisional Accreditation status are limited to US and Canadian veterinary colleges.

Decisions on granting Reasonable Assurance, Provisional Accreditation, or Accredited status for site visits that occurred less than 90 days prior to the next scheduled COE meeting will usually be deferred to the following meeting. The Council meets twice annually.

If the Council notes deficiencies that may result in an adverse accreditation action, the Council will defer the accreditation action and will provide the college an opportunity to respond in writing pursuant to Policy 10.6 of this manual. If the Council takes an adverse accreditation action after the college has had the opportunity to respond under Policy 10.6, then the college will be reminded of the appeal process.

6.4. Foreign Veterinary Colleges

The expressed desire of foreign veterinary colleges for input and evaluation of their programs by the AVMA COE is in recognition of the high standards of veterinary medical education in the US and Canada. It is further recognized that the AVMA COE plays a significant role in setting the standards for international veterinary education. Should a foreign college decide to challenge in a court of law an adverse accreditation decision made by the COE, the filing must be done in a US court of competent jurisdiction seated in Illinois.

Foreign veterinary colleges are defined as colleges of veterinary medicine located outside the US and Canada. The COE believes that accrediting foreign veterinary colleges supports and encourages the achievement of high standards of veterinary medical education worldwide thus improving animal and human health. It is the objective of the AVMA COE to ensure that each graduate of an accredited college of veterinary medicine is firmly based in the fundamental principles, scientific knowledge, and physical and mental skills of veterinary medicine.

To initiate the process for a foreign college to be accredited, a written request must be received by the AVMA COE from the dean of the college and the president/provost of the university. The Council and AVMA staff respond to all inquiries regarding accreditation, and provide the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education to foreign colleges requesting such information.

Accreditation is voluntary; the AVMA COE does not solicit applications. AVMA COE accredited US and Canadian, and AVMA COE-accredited foreign colleges will be given site visit scheduling priority over nonaccredited foreign institutions seeking accreditation. Guidelines for site visits to foreign colleges are contained in the COE P&P manual, which is revised annually. The COE consults with existing accreditation and licensing agencies in countries holding/seeking international accreditation.

6.4.1. General Information

The Council reserves the right to deny a request for a site visit to a college in a country where conditions exist that might place the safety of site team members at risk. The judgment of the Council will prevail in such decisions.

The cumulative number of all site visits (US, Canadian, and foreign) in a 12-month period shall not exceed 12 so all requests may not be met in a given year. If a foreign college is denied initial accreditation, the institution will not be re-evaluated for a period of at least two years. Assurance must be provided to the Council that deficiencies have been corrected before a succeeding site visit is scheduled.

Enrollment demographics will not be considered in the accreditation process, or in decisions related to accreditation. Although cultural diversity is recognized, the Standards of Accreditation are applied in the same manner for all institutions in the accreditation process.

Language is not considered a barrier to accreditation; however, all matters and information related to the accreditation process must be in English. Accredited foreign colleges that do not conduct all instruction in English are considered to produce graduates whose English language skills are unknown to the COE. State boards of veterinary medicine in the US and Canada (provinces) will be notified of this fact as appropriate.

Initial or continued accreditation of a foreign veterinary college will be contingent upon the college’s demonstrating it has made its best efforts to encourage the licensing authority of that foreign country to:

  1. Recognize graduates of US and Canadian AVMA COE accredited veterinary colleges as having met equivalent educational standards as graduates of the AVMA COE accredited foreign veterinary college, and
  2. Confer licenses to graduates of AVMA COE accredited US and Canadian veterinary colleges that are identical to those given to graduates of that country’s AVMA COE accredited veterinary college, by a licensing process no more rigorous than that of graduates of the AVMA COE accredited veterinary college in that country.

6.4.2. Educational Improvement

There are a number of methods through which the AVMA and its COE can assist in the improvement of education and/or accreditation of foreign veterinary colleges including:

  1. The provision of copies of the standards used for accrediting US and Canadian programs to serve as guidelines for standards.
  2. A consultative site visit1 to evaluate a college's preparedness for accreditation. If a college seeks AVMA COE accreditation, a consultative site visit and appraisal of the program must be conducted. The site visit is conducted at a time to avoid conflict with previously scheduled site visits.
  3. A comprehensive site visit for accreditation and recognition of the program. The site visit and evaluation is conducted using the same processes as employed for US and Canadian colleges. The evaluation is conducted only at the convenience of the Council and its members.
  4. COE accreditation of a foreign veterinary college confirms that the program complies with the AVMA COE Standards of Accreditation. Accreditation is not an endorsement that replaces or overrides international rules and regulations or state, provincial, and national licensing and practice act guidelines.

The participation of the COE in these accreditation activities helps to ensure AVMA's role in international veterinary education.

6.4.3. Procedures

Foreign veterinary colleges may seek accreditation status from the AVMA COE through the procedures established by the COE. Accreditation may be of value to foreign colleges for purposes of recognition of program quality and/or as a means to assist graduates who choose to practice veterinary medicine in the US. Throughout the process of seeking AVMA COE accreditation status, the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education manual will serve as the basis for all procedures and decisions. Standard requirements described in the manual will be applied to all programs seeking accreditation. The council will acknowledge social, cultural, and educational diversity in a fair and equitable manner; but veterinary medical education program quality as measured by the standards is non-negotiable.

Site visits are initiated by the college seeking or renewing accreditation. In cases where conditions at an accredited college have changed dramatically, jeopardizing the institution's ability to meet the standards as noted in an annual report, or when third party comments are received from faculty, students, staff, or the public, the Council may conduct a focused or comprehensive site visit to determine whether the conditions or reports have validity which might negatively impact the accreditation status of the college. The AVMA COE has no process to assist developing foreign colleges. Accreditation may be sought only by established foreign colleges2.

6.4.4. Site Visits

Four types of site visits may be conducted by the COE:

Consultative – If an established foreign veterinary medical college desires consultation and advice on its readiness for attaining accreditation status, the college must request a consultative site visit. The consultative site visit team is composed of COE site team visitors and AVMA staff who provide an unofficial appraisal of the program as related to compliance with the standards. A foreign college seeking accreditation status must provide the COE with five copies of a video (DVD format) detailing the physical facilities and educational programs of the college. The video is limited to 30 minutes' duration and shall be provided to the COE at the time the self-study is submitted. The college must submit a detailed self-study report 12 weeks in advance of the site visit (if self-study does not arrive at least 12 weeks prior to the first day of the scheduled site visit, the site visit may be cancelled or rescheduled to a later date). After the visit, the COE will provide an unofficial written report of evaluation noting the readiness for a comprehensive site visit.

As a college is seeking initial accreditation and a consultative site visit has been scheduled, two COE reviewers will be assigned to conduct a pre-review of the self-sudy. The COE reviewers, the consultative site team, and chair of the COE Evaluation Committee, in consultation with COE staff, will review the self-study and determine if the college appears to meet all or most of the standards. In the event it is believed that the college falls short of meeting one or more standards, a consultative site visit will not be conducted and the college will be notified of the perceived deficiencies.

A site team composed of three COE site visitors appointed by the Chair of the Evaluation Committee (Canadian COE site visitors may be considered when selecting a site visit team) and one AVMA staff member will conduct the consultative site visit. In addition the team will be accompanied by one or two current COE member(s) (non-voting observers). The consultation generally takes three to four days. Appropriate college personnel and the site team chair will prepare an agenda that ensures evaluation of all areas of the program.

The report from the consultative site visit is the responsibility of the team chair and consists of the following sections:

  • Section I – an introductory paragraph providing the name and location of the college, the identity of the chief academic officer of the college and of the parent institution, and a brief history of the college.
  • Section II – the eleven Standards of Accreditation and a short description of perceived deficiencies.
  • Section III – program strengths in numerical order, without priority.
  • Section IV – an appraisal of the preparedness of the college for a comprehensive site visit.
  • Section V – other comments that may assist the college in improving its self-study, designing the agenda for the site visit, or other matters.

The report is based upon the evaluations of the site team and is not approved by the COE. Questions related to the report should be directed to the COE reviewers assigned to conduct a pre-review of the self-study and the post-site visit report, who will report the findings from the consultative site visit team as information only, to the Council during the next regularly scheduled meeting.

No further action is taken by the COE following a consultative site visit unless identified deficiencies are corrected, the Council determines that a comprehensive site visit is warranted, and a formal request is received from the college. If a comprehensive site visit is conducted, the procedure followed is identical to that for evaluation of US and Canadian colleges. COE site visitors may not serve on both the consultative and comprehensive site visit teams for foreign veterinary colleges.

Consultation with an Accredited College – An accredited foreign college may request consultation from the COE by inviting a consultative site team to visit the college. A request should focus on a specific item(s) wherein the college wishes advice. The advice provided is not an official recommendation from the COE.

Comprehensive – After receipt of the COE's consultative report and the submission of a detailed response to all points raised by the consultative site team, an established foreign veterinary medical college seeking accreditation may request a comprehensive site visit. The application for a comprehensive site visit by the COE must occur within three years of the consultative site visit. If the COE does not receive such application within the three year period, the college must wait two years before reapplying. An established foreign veterinary medical college seeking initial accreditation may request a comprehensive site visit. The process is the same as for a US or Canadian college. Comprehensive site visits are required at least once every seven years to retain accreditation status. The college must provide a complete self-study report, and after the site visit is conducted, the college is apprised of its status.

When requested by a school, at the discretion of the COE and incollaboration with international accreditors of veterinary schools, will conduct joint site visits to foreign veterinary colleges.

The COE will cooperate with the international accreditors in setting the time for the visit and establishing a schedule. Each accrediting agency will independently make a decision on the accreditation status of the college. The COE will use its scoring rubric and Standads of Accreditation to assess the school's compliance with the Standards. Any addendums to the Report of Evaluation to account for the variance of standards between accreditors that do not specifically address the COE's Standards of Accreditation will be removed from the final COE report.

COE site visitors serving on a joint site visit team must be experienced in accrediting schools and are required to have participated in at least one site visit prior to the joint site visit.

The COE site visit team will be decided by the COE (see Foreign site visits, Section 11.3 and 18.1).

Focused – A focused site visit can be requested by an AVMA COE-accredited foreign veterinary college, or be initiated by the COE based upon the contents of the college annual report or third party (faculty, student, or public) comment. The focused site visit is usually conducted by one or two COE site visitors, one of whom served on the original comprehensive site visit team. The college is requested to provide information regarding the concerns prompting the site visit; the COE will assign an accreditation status based upon evaluation of compliance with the standards.

Visits to foreign veterinary colleges may require slight alterations in several areas of standard operating procedure, but not in interpreting the standards.

Selecting Site Team Members The site team selection process for US colleges is used (see Section 11.3), with the following exception:

The geographically closest, appropriate veterinary licensing body or association (state, district, regional, national, or other) is asked to appoint two members in good standing to the COE site visit team. The representatives appointed must have no conflict of interest with the college, and must verify this fact by signing the AVMA Conflict of Interest Statement for Site Team Members. The individuals selected must speak fluent English.

Accredited Graduates
Students enrolled in and completing the professional program in an AVMA COE accredited foreign veterinary college will be considered graduates of an accredited college if they graduate after the date of the site visit resulting in accreditation status. Persons receiving a diploma, certification, qualification, or other designated degree prior to the date of the site visit resulting in AVMA COE accreditation will not be considered graduates of an AVMA COE accredited college.

Students enrolled in accredited schools/colleges/faculties of veterinary medicine may or may not be permitted to transfer to another AVMA COE accredited program. Transfers are at the discretion of each institution. Many of the foreign accredited programs follow the European system of education (five years post-secondary education [high school]) that results in a Bachelors degree in veterinary science (medicine). US/Canadian systems require several years of "preveterinary" education (many enrolled students already have a Bachelor's or higher degree upon admission) where humanities, sciences, languages, mathematics, and animal sciences are taught. The degree awarded by US/Canadian schools/colleges is the DVM (or equivalent). Further, the curriculum of each US/Canadian school/college varies widely, from traditional didactic delivery to all problem-based learning. These modes of delivery also will affect the ability for student transfer. The Council encourages transferability, but leaves the matter to each institution.

Each AVMA COE accredited foreign veterinary college is required to provide an annual report to the AVMA COE. This report is used to assess its progress and to identify major changes in the college or its support units regarding the standards.

All correspondence and conversation with the AVMA, including the self-study document, must be in English. If any portion of the veterinary educational program is conducted in a language other than English, the AVMA COE may employ a translator of its choosing. The cost of the translation will be charged to the college.

In summary, all matters pertaining to accreditation of foreign veterinary colleges are presented in the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education manual. This document is adhered to as the COE assesses the progress of the college in meeting the standards.

6.4.5. Fees for Foreign Veterinary Colleges

All costs for site visits are paid by the college seeking accreditation or continuation of such status. Fees are charged for consultative and initial comprehensive site visits. The cost associated with the time commitment of site team members is not assessed.

An annual administrative fee is charged to recover direct and indirect costs associated with the accreditation of foreign veterinary schools including charges for personnel, office space, communication, materials and supplies, legal and business office support. Sixty days before arrangements are made for any visit or consideration of the annual report to evaluate the accreditation status of the college, the annual fee must be current, and the college requesting the visit must confirm in writing its commitment to pay all associated costs for the site visit team.

Failure to pay any fee indicates a desire to discontinue the accreditation process. If payment is not received within 60 days of the time indicated, the process will be discontinued and accreditation status withdrawn.

The administrative fees are reviewed annually and subject to change based upon the rate of US inflation and/or other factors.

1 See Section 6.4.4. for definitions of site visits
2 An established foreign veterinary medical college is defined as an institution able to provide five years of data on graduating classes.