COE accreditation policies and procedures

Last update to this section: June 2022

1. AVMA COE accreditation

1.1 Purpose of accreditation

Accreditation is a process of external review of educational institutions that offer the veterinary medical degree. Accreditation assures the public and licensing bodies that graduates of accredited programs meet a defined level of competency. Accreditation assures students the accredited institution offers an educational program that will allow them to develop entry-level competency. An additional goal of accreditation is to promote continuous quality improvement.

Accreditation is a voluntary process; nevertheless, the accreditation classification impacts institutions and students. Accreditation is required for students from the United States to be eligible for US federally subsidized loans (Health Profession Student Loans). It also allows graduates from accredited institutions to meet the education requirements for eligibility for licensure in the US and Canada without going through an educational assessment program [i.e. ECFVG or the Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE)]. Achieving accredited status is required for institutional eligibility to participate in a wide array of private, state and federal programming, though accreditation is considered a voluntary exercise.

1.2 Council on Education

1.2.1 History

The AVMA was founded in 1863. In 1890 the AVMA established a Committee on Intelligence and Education, and in 1906 the Committee took steps to initiate a college evaluation program. 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 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 accreditation program. In the year 2000, the term "essentials" was changed to "standards." In 2016 the AVMA and the AAVMC established a Memorandum of Understanding for the COE, which outlines the roles of each organization in providing financial and personnel support for the AVMA COE.

1.2.2 Mission

Mission Statement: The mission of the AVMA COE is to use clearly defined Standards of Accreditation and to fairly and accurately evaluate DVM (or equivalent) veterinary medical education programs. The Standards are interpreted and applied by the Council to each school/college in relation to its mission. Through the accreditation process the Council is fully dedicated to protecting the rights of the students, assisting the schools/colleges to improve veterinary medical education, and assuring the public that accredited programs provide a quality education. In all its activities, the COE is committed to operate with collegiality, integrity, and confidentiality, and will strive to continuously improve the accreditation process.

The accreditation procedure used by the AVMA COE 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 AVMA COE is the only recognized accrediting agency for colleges of veterinary medicine in the two countries. Additionally, the AVMA COE provides accreditation for colleges of veterinary medicine outside the US and Canada that voluntarily seek such classification and meet or exceed all standards. 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.

A regional campus of a DVM-granting veterinary medical college is not eligible for AVMA-COE accreditation separate from the accreditation awarded to the parent institution. A regional campus is defined by the COE as a site apart from the central administrative campus where veterinary medical students spend at least six consecutive months. The regional campus may provide any part of the pre-clinical or clinical curriculum. The COE does not separately accredit segments of educational programs (for example, two-year basic science programs) or distinct parallel curricula ("tracks") within an educational program. If a U.S. or Canadian institution that provides an AVMA-COE accredited DVM-granting program also offers other veterinary medical education programs leading to the DVM degree that are not accredited by the AVMA-COE, regardless of the location of the unaccredited program(s), the unaccredited program(s) must clearly distinguish the degree program to be not COE-accredited to ensure that it will not be confused with the program accredited by the AVMA-COE.

The AVMA COE advances 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. Through the accreditation process, the COE protects the interests of the general public as related to veterinary medicine. The Council accredits only those colleges that meet the accreditation standards developed and agreed upon by various communities of interest, including the public. In the accreditation process, it is the burden of the college or school of veterinary medicine to demonstrate that it meets the Standards of Accreditation and its own stated goals and objectives. The Council's accreditation program promotes quality education for veterinarians and ultimately leads to quality veterinary care for animals.

Through the accreditation process the Council is fully dedicated to protecting the rights of the students, assisting the colleges to improve veterinary medical education, and assuring the public that accredited programs provide a quality education. In all its activities, the COE is committed to operate with collegiality, integrity, and confidentiality and will strive to continuously improve the accreditation process."

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 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 alone does not enable colleges to participate in Title IV student loan programs.

The AVMA COE is the only recognized accrediting agency for colleges of veterinary medicine in the US and Canada. The AVMA COE is charged with the following responsibilities:

  1. 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;
  2. 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 accreditation;
  3. Study and recommend methods of instruction, and promote the continual improvement of veterinary medical education in all its facets;
  4. 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, information resources, students, admissions, faculty, curriculum, research programs, and outcomes assessment;
  5. Publish an annual list of veterinary medical colleges showing the current accreditation status of each;
  6. Provide consultation to proposed, developing, and existing veterinary medical colleges;
  7. Review and make recommendations to the AVMA Board of Directors concerning the activities of committees concerned with veterinary specialties, veterinary technicians, graduates of colleges of veterinary medicine outside the US and Canada, and licensing examinations; and
  8. Recommend curriculum changes to enhance the veterinarian's ability to meet changing professional demands and societal needs.

Colleges of veterinary medicine outside the US and Canada may seek AVMA COE accreditation status, but neither the USDE or CHEA recognition is required for the activity. This is strictly voluntary.

1.2.3 Administration and funding

The COE is supported by staff who are dedicated to facilitating accreditation procedures. The staff members currently assigned to these functions are listed in 4.1.1 Appendix A – Staff Roster. The work of COE members and site visitors is voluntary.

Funding for accreditation activities are provided by the AVMA, AAVMC, and the CVMA. The AAVMC and CVMA cover the cost of attendance at COE meetings for COE members appointed by their organizations. The AAVMC provides staff support through the Senior Accreditation Advisor of the AAVMC. The remainder of the operating budget is paid by the AVMA COE. Accredited colleges and those seeking accreditation are assessed an annual fee to cover a portion of the operating budget. Colleges outside the US and Canada and colleges with Provisional Accreditation pay their full share of direct and indirect costs. Accredited colleges in the US and pay a half share. In summary, funding for accreditation activities unrelated to site visits is provided by the AVMA, the AAVMC, the CVMA, and provisionally and accredited institutions. The cost of conducting a site visit is paid by the institution being evaluated. See Section 1.3.4 Member Travel and Other Expenses for how non-site visit travel expenses are paid. Colleges must be current on annual payments 60 days prior to the regularly scheduled site visit. Failure to pay fees in a timely manner may result in withholding accreditation.

1.2.4 Confidentiality and integrity

It is vital that the accreditation process is conducted in a manner of utmost integrity and confidentiality. This requires that both the institution being evaluated and the COE follow strict procedures to maintain the integrity of the process, including, without limitation, the procedures outlined below.

The college must present accurate information to the Council for accreditation evaluation, allow access to all parts of the operation during the site visit, comply materially with Council procedures, and comply with Council directives in the accreditation process. The college must refrain from misleading advertisement of the program, and must correct any inaccuracies. The college must make every effort to protect students. The protection must include, but is not limited to, unbiased grading procedures, and access to educational opportunities, scholarships, and student services. The USDE requires that students be made aware of the appropriate tuition refund procedure upon withdrawal. When a college releases information regarding its accreditation status, the information must be correct. Should misinformation be released, the college must correct the information in a timely manner (refer to Section 3.5 Other Reporting Requirements).

Those who participate in COE activities must maintain the confidentiality of all non-public information relating to accreditation and veterinary education and follow the COE Code of Conduct Policy and the Conflict of Interest Policy and sign statements to that effect (Appendices 4.1.3 – Code of Conduct and 4.1.4 – Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest).

During the evaluation process, the Council must evaluate the college only on the basis of (1) compliance with the standards as each relates to the mission of the college, and (2) material compliance with Council directives and procedures. Application of the Standards to all college programs must be consistent and unbiased. The site visit and deliberation toward the assignment of accreditation status must be conducted with the highest ethical standards. All materials, discussions, and decisions of the Council regarding accreditation must be confidential.

Communications that are not consistent with the COE's policies and procedures and that have not been approved and issued by the COE are strictly prohibited. All discussions, observations, and documents associated with site visits and accreditation decisions are confidential to the COE and should not be discussed with anyone other than elected COE members, appropriate AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) staff, and COE-trained site visitors when necessary. Information regarding accreditation decisions cannot be shared with any individual or group other than: 1) the university and college through the official report of evaluation, 2) reports to accrediting and state agencies, and 3) the public through official announcements. Any inquiries made to COE members regarding the accreditation process or specific programs should be referred to the COE Chair and appropriate staff.

It is the policy of the COE that its accreditation decisions are independent and not subject to interference from any organization or individual. Appropriate AVMA and AAVMC staff may attend COE meetings and provide assistance to the COE as necessary, and shall maintain the confidentiality of all non-public information regarding accreditation decisions. The COE Chair and appropriate AVMA staff may share non-public information regarding accreditation decisions with appropriate AVMA officials relating to potential claimed liability of the AVMA as a parent organization of the AVMA COE. Should the need arise for AVMA officials to consult with other AVMA-affiliated individuals, outside experts, or other consultants relating to the same subject matter, the COE Chair and appropriate AVMA staff shall be consulted beforehand.

The Council must recognize college and program diversity when making accreditation decisions. The Council must inform all appropriate federal, state, university, and college officials of matters related to accreditation in a timely manner.

1.3 COE membership

1.3.1 Membership representation

The COE is composed of 20 members, 17 of whom are veterinarians. The veterinarians are selected by the AVMA COE Selection Committee (8), the AAVMC COE Selection Committee (8), and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (1), specifically representing the diversity of disciplines in the profession. The veterinary membership selected by the AVMA COE Selection Committee consists of at least six private practitioners; one at-large member; and one non-private practice, non-academic veterinarian. The veterinarians who are members selected by the AAVMC Selection Committee consist of at least five veterinary medical college faculty members; one veterinary researcher; one public health veterinarian; and a representative of the AAVMC. The Canadian veterinarian is appointed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. Additionally, the COE appoints three public members.

Many of the Council members, including public representatives, have advanced degrees. All members are appointed for a term of six years, except the official AAVMC and CVMA representatives who serve three-year terms, renewable once. The terms of all new members begin at the beginning of the AVMA association year, with the exception of the member appointed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, whose term is on a calendar year cycle.

The Council on Education prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, color, race, religion, gender identity or gender expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital status, family/parental status, military status, or national origin, consistent with applicable law. The AVMA prohibits discrimination in the election of members and public representatives to the COE.

The current membership of the COE is listed in Section 4.1.2 Appendix B – Council on Education Roster.

1.3.2 Application and appointment procedures

A call for applications and nominations is made public annually for any positions with terms expiring the following fall. The AVMA and the AAVMC engage separate committees to evaluate applications and make selections. Nominations are sought for public members to replace those whose terms are expiring. The COE members vote to select the public members (see Section 4.1.4 Appendix D – Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest for eligibility for public members).

1.3.3 Member roles and responsibilities

Members of the Council on Education are expected to:

  1. Fairly and accurately evaluate veterinary medical educational programs based on the Standards of Accreditation and make accreditation decisions;
  2. Uphold the fiduciary responsibility of a member of the COE, through the duty of care*, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience and adhere to the COE Confidentiality policy, the AVMA COE Conflict of Interest policy (Section 4.1.4 Appendix D – Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest) and the AVMA Code of Conduct (Section 4.1.3 Appendix C – Code of Conduct) at all times;
  3. Establish and/or amend the Requirements of an Accredited College of Veterinary Medicine (Standards of Accreditation) and the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education as needed;
  4. Uphold the Accreditation Policies and Procedures of the AVMA Council on Education and any other policies, standards, procedures, and guidelines as adopted;
  5. Devote the time and energy necessary to COE activities;
  6. Agree not to represent oneself as a spokesperson of the COE without the express written authorization of the Chair of the COE.

The full Council meets biannually to conduct business. These meetings are conducted in-person at the AVMA headquarters, or via electronic means. Prior to the COE meeting, various subcommittees may meet to conduct business and prepare recommendations and reports for the Council. The Council also meets via electronic means throughout the year to conduct business. The frequency of such meetings is as warranted by the business at hand.

Issues brought to committees are discussed and, in most cases, appear as agenda items for consideration by the full COE. Items not on the agenda are considered under the item "New Business." Where appropriate, business is conducted according to the conventions of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, through presentation of a motion followed by a vote.

1.3.4 Member travel and other expenses

The non-site visit expenses for the official AAVMC representative and other COE members selected by the AAVMC COE Selection Committee are paid by the AAVMC. The non-site visit expenses for members appointed by the AVMA and the public members are paid from the COE operating budget. The non-site visit expenses for the Canadian representative are paid by the CVMA. Site visit expenses for all site visitors and staff are paid by the institution being evaluated.

Travel and other expenses for COE members to attend functions other than COE meetings are included in the COE operating budget and paid from the COE operating budget.


* Duty of care requires that a COE member be informed and discharge his/her duties in good faith and act in a reasonable and informed manner when participating in COE's decisions and oversight of the management of COE.
† Duty of loyalty requires that an individual acting in the name of the COE will act with the COE's best interests in mind. An individual must have undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the COE.
‡ Duty of obedience requires that an individual acting in the name of COE will adhere to the standards, policies and procedures, and procedures of that organization. A member must be faithful to the COE's mission.

1.3.5 Procedures followed upon resignation or dismissal of members

A member of the COE may resign from his/her position on the COE by submitting a letter of resignation to the Chair of the COE. Upon the Chair's receipt of such letter of resignation, the position will be vacant on the effective date of resignation contained in the letter of resignation. A replacement member will be selected to complete the remainder of the resigned member's term by the agency that was responsible for the original appointment of the member who has resigned.

A member of the Council on Education may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the COE conducted by confidential written ballot when, in the judgment of the COE, the best interests of the COE would be served. This may include, but is not limited to, the failure of the member to perform his or her responsibilities appropriately and/or the violation of rules of confidentiality. In removing a COE member, the following procedures shall apply:

  1. With concurrence of the COE Executive Committee, the Chair of the COE shall provide the member in question with written notice of the proposed removal, which shall include an explanation of the reason(s) for the proposed removal. The member shall be given an opportunity to provide a written response to the notice and to appear before the COE Executive Committee.
  2. After reviewing the response from the member, if the COE Executive Committee deems removal of the member to be in the best interests of the COE, the Chair of the COE shall submit to the COE the written notice of the proposed removal, the member's written response, and the final recommendation of the COE Executive Committee. The recommendation will also be submitted to the member in question.
  3. The COE shall act upon the recommendation of the COE Executive Committee at its next meeting. The member in question shall be given an opportunity to appear before the COE at that meeting. The action of the COE is final and not appealable. At the option of the COE Executive Committee, during the process from notice of the proposed removal through action of the COE, the member in question may not attend COE meetings.
  4. The action of the COE shall be communicated by the Chair of the COE to the member, and the fact of the member's seat being vacant shall be communicated as appropriate to enable the seat to be filled. A replacement member will be selected to complete the remainder of the removed member's term by the agency that was responsible for the original appointment of the removed member. Apart from the fact of the member's seat being vacant, the details and rationale of the removal action shall be considered confidential.

1.4 Organization

1.4.1 Leadership

The officers of the Council on Education are as follows:

Chair of the Council
Vice Chair of the Council
Chair of the Committee on Evaluation
Chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs

The officers are elected by the COE members (see procedures below under Nominating Committee description).

The Chair of the COE is the Chief Administrator of the Council and presiding officer responsible for the conduct of all official meetings. As presiding officer, the Chair must be familiar with the bylaws and standing rules of the COE as well as the job descriptions for officers and committees, ensures that action taken by the Council is based on a majority vote, and conducts meetings according to the most recent version of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. In consultation with COE staff, the Chair establishes the agenda for the Council, and with the Executive Committee and staff, plans the order and conduct of the meetings. With staff assistance, the Chair originates or edits all official Council correspondence and communication reflecting policies and procedures of the Council to the colleges of veterinary medicine and other individuals and organizations interacting with the COE. Such correspondence communicating official Council action or policy will be on AVMA letterhead, over the signature of the Chair.

The Vice Chair of the Council on Education shall be a member of the Executive Committee and shall assume all duties and responsibilities of the Chair in the latter's absence.

The Executive Committee is composed of the COE Chair, the Vice Chair, the Chair of the Committee on Evaluation, and the Chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs. The Committee is responsible for providing counsel and assistance to the Chair in making executive decisions and acting for the Council between meetings; however, it does not make accreditation decisions.

Various ad hoc committees are appointed by the Chair of the COE as needed. All committee action is conducted according to established Council policy and procedure. Each committee reports on its activities at regular meetings of the Council. Terms of service for officers and committees begin and end at the beginning of the AVMA association year.

1.4.2 Committee structure and function

The COE has four standing committees: Evaluation Committee, Academic Affairs Committee, Nominating Committee, and Executive Committee. The following procedure is used in forming committees.

The Chair of the COE, in consultation with the Executive Committee, appoints all committees and liaisons. To ensure balance, the Chair considers the professional activity of each COE member in making appointments. The public members also serve on committees as assigned by the Chair. The Chairs of committees and the committee members serve one-year terms with the opportunity for reappointment.

The Chair of the Evaluation Committee is elected by COE membership. The Committee is responsible for recommending site visitors for assignment to site visit teams. The Evaluation Committee also reviews post-site visit survey results and makes any recommendations to the Council accordingly. The Evaluation Committee makes recommendations on revisions to the self-study guidelines, the site visit suggested itinerary, the evaluation rubrics, and other matters related to conducting site visits.

The Chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs is elected by COE membership. The Committee is responsible for ongoing review of and recommendations for improvement to the standard requirements and Council policy and procedure. The Committee also makes recommendations to the COE for revision of the self-study guidelines in accordance with recommended Standard changes.

The Nominating Committee consists of three members appointed from COE membership by the COE Chair. The Chair of the Nominating Committee also will be appointed by the COE Chair. The Committee is responsible for presenting a slate of nominees at each spring Council meeting for the offices of Chair, Vice Chair, Academic Affairs Committee Chair, and Evaluation Committee Chair, and forwards these to the COE members two weeks prior to the spring meeting.

At an appropriate time during the first day of the spring meeting, the Chair will call for nominations from the floor. The Nominating Committee will receive all nominations, ask those nominated if they are willing to serve, and provide a revised list of nominees to the COE members. Voting will be by written ballot. The candidates elected at the spring meeting will begin their terms at the beginning of the AVMA association year.

1.4.3 Associated committees, commissions, and coards

Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities – One member appointed by the Chair of the Council will serve as a voting member for a one-year, renewable term.

Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) – One member of the Council will serve as a voting member for a six-year term, or until the end of the member's term on the Council. The Council submits a nomination for this position to the AVMA Board of Directors for Board approval.

International Council for Veterinary Assessment – One member is nominated by the Chair of the Council for a three-year term, or for up to one year following the end of the member's term on the Council.

Committee on International Veterinary Affairs – One member of the Council will serve as a voting member for a three-year term, with the option of a second three-year term at the discretion of the COE, or until the end of the member's term on the Council. The Council submits a nomination for this position to the AVMA Board of Directors for Board approval.

Liaison representatives report on the activities of the groups to which they are assigned at each regular Council meeting. Terms of appointment begin and end at the beginning of the AVMA association year.

1.5 Operating procedures

1.5.1 Conducting meetings

Council in-person meetings are held biannually at the AVMA headquarters, unless otherwise determined and announced by the Chair. Additional meetings are held throughout the year through electronic means. The Chair presides over all meetings, and the meetings are conducted in accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. The Chair's responsibilities are described in section 1.4 Organization.

No member of the COE who has an identified conflict of interest shall participate in any way in accrediting decisions. The individual shall leave the room when the report in question is being discussed. In cases where the existence of a conflict of interest is less obvious, it is the responsibility of any Council member who feels a potential conflict of interest exists, to absent himself/herself from the room. The conflict of interest policy shall be limited to decisions regarding accreditation and shall not infer conflict with other decision-making responsibilities.

1.5.2 Conference calls, video-conference, and electronic communication

The Chair will determine the agenda for all meetings held by conference call, video-conference, and other electronic communication, in consultation with the Executive Committee and staff. Meetings held electronically also will be conducted by Roberts Rules of Order, Newly Revised and will be presided over by the Chair. Minutes will be taken and approved, as for in-person meetings.

1.5.3 Training of members

All newly-appointed COE members receive orientation materials, including the current COE policies and procedures. Before their first meeting, new members receive training on member responsibilities and COE practices, and also participate in the annual COE site visitor training. The COE Chair assigns a senior COE member as a mentor to each incoming COE member, and mentors participate in the induction of incoming COE members.

During the first COE meeting attended by new members (fall), a minimum of two hours is devoted to continuing education of all COE members. The topic is selected by the incoming Council Chair. The Chair may invite outside experts to address the Council during these sessions. All COE members will review the online training module provided for ongoing training of site visitors.

All COE members have access to current practice literature through their AVMA membership, or, in the case of public members, a complimentary subscription to the JAVMA. The Journal provides full text manuscripts, and interpretative summaries of other relevant publications such as the American Journal of Veterinary Research, for the most recent scientific findings in veterinary medicine. The COE members also receive a complimentary subscription to the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. The COE members are encouraged to read the information as a benchmark of current clinical practice and education, and to apply the knowledge to program evaluation. Further, a strong awareness of current clinical practice is important in the critical review of the standards for adequacy and relevancy.

1.5.4 Information storage and retrieval

Staff of the AVMA Division of Education and Research, along with the Chair of the COE, maintain and refer to a database on interpretation of site visit results and outcomes. The database uses information from the past ten years of accreditation history, and this will evolve as new colleges are visited and data entered. Use of the database provides that similar situations and concerns are evaluated in a consistent manner, and that the Council consistently applies policy in making accreditation decisions.

The Council maintains complete records of all reports and correspondence regarding its accreditation and pre-accreditation decisions in compliance with USDE requirements. This includes all decisions made throughout an institution's or program's affiliation with the agency regarding the accreditation and pre-accreditation of any institution or program and substantive changes, including all correspondence that is significantly related to those decisions. Also included are records related to the last full accreditation or pre-accreditation review of each institution or program, including on-site evaluation team reports, the institution's or program's responses to on-site reports, periodic review reports, any reports of special reviews conducted by the agency between regular reviews, and a copy of the institution's or program's most recent self-study. The records are confidential and are available for inspection by representatives of the Department of Education. Furthermore, the Council shares information related to the accreditation or pre-accreditation status of a veterinary medical program, and/or any adverse action taken, with appropriate accrediting agencies and state agencies.

1.6 Recognition of the Council on Education

1.6.1 US Department of Education (USDE)

The AVMA COE voluntarily seeks recognition from the USDE to substantiate 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 that are consistent 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, or any other entity. In general, USDE guidelines seek assurance that the COE has clearly documented Standards of Accreditation that address all areas of the program leading to the DVM or equivalent degree, that the Standards are applied consistently 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 COE submits documentation for USDE recognition through the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), a committee within the USDE. The AVMA COE has been recognized as an accrediting body for veterinary medicine by the USDE since 1952.

1.6.2 Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

Non-governmental recognition of accreditation is voluntarily sought by the COE through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is a highly respected, non-profit organization that assists accrediting bodies like the COE in providing 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 that 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) 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 COE also shares best practices for accreditation procedures with other health profession accreditors through its participation in CHEA. The AVMA COE has been recognized by CHEA and its predecessors as an accrediting body for veterinary medicine since 1949.

While colleges of veterinary medicine outside the US and Canada may seek AVMA COE accreditation status, neither USDE nor CHEA recognition is required for the activity.

1.7 Quality assurance

1.7.1 Post site visit surveys of site visitors and colleges

Following a site visit, the dean is asked to provide each faculty member, student, and administrator information with access to an online evaluation form. The AVMA Statistical Research Group (SRG) conducts an analysis of the survey responses according to frequency and distribution of response, and prepares a report for the COE. The COE Committee on Evaluation studies the reports and makes recommendations to the Council regarding changes to be made in the site visit process. Site team members also complete a post-site visit evaluation form. Results of these surveys are forwarded to the COE. During its fall meeting, the COE reviews the recommendations and initiates necessary changes to improve the site visit.

1.7.2 Procedures for complaints regarding the Council on Education and its accreditation activities

Interested parties may submit a written, signed complaint to the COE regarding failure of the Council to follow policies and procedures, failure of the Council to use sound professional judgment in applying the Standards of Accreditation, failure of the Council to consider all evidence in accreditation decisions, or other Council action or inaction. The COE will determine whether the information submitted constitutes an appropriate complaint and will proceed according to policy.

The COE will acknowledge receipt of the information within seven (7) days, and provide the complainant with the policy and procedures manual. Within 60 days, the COE will collect additional information internally, if necessary, and conduct an initial screening to determine whether the complaint has merit. Within 90 days of receipt of the complaint, the COE will inform the complainant of the results of the internal screening. If the complaint is determined to have merit, the appropriate COE committee will consider the complaint in closed session if the discussion will involve specific individuals or colleges; otherwise, the complaint will be discussed in open session. These actions will occur at the next scheduled COE meeting. The COE will consider changes in policy and procedure if indicated, and initiate the change process in a timely manner. The COE will inform the complainant of any actions taken within 30 days of the COE meeting.

1.7.3 Procedures for complaints regarding colleges

The COE provides opportunity for interested parties to submit written comments concerning college qualifications for accreditation. The Council publishes a notice of its plans to conduct a comprehensive site visit seeking reasonable assurance or accreditation status in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). This notice indicates the deadline for receipt of third-party comment. Comments must address the Standards of Accreditation.

The COE is committed to sustained quality and continued improvement in veterinary medical education programs, but does not intervene on behalf of individuals or act as a court of appeal for individual matters of admission, appointment, promotion or dismissal of faculty, staff, or students. The COE will review complaints related to college compliance with the Accreditation Standards. Complaints and/or comments must be written, addressed to the COE, and signed with a personal signature for consideration/investigation. Contents of complaints/comments will be shared with the college, and the COE. The college will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaints/comments, and that response will be used by the COE in resolving the complaint.

Students, faculty, constituent veterinary medical associations, veterinary state boards, and other interested parties may submit a signed complaint to the COE regarding an accredited veterinary or developing college that has made application for accreditation. The COE will take responsible precaution to protect the identity of the complainant from being revealed to the college; however, the Council cannot guarantee confidentiality of the complainant.

An appropriate complaint is defined as one alleging: 1) an accredited college or a college requesting evaluation for accreditation is not in compliance with the Standards of Accreditation and 2) the practice, condition, or situation is of a continuing or pervasive nature, as opposed to an unfair or arbitrary act of an individual or an act isolated in nature. In accord with the role of COE, matters will be addressed in an investigative manner rather than as a mediator. Only written, signed complaints will be considered by the COE. The COE strongly encourages all parties to attempt resolution of complaints before they are brought to the Council.

Any written complaint by a third party (individual such as faculty, staff, public, or organization) relating to an accredited college of veterinary medicine will be received by staff, who will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within seven (7) working days. AVMA staff will make a preliminary investigation of the initial complaint and report to the COE Executive Committee within 30 days. As part of this review, the staff will determine whether the complaint is appropriate for review by the Council, and whether the complaint is related to items that have specific impact on the educational process and/or the Standards. Allegations of malpractice upon an individual animal are unlikely to satisfy this principle.

After review of the complaint and the report of the staff investigation, the Executive Committee will report its findings to the Council within 30 days from receipt of the staff report. If, in the judgment of the Executive Committee, the complaint appears to be of sufficient substance to affect the accreditation status of the college, it will be investigated further by the Council. The complainant will be informed of the status of the complaint. Upon completion of the investigation, the Council will take appropriate action to bring the accreditation status of the college into conformity with the established classifications. If an investigation of the complaint by the Council is deemed necessary, it should be completed within a period of not more than six (6) months after receiving the report from the Executive Committee.

If an adverse decision is made concerning the accreditation classification of a college, the college shall have the right of appeal (see Section 2.5.4, Appeal Procedures for Adverse Outcomes). In any case, the college complained against will be informed of the nature and source (student, faculty, staff, or the public - but not identity of the entity) of the complaint and the potential action, if any, contemplated by the Council before such action is taken. The complainant will be notified in writing of the results of the investigation and any action taken.

1.7.4 Programmatic advertising and student recruitment

Accredited veterinary medical colleges, or individuals acting on their behalf, are expected to exhibit integrity and responsibility in programmatic advertising and student recruitment. Responsible self-regulation requires rigorous attention to the ethical principles (listed below) in all matters of conduct.

Any advertising pertaining to a college that is accredited by the COE must be clear and comprehensive, indicating the accrediting body by name and specifying the accreditation status of the college. Any reference to a specific aspect of the college and the length of the program shall indicate that educational standards for the degree are being met.

The COE accredits colleges of veterinary medicine in the US and Canada, in addition to some colleges of veterinary medicine in other countries that seek COE accreditation. If a college or university makes public disclosure of accreditation or pre-accreditation status granted by the COE, all information related to the outcome of accreditation must be accurate in all respects, must disclose that the accreditation status affects only the college of veterinary medicine and no other entities of the university, and must provide the name, address, and telephone number of the COE at the AVMA.

Colleges shall adhere to the following principles of ethics:

  1. The primary emphasis on advertising veterinary professional education should be on the educational program.
  2. All statements and representations must be clear, factually accurate, and current.
  3. Catalogs and other official publications (printed or electronic) should be readily available and accurately depict:
    • Purpose and goals of the program
    • Admission requirements and procedures
    • Degree requirements
    • Faculty, with degrees held and the conferring institution
    • Tuition, fees and other program costs, along with the procedure for refund and withdrawal
    • Financial aid programs.
  4. College catalogs and other official publications (printed or electronic) describing career opportunities should provide clear and accurate information about:
    • National and state requirements for eligibility for licensure
    • Any unique requirements for career paths, or for employment and advancement opportunity in the profession.
  5. When a college discloses its accreditation or pre-accreditation status to the public, the COE must verify the accuracy of the information. The public disclosure of the accreditation status by the college must be sent to the COE and it must include:
    • A statement that the college grants the DVM or equivalent degree,
    • A statement that the college is accredited by the COE, and the address, e-mail, and telephone number of the COE. If incorrect or misleading information is included in the public disclosure of the accreditation status of the college, the COE will provide the accurate accreditation status to the public, make corrections in reports of site visit reviews or reports of evaluation, or the COE's accreditation or pre-accreditation actions with respect to the college, as necessary. The college will be notified that the COE intends to correct the incorrect or misleading information disclosed by the college. Public disclosure of COE corrections will be made in the JAVMA, the AVMA website, or other avenues. Should a college release additional information, the COE must be notified. The Council may maintain or alter the accreditation status assigned until it is satisfied that the public is not being misled.