AVMA Answers: AVMA Council on Education accreditation

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What agencies certify the AVMA Council on Education to establish its authority and legitimacy?

Dr. David E. Granstrom, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division, responds:

The council has been continuously recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation for more than 50 years. Recognition by the USDE and CHEA obligate the COE to follow strict guidelines specifically designed to provide assurance that appropriate standards of accreditation have been developed and are being applied fairly and uniformly to all colleges seeking accreditation.

The COE is a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors, which serves to advance the knowledge, skills, good practices, and ethical commitments of accreditors. The council adheres to the ASPA's Code of Good Practice.

What's the nature of the AVMA's relationship with the COE?

USDE recognition provides assurance that accreditation decisions are independent of the AVMA and not influenced by partner organizations or recognized affiliates. The council submitted extensive evidence demonstrating compliance with USDE guidelines during the recognition renewal process in 2006. The relationship is completely transparent. Any attempt to provide false or misleading information to the USDE or CHEA would be unethical and irresponsible.

Would you elaborate on aspects of the COE accreditation process that sometimes give rise to misconceptions?

The COE is dedicated to its mission, which includes assuring the public that accredited programs provide a quality veterinary education, protecting the rights of students, and assisting schools in improving veterinary education. Council members are dedicated to continuous improvement of the accreditation process. The United States and Canada continue to be world leaders in veterinary medical education, largely thanks to the diligent efforts of the COE and its predecessors at the AVMA for over 100 years.

The guidelines published in the COE's Accreditation Policies and Procedures are followed with great care throughout the accreditation process. Council members spend hundreds of hours annually gathering, validating, and studying information related to the accreditation of veterinary colleges and schools. The council, which includes a balance of private practitioners and academic veterinarians as well as three public members, weighs all the evidence and thoughtfully applies the standards of accreditation in accordance with the provisions of the COE manual. Consistent application of the standards is a primary concern; however, the interpretation and application of the standards is a dynamic process. The standards of accreditation are reviewed regularly and updated with input gathered from across the profession.

The COE believes that accrediting veterinary colleges outside the United States and Canada supports and encourages higher standards for veterinary medical education worldwide, thus improving animal and human health globally. The desire of these foreign veterinary colleges for input and program evaluation by the COE recognizes the high standards of veterinary education in the U.S. and Canada and the substantial role the council plays in setting the standard for international veterinary education.

Such schools are required to meet the same standards of accreditation as U.S. and Canadian schools, without exception. The council attempts to acknowledge social, cultural, and educational diversity in a fair and equitable manner, but program quality, as measured by the standards, is non-negotiable. Graduates of all COE-accredited veterinary colleges are expected to be firmly based in the fundamental principles, scientific knowledge, and physical and mental skills of veterinary medicine.

The COE does not solicit foreign applications and charges only enough to cover expenses. The council does not generate income for the AVMA and accepts no sponsorship from outside entities. Initial or continued accreditation of a veterinary school outside the United States or Canada is contingent on the licensing body in the country recognizing that graduates of COE-accredited veterinary schools in the United States and Canada have met the same educational standards as graduates of the COE-accredited veterinary school in that country. The licensing body must confer licenses to graduates of COE-accredited U.S. and Canadian veterinary schools by a process that is no more difficult than the process required for graduates of the COE-accredited veterinary school in that country.