As participation in higher education worldwide rises and geographic barriers and boundaries fall, collaboration on some postsecondary issues has increased. But most countries and regions still operate independently on many fronts, both purposefully (because countries want to go their own way) and less so, because of inadequate communication and cooperation. That fragmentation can be particularly vexing in areas such as quality assurance, and it is a major reason for a new endeavor announced Thursday  by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Through the new CHEA International Quality Group,  the council -- which represents American colleges and universities that are accredited by agencies that it recognizes -- aims to bring together colleges, accreditors, quality assurance agencies and associations from around the world to work together on dealing with quality-related issues in higher education. CHEA itself has been active in international matters, setting aside part of its annual meeting for an international forum and working with entities such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and UNESCO on issues such as diploma mills.
But Judith S. Eaton, CHEA's president, said council officials believed that the "growth in worldwide activity of our institutions, through study abroad and branch campuses, and the expanding international activity of U.S. accreditors" -- as well as the explosion of issues such as cross-border education, for-profit higher education, and massive open online courses -- made this a logical time to expand its involvement. The council does not plan either to accredit institutions or to recognize international quality assurance agencies as it does U.S. accreditors.
"We're trying to create a forum in which we and our partners around the world can work together on quality assurance issues," she said. The new entity, which will be part of CHEA, plans to convene discussions, conduct research, share news and best practices, and provide consulting services on quality assurance issues.