A new law creating a national system for the evaluation, accreditation, and certification of quality in higher education in Peru was passed in 2006; implementation began early in 2008. Peru is coming late to the trend of developing national systems for quality assurance in higher education, but being a latecomer to the movement has advantages. Most university administrators and professors were well aware of the evolving systems elsewhere and the new law was received with a certain degree of inevitability. Additionally there have been precursors to the new law. The National Association of Rectors (ANR) began a program of university evaluation a few years earlier. The professional association of doctors was already accrediting medical schools and certifying doctors for professional practice.
The SINEACE (National System for Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of Higher Education), the autonomous national commission responsible for implementing the law, is in the process of creating a system out of the requirements the law enumerated. The law requires both institutional and program accreditation as well as the certification of professionals. The processes are voluntary with the exception of teacher-training programs and 13 programs in the health sciences.
The launch of the system is complicated by the number of actors required for implementation and this is where it gets complicated. The SINEACE is composed of three agencies — the IPEBA (Peruvian Institute for the Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of Basic Education) to evaluate primary and secondary education; the CONEACES (Council for Evaluation, Accreditation, and Certification of non-University Higher Education) to evaluate postsecondary, non-university education, and the CONEAU (National Council for University Evaluation and Accreditation) to evaluate university education. The commissions of the SINEACE are responsible for writing standards and norms, providing training and orientation to institutionally-based committees for quality, and the certification of external evaluators. The commissions of the SINEACE do not (by law) evaluate or accredit professionals, programs or institutions. Rather, the commissions are responsible for certifying and monitoring independent agencies to coordinate the external evaluations (with evaluators certified by the SINEACE) and pronouncing on accreditation and certification. To date these independent agencies do not exist.
Postsecondary institutions also have to be “revalidated” (effectively have their legal authority reauthorized) every six years by the Ministry of Education. This, so far, is not articulated with any part of the new accreditation program. Actually, nothing is articulated—university accreditation, program accreditation, and professional certification are separate, unrelated processes. So, in theory, a person graduating from an unaccredited medical program at an unaccredited university could be certified to practice medicine.
The challenge for Peru in implementing this new law will be putting all the pieces in motion in way that makes sense and furthers the goals of each element of the quality assurance program. The fact that the law specifies that external evaluations will be conducted by new independent agencies working with evaluators certified by the SINEACE creates interesting challenges for coordination, coherence, and consistency in order for all of the parts to operate together seamlessly.
In a relatively short time, the SINEACE has had to form qualified teams to develop standards and norms for each type and level of evaluation, have these standards reviewed and validated by relevant interest group, and provide orientation and training to administrators and teachers. Further progress hinges on the appearance of interested parties to fulfill the need for a very large number of evaluators and for independent agencies that will carry the work forward. The number of evaluators who have passed through the process of selection and certification is too few for the work ahead. No agencies have come forward to request certification. There is a risk that things may stall at this point for the foreseeable future.