The following article has been copied from the recent issue of the COE Standard, the newsletter of the AVMA Council on Education (COE). Rather than following a quarterly publishing schedule, as was originally established, the COE Standard will deliver periodic news and alerts related to the accreditation of veterinary medical colleges. To receive the COE Standard via email, please sign up using the Newsletters link on the AVMA website. The COE Standard is only available to AVMA members.
We look for assurances of quality in our everyday lives; whether it’s a food product, a service provider or even a car, we feel more assured when there’s a certification or validation process that indicates consistency and quality. For veterinary medical and veterinary technology education, accreditation by the Council on Education (COE) or Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), respectively, provide that quality assurance.
Accreditation is a rigorous and comprehensive process of peer review that examines a college for quality assurance and quality improvement. This voluntary multistep process is as follows:
- The college completes a review of itself by compiling a self-study that assesses its strengths and areas for improvement based on the accreditation standards. The self-study provides evidence of how the college is meeting the standards of accreditation.
- A team of practitioners and academics perform an on-site review to validate the information in the self-study and evaluate the college based on the accreditation standards and defined policies and procedures. This includes visits to facilities used in instruction, interviews of students, faculty, staff, alumni and administration, reviews of college finances, a review of the admission process, a review of student outcomes assessment and other areas relating to the standards. It also includes graduate and employer surveys of graduate preparedness to practice.
- The site team creates a Report of Evaluation for the Council on Education.
- The Council on Education reviews and deliberates on the report and makes a decision regarding the program’s accreditation status.
For veterinary education, the COE evaluates the programs based on 11 standards of accreditation. The standards of accreditation are developed and periodically reviewed with input from the profession, educators and the public. Standards are not designed to make all programs look the same. They do allow opportunities for innovation, creativity and flexibility (This is also required by external recognition guidelines). In order for a program to be accredited, it must meet or exceed every one of the 11 standards.
Accreditation is a voluntary process. COE accreditation (or ECFVG or PAVE certification) is required for a graduate of a veterinary medical educational program to be eligible to sit for the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Furthermore, COE accreditation is required for veterinary medical students to be eligible to receive Health Professions Student Loans through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. COE accreditation is programmatic, meaning the assessment is specific to the veterinary medical program. A veterinary medical program must be part of an institution of higher learning that is accredited by a recognized accreditation body or, in the case of foreign veterinary schools, recognized by their government. Accreditation of an institution of higher learning as a whole is known as institutional accreditation.
For veterinary students, attending and graduating from an accredited school means that they meet a basic science and clinical competency threshold for entry into veterinary practice, as well as eligibility for professional credentialing and licensure. For employers, accreditation assures that the veterinarians they hire are competent and prepared to begin practice. For veterinary educational programs, accreditation means that they provide satisfactory education compared to national standards. For animal owners and the public, accreditation assures the continued quality of veterinary medicine to protect animal health and welfare.
For more information about accreditation, including the accreditation process, visit the Accreditation section of the AVMA website. Additional information on accreditation in general can be found on the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) website and on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.