The purpose of voluntary accreditation is 3-fold:
Accreditation should be limited to those graduate educational programs that prepare persons for entry into professional practice.
Related Comments: Any mechanisms designed to enhance other educational programs (e.g., undergraduate and research doctoral programs) should be established separately from the accreditation process. Program guidelines and consultative services are examples of such mechanisms.
If, in the future, programs are established in institutions of postsecondary education to prepare supportive personnel in audiology and/or speech-language pathology, the need to accredit such programs should be considered.
It is the mutual responsibility of professional practitioners and educators to determine the knowledge and skills needed by practitioners. Educational policies that define how such knowledge and skills are to be developed must be determined by the academic community.
The accrediting body for academic programs should be operationally independent from the political process and control of sponsoring organizations.
Related Comment: An accrediting body is considered to have operational independence if it has sole authority to establish and change accreditation standards, policies, and procedures and to make objective decisions on accreditation status of educational programs without obtaining approval of any sponsoring or related organization.
The establishment and implementation of standards should be the combined responsibility of a single accrediting body.
Although audiology and speech-language pathology are separate professions, they share a common interest in the scientific principles of human communication. Therefore, accreditation should be carried out by a single body, but one that accommodates the different educational needs of the two professions.
Although professional practitioners and the public should be represented on the accrediting body, majority representation should come from the academic community.
The establishment and implementation of standards for educational accreditation should be structurally and functionally independent of practitioner certification and service-program accreditation. Communication and collaboration among these standards programs is essential, however, to ensure that their general policies and future directions are coordinated.
Related Comment: Because accreditation standards should be written in terms of educational processes and goals; they should not incorporate specific certification requirements. Although certification standards may require that persons be prepared in accredited programs, the accreditation process should not be used to enforce certification standards.
The accreditation body should have the authority and responsibility for developing and managing its operational budget.
Since the benefits of accreditation accrue to all members of the professions, as well as to accredited programs, their students and the public at large, financial support for an accreditation program should be derived from accredited programs and those seeking accreditation and from the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology as a whole.
Consistent with the public protection responsibility of accreditation, standards should recognize institutional diversity and encourage academic experimentation and innovation. Programs should be encouraged to develop appropriate goals and curricula that are relevant to their strengths and experience and should then be evaluated according to how well they meet their goals.
Standards should be primarily qualitative in nature. Evaluation should emphasize outcomes of the educational process.
Standards should promote the integration of clinical practice and research through the application of scientific principles and methods.
Standards should be neither prescriptive nor restrictive. Rather, they should be flexible, encouraging reflection and capacity for change.
Standards should recognize that some programs may require direct and more traditional guidelines and standards, while other programs may be encouraged to be more innovative and experimental.