Means of Appraisal in Higher Education Quality Assurance: The Functions of Accreditation, Audit, Assessment, and Evaluation

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Means of Appraisal in Higher Education Quality Assurance: The Functions of Accreditation, Audit, Assessment, and Evaluation

The terms 'Accreditation,' “Audit,' and 'Assessment,' which are means of appraisal in quality assurance in higher education, have been included in this edition. These methods are used alone or in combination in the various appraisals that are conducted at present. Understanding the function of each method should lead to a full grasp of the emphasis and aims of an appraisal system. Below is a discussion of these terms plus 'evaluation.'


Generally, 'accreditation' refers to the act of verifying whether a person, thing, or organization meets standards sufficient to be granted a certain qualification or status at a certain time or the act of verifying and certifying that a process or system, such as a production process, meets certain standards, i.e. quality.

Accreditation in higher education refers to the act of confirming that an educational institution or program is adequate in the light of minimum standards established in advance or meets certain standards. It uses an approach that is close to quality verification and certification, since the focus in placed on educational processes such as the acceptance of students and learning resources and systems such as educational systems and learning support. In many countries 'accreditation' gives a university or program formal recognition by governments or other approved authorities.


Generally, an audit is a verification that something is in compliance with the act (for example in relation to financial accounting); it is supposed that it is an act with a certain compelling force, such as that requiring correction when there are violations. On the other hand, it can also refer to the act of verifying the reliability of internal appraisals and investigations within program and project appraisals.

Audit in higher education is an approach close to the latter. It is the act of checking of whether a quality assurance system based on the PDCA cycle has been established and is functioning within a university as intended.


Assessment is used as an act to appraise and measure various kinds of events in diverse fields. In higher education, the subjects of measurement are also diverse, including educational institutions, educational programs, courses, and students. A typical example is the assessment of learning outcomes, which is the act of measuring the extent to which students achieved pre-set learning outcomes and whether they acquired knowledge and skills.


Evaluation is explained as the act of judging the value of an event by measuring the extent to which the event produced outcomes. In practice, evaluations are conducted in various situations and “evaluation” is used as a general term referring to the act of assessment. In terms of evaluation in higher education it refers to the act of identifying the value and characteristics of an educational institution and educational program or evaluating the achievement of an educational institution's stated goals.

Accreditation and Evaluation as a Compound System

In light of the above functions, certified evaluation and accreditation can be described as an appraisal system that combines the function of accreditation (the appraisal of the condition of an institution's education and research based on appraisal standards established by the certified evaluation and accreditation organization) and the function of evaluation (the pointing out of an institution's characteristic or good practices).

Appraisal Systems Outside Japan: Naming According to the Function

Third-party appraisal systems in the US are called 'accreditation.' They appraise universities and educational programs based on standards established by accrediting organizations. The Netherlands has an appraisal system that comprises both audit of educational organizations overall and assessment of educational programs; it has established different appraisal domains and standards.