Accreditation & Membership FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about THE-ICE Accreditation & Membership

  • What is accreditation?
  • Why should a potential student or an institution care if a programme is accredited?
  • What are the different types of accrediting organisations?
  • What sort of accreditation does THE-ICE offer?
  • How does the actual accreditation process work in the case of THE-ICE?
  • Why does an institution need accreditation specific to tourism, hospitality and/or events if it already has some form of Business School accreditation?
  • Why does an institution need more than one accreditation?
  • Does this mean that an institution with unaccredited programmes is no good?
  • Who accredits the accrediting bodies?

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is typically regarded as an extensive quality review process conducted by an organisation that is external to the education institution being reviewed.  Institutional accreditation is often undertaken by government departments of appointed agencies for legal registration reasons, whereas course or programme accreditation and quality assurance is often undertaken by professional bodies and organisations such as THE-ICE.

Accreditation has become increasingly important in a number of professional areas – and in some specialised areas students graduating from non-accredited programmes may not be able to join a professional association, gain registration (such as to become a doctor or dentist), and be able to find relevant employment.

Why should a potential student or an institution care if a programme is accredited?

Around the world there are literally thousands of institutions offering some sort of tourism, hospitality and events programmes.  Prospective students, their parents and career counsellors will all want to be sure that a programme can deliver the graduate outcomes and quality of education experience promised. They will also want to know whether the institution’s programmes are benchmarked against best-practice, and are well regarded by the industry and future employers.

Internally within an education institution, accreditation is seen as an independent ‘mark of quality’ that reflects positively on the programmes offered by the institution.  Accreditation bodies typically provide ongoing input and play an important role as part of the institution’s internal review processes.  THE-ICE is able to help an institution benchmark itself both nationally and globally through its initiatives such as the annual student experience survey, THE-ICE ISB-SB (International Student Barometer and Student Barometer™) survey.

What are the different types of accrediting organisations?

It is the role of some regulation bodies to ‘accredit’ entire institutions, whereas other more specialised bodies will focus on particular types of education programmes – such as business with EFMD (The Management Development Network) or AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), and engineering with the EAB (Engineering Accreditation Board).

In many countries the national accrediting body for institutions is a government one, but this is not always the case. In certain countries (such as the USA) institutional accreditation or registration may be carried out by not-for-profit but government approved bodies. At the more specialised course or programme level, the vast majority of accrediting bodies are professional organisations (such as a Medical Association) or not-for-profit organisations whose focus is on quality assurance.

What sort of accreditation does THE-ICE offer?

THE-ICE is a specialised international accrediting body focusing specifically on quality assurance for TH&E (tourism, hospitality and events) programmes offered in either the vocational or higher education sectors.  THE-ICE is a self-governing not-for-profit organisation.  Using a progressive and stepped accreditation schema, institutions can initially become an Associate of THE-ICE before applying for full accreditation of their education programmes.  Once the programmes at an institution are accredited, only then can an institution become a fully Accredited Member of the THE-ICE.  They remain a member for a period of five years, after which time re-accreditation is required.

Institutions seeking accreditation from THE-ICE are initially assessed by the Board through a ‘Pre-accreditation’ assessment process.  Once accepted they become an Associate of THE-ICE, and it is during this period of time they apply for full accreditation.  Once the programmes are accredited, then THE-ICE works with its members to support their marketing activities.

How does the actual accreditation process work in the case of THE-ICE?

The accreditation and review process is outlined below. Initially an institution is applies for ‘Pre-Accreditation’ and if successful becomes an Associate of THE-ICE.  An institution then has up to three years to apply for full accreditation.  In brief, the full accreditation process steps include:

Self-review: each institution prepares a self-review document using the ‘Standards of Excellence’ template. But rather than measure each institution or its programmes against some pre-determined set of absolute standards, the main focus of this process is on self-reflection. The mission, goals and aims of the institution and its programmes are initially examined, and then aligned with the actual programmes and their graduate attributes, facilities, teaching staff, internationalisation policies and industry engagement activities.

Evaluation: is conducted by a group of experts selected by the accrediting body. In the case of THE-ICE, an Assessment Panel is selected to review the materials presented by the institution about its programmes.

Site visit: are typically conducted by the accrediting body to the institution to see the facilities. In the case of THE-ICE, independent auditors from our Assessment Panel will visit each Associate institution applying for full accreditation to meet with the teaching staff, administrative support staff, students, alumni and industry advisory board.

Peer review: the Chair of the Assessment Panel makes a recommendation to THE-ICE Board of Directors based on the outcome of the evaluation.  Once accreditation is granted, it is valid for a period of five years before another review is required (re-accreditation).

On-going benchmarking and monitoring: the use of the THE-ICE ISB-SB (International Student Barometer and Student Barometer™) survey provides ongoing data to institutions about the student experience and produces confidential benchmarking reports.  THE-ICE also monitors any programme changes to ensure they align with the accreditation granted, and can provide input into internal programme reviews.

Why does an institution need accreditation specific to tourism, hospitality and/or events if it already has some form of Business School accreditation?

Within the higher education sector a number of TH&E (tourism, hospitality and events) programmes are incorporated under a Faculty of Business or a School of Business.  Such a Faculty/School may carry accreditations from such bodies as AACSB, EQUIS. or AMBA.  However, these generic business accreditation bodies are typically not focused on the specifics of TH&E programmes.

One particular problem facing many tourism and hospitality programmes is that generic recommendations about changes to the wider business curricula (such as core programmes, programme structure etc) can also end up affecting more focused TH&E programmes. Also, the lack of understanding and appreciation of important education issues for TH&E programmes (when it comes to such issues as internship, practical courses etc), means that it is important that accreditation is undertaken by a relevant accreditation body such as THE-ICE.

Why does an institution need more than one accreditation?

About 40 Business Schools in the higher education sector have achieved Triple Accreditation (EQUIS, AACSB, and AMBA) status.  Collectively they have taken out advertising claiming that they are in the 1% of the world’s 3,500 Business Schools.  One reason for multiple accreditations is that some accreditation bodies only focus on a specific programme type – for example AMBA is focused on MBA programmes.

In terms of TH&E (tourism, hospitality and events) education, we are now seeing this multiple accreditation occurring.  There are a number of reasons for getting more than one accreditation.  For example, different accreditation bodies may focus on different academic programmes (eg. tourism only, or hospitality only).  Then again, some may have an international focus while others may be more focused on accreditation that is only relevant to a specific country (eg ACPHA is focused on courses in USA).

This desire for additional accreditation is also in recognition of the increasing importance it is playing to both the internal processes within the institution, as well as the role it is playing outside the institution with potential students.

Does this mean that an institution with unaccredited programmes is no good?

Offering programmes that have not been accredited by an external body means that potential students (or an institution evaluating a potential partner) should carry out careful research on the institution and its programmes for the following reasons.

From a potential student’s point of view, it has become clear that there are many institutions with poor reputations that exist in many countries around the world.  Their websites may look great, but they may even have no legal basis under which to operate.  For international students the implications may include an inability to get a student visa to attend a non-accredited institution in any particular country.  Further, institutional accreditation should not be confused with programme accreditation.

While an institution may be accredited or ‘licensed’ to operate and teach students, that does not mean its specific programmes in any particular areas are well regarded by the industry, former students or other education institutions.  Institutions offering TH&E (tourism, hospitality and events) programmes can vary considerably in terms of their curriculum, industry relevance, staff qualifications, expertise, and facilities.  Accreditation by THE-ICE demonstrates their commitment to education excellence as they are all subject to peer review, quality assurance and a benchmarking process.

Looking at this from an institutional point of view, the rapid globalisation of education means that many universities, private hotel schools and vocational colleges are now engaged in all sorts of institutional arrangements – such as articulation agreements, student exchange and joint offerings of qualifications.  It can often be difficult to ascertain the legitimacy of an institution, let alone to assess the quality of its programmes or how well regarded they might be by the industry.

Institutions that have passed through a rigorous independent accreditation and quality assurance process are not only much more likely to prove to be suitable partners, but will also minimise the potential risk of association.

Who accredits the accrediting bodies?

Simply put, there is no global system that recognises international education accrediting bodies such as THE-ICE.  However, THE-ICE is a Full Member of INQAAHE (International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education, based in The Netherlands.  This is the peak global body for national accreditation agencies.  Further, wIth THE-ICE having originally been an initiative of the Australian Federal Government (from 2004-2008), credibility is assured.

In some countries there are bodies which recognise private accreditation bodies. For example, in the USA this is done by the United States Department of Education through the independent body CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation).  There has been a stepping up of oversight recently due to the arrival of ‘accreditation mills’, which are essentially fake accreditation bodies who accredit fake institutions, often referred to in the media as ‘diploma mills’.  In other countries such as the UK, the British government has formed UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) to cover a range of needs for all sorts of accreditation bodies.

Typically most voluntary international accrediting bodies such as THE-ICE start out with a focus on one country and then expand internationally.  For example, the AACSB is a US-based body that has been accrediting business schools since 1917.  While this US-recognised accrediting organisation started life in the USA, it has now expanded internationally and has accredited business programmes at many non-US institutions.

In Europe, and following on from the Bologna Process in higher education, the European Union (EU) formed ENQA (the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education).  Essentially this is the peak body for the national quality assurance agencies in Europe, as well as various public authorities and also the university quality assurance agencies.