What is ABET?
The American school system is very diverse with many schools teaching the same information in many different ways. This makes quality a very large issue. Accreditation assures that the minimum standards are followed by every school in the United States. These standards are carried out by a non-governmental peer review process that ensures educational quality. Educational institutions and programs volunteer to periodically undergo this review to determine if these minimum standards are being met.
There are two forms of accreditation: institutional and specialized. Institutional accreditation evaluates an entire university, where as specialized accreditation reviews a specific major or program. The specialized accreditation goes under the name of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and it reviews specific programs, such as architecture, nursing, law, medicine and engineering. Programs are either accredited or not accredited, there is no ranking.
Schools are eligible for accreditation after they have graduated at least a single student in the program. After this criterion is met the school asks to be reviewed and the school will begin an internal evaluation and self-study. The self-study documents that students, curriculum, faculty, administration, facilities and institutional support meet established criteria. While this is occurring the appropriate ABET commission forms a team to review the school. This team is formed of volunteers from academia, government, industry and private practices.
During the on-campus visit the team reviews course materials, student projects, sample assignments and interviews students, faculty and administrators. After answering all questions raised by the self-study, the team writes a review of the program giving strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for improvement.
The team then reports to the ABET commission, which reviews the report and votes on whether the institution will receive accreditation. Accreditation is approved for a maximum of 6 years, in which another review will be needed for continued accreditation.