The Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) is a specialized accrediting agency that focuses on post-secondary intensive English language programs and institutions. CEA’s purpose is to provide a systematic approach by which programs and institutions can demonstrate their compliance with accepted standards, pursue continuous improvement, and be recognized for doing so. CEA conducts accreditation activities in the U.S. and internationally. (Commission on English Language Accreditation, 2020a)
Accreditation is a process by which experts in a particular field determine common standards and choose to regulate themselves according to those standards. In order to become accredited, especially in the field of education, a program or institution participates in a voluntary process of peer review, designed to improve and assure the quality of the program or institution. Within the higher education community, oversight for education programs and institutions is the purview of accrediting agencies, state regulatory agencies, and the U.S. Department of Education. The goals of accreditation in education include the following:
An English language program or institution, its administrative and teaching staff, and its students benefit directly from involvement in a comprehensive assessment of how effectively the program or institution meets its stated mission. By evaluating the quality of its programs and services with respect to the CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions, which were drafted and approved by professionals in the field, the program or institution can gauge its effectiveness against benchmarks set by the profession. Through the on-going annual reporting and reaccreditation process, programs and institutions continue their commitment to high quality. (Commission on English Language Accreditation, 2020b)
The CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions comprise 44 individual standards in 11 standards areas. They were developed initially by an Accreditation Advisory Committee (AAC) that took into consideration the various English language program standards that existed in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The standard areas are based on those required by U.S. Department of Education regulations for accrediting agencies that seek recognition by that agency. The individual standards reflect good practice in the field of English language teaching and administration.
The CEA Standards form the basis for all accreditation activities. At eligibility, applicant programs and schools must have the structures in place to be reviewed on the basis of the standards. The site conducts a self-study and submits a self-study report in which it responds to prompts for each individual standard and evaluates itself against each standard. The review by a site visit team and the accreditation decision by the Commission are based on the site’s compliance with the standards.
The CEA Standards can also serve as standards of good practice for English language professionals and organizations interested in program improvement and especially to anyone in the initial stages of developing a new English language program or institution.
The CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions document provides a context for each of the 11 standard areas and a discussion of the intent of each of the 44 individual standards. (Commission on English Language Accreditation, 2020c)
The Department of Languages and Culture of Universidad de los Andes applied for eligibility for accreditation before the CEA in 2018, and this application was accepted in January 2019. In May 2019, the self-study plan where the committees and subcommittees created for this process were assigned the standard areas was accepted. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report was sent on March 1, 2021, and the peer review visit will be delivered between September 9-11.
The self-study process is useful for the Department of Languages and Culture at Universidad de los Andes because has allowed us:
The self-study process has been greatly beneficial for our Department in general and for the English programs in particular, as evident in these aspects:
As a consequence of this process, the Department has designed a Program Development, Planning and Review (PDPR) plan which has started being implemented and will be actively executed and monitored until mid-2024. The peer-review visit to be carried out between September 9-11 of 2021 will help us obtain an informed external perspective to upgrade our PDPR and streamline our action plan. Comments, welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org!