Chile is in the middle of a nationwide discussion on the reform of the accreditation system. Education Minister Harald Beyer hopes to present a new, more reliable system by 2013. The new system would accredit universities for a minimum of six years, instead of one year. The bill would also take action against universities that do not request accreditation, a process that is currently voluntary. Under the new law, unaccredited universities will no longer be funded and their degrees will not be recognized.
The discussion on a new accreditation system follows a recent scandal among two university directors and the former councilor of the National Accreditation Committee, Luis Díaz. The directors were caught bribing Diaz in exchange for ensuring their universities’ accreditation. According to Beyer, however, the problem was limited to a few specific institutions and should not be cause for distrust in the system as a whole.
Díaz received a sum of US $190,000 in bribes from Ángel Maulén, former director of Universidad Pedro de Valdivia and Hector Zuñiga, former director of Universidad del Mar. Next to that several direct and indirect deposits were found, adding up to $600.000. These deposits were made by four other universities to Gestión Ltda., a company owned by Díaz.
Time to improve the system
At the request of the Chilean government, the OECD submitted various recommendations to improve the system. The most important among them is that Chile needs to realize mandatory accreditation of all universities, forcing them back into the licensing process and stripping them of autonomy if they are not accredited. Richard Yelland from the OECD, stated that “swift action” is necessary to restore public confidence in the system. And quick action is needed since more and more people get infected by the scandal, with the Minister of Justice at its zenith.
“We have been working throughout the year with various experts and with the support of the OECD and the World Bank to have a better system of accreditation. This should be appreciated in Congress,” states Diaz’s successor Koljatic. “We are hearing that there is a lot of willingness and that the ideas are being well-received, so we hope the processing will be relatively quick.
This week a new accreditation round was held. Only 9 Chilean universities met all the proposed requirements for their accreditation, almost half of the universities met only two of the five. Governance and undergraduate teaching are the two mandatory fields. Research, connectedness with other universities and postgraduate teaching are optional. Of Chile’s 51 universities only 23 passed this year’s accreditation.