Introduction to Membership for Colleges and Programs Outside of the US
In light of the Academy’s involvement with accrediting the University of London’s External Programme and numerous requests over the years by colleges outside the US, the Academy’s Board of Directors formally approved three new categories for international membership during the June 2004 national meeting. The Academy believes that its curriculum standards are transparent and applicable across borders – as liberal learning is not exclusive to the United States. AALE has attempted to enable colleges that are committing themselves to liberal arts curriculum, but are in varying degrees of development, to find a place at the table with like-minded colleagues within and across borders. As more people around the globe attempt to gain college degrees, whether real, counterfeit or hollow, the need for legitimizing those schools of distinction has arisen.
The first category of membership is Affiliation and fits into the Academy’s core mission; to foster liberal education wherever it attempts to grow. To be an affiliated member a school must submit a full mission statement outlining their commitment to the Academy’s standards and liberal learning as understood by the Academy’s collective members. The school may be new and small without a fully developed curriculum or it may be an established college that has grown leery of specialized education and is undergoing development of a liberal arts core. In either case the college has decided to push forward in the coming years to change its course and sees the value in being associated with the only American accreditor of liberal arts programs and colleges. All new affiliates are required to undergo a staff visit and review. Third-party review is available should the school wish to gain recommendations upon how it should undertake future development of core curriculum. Through affiliation, the AALE believes that it can encourage schools that would otherwise set adrift in a sea of illicit diploma mills.
The second tier of membership is Certification. Two types of schools will be in this grouping: schools that do not offer a full bachelors degree or schools that meet many of the Academy’s standards, but not enough to be granted a higher standing. As with our domestic certification program, schools with undergo a staff visit and initial assessment, write a self-study in light of the AALE standards, receive an outside team review of the school or program and stand before the Academy’s Board for final review and approval. The chief benefit of this category is that it will signify to the academic community the school’s commitment to a quality curriculum. Upon application and a staff visit, the school will be granted immediate Affiliate membership during the time of review.
The final and highest category of excellence is Programmatic Accreditation. The distinction of this status is that, in the estimation of the AALE, the school or program sufficiently meets all of the Academy’s standards, as domestic US institutions are required to do. It must be noted that Institutional Accreditation and Preaccreditation are limited to universities and colleges in the US due to US Department of Education guidelines related to disbursement of federal financial aid funds.