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Now, nearly a dozen years ago, the membership of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA–headquartered in Brussels, Belgium) began to debate the need for, and the wisdom of, establishing a system of international accreditation for schools and institutes of public administration. Over the course of the past half dozen years, this internal debate has grown ever more intense as many of the organization’s African and Asian members have pushed for IASIA to initiate such a system.
The rationale expressed for the undertaking of such an initiative by IASIA is not unlike that which is frequently invoked when discussing accreditation systems. The process of accreditation is seen as one that helps to provide standards to which institutions can aspire and which they can use to guide their own development. Such standards also have the practical effect of assisting especially the leaders of university based public administration education and training organizations in their efforts to obtain the resources necessary to build more effective programs.
A major step in further encouraging the internal discussion within IASIA regarding the wisdom of, and the practical problems involved in, establishing such a system occurred nearly five years ago when the leadership of the United Nations Division of Public Administration and Development Management approached then IASIA President Turgay Ergun (who headed Turkey’s National Public Administration Institute) to establish a joint UN/IASIA Task Force to develop Standards of Excellence for Public Administration Education and Training. This task force whose diverse membership included the leadership of Brazil’s most prominent public administration school, South Africa’s principal public administration training institution and Poland’s Minister of Higher Education and Science, spent three years holding hearings at public administration association meetings throughout the world and commissioned various background papers, including ones by Theo van der Krogt, the Executive Director of Europe’s public administration accreditation body and Laurel McFarland, the Executive Director of the US National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).
The report of the UN/IASIA Task Force was presented at the IASIA Annual Conference in Kampala, Uganda 18 months ago. A committee co-chaired by Valeria Termini, then the head of the Italian National School of Government and now Professor at the University of Rome, and Pan Suk Kim, a former Assistant to the President of South Korea for public personnel and now Professor at Yonsei University, deliberated for almost a year on how IASIA might best utilize the Standards of Excellence report for the purposes of improving the quality of public administration education and training throughout the world. It noted, among other things, that there was great worldwide enthusiasm for the report of the UN/IASIA Task Force as evidenced by the fact that the 15 page document had been translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, and Spanish and was being used extensively in China as well as in several countries in Africa for the purposes of reviewing, assessing and further developing their public administration education and training programs.
The question of “what next” was a major topic of discussion at IASIA’s last annual conference this past August in Rio de Janeiro. After much debate and discussion, both within the organization’s Board of Management and among its general membership, the Board approved a resolution that mandated the President to move forward in this process by appointing a committee “to develop a procedure which can be used for accreditation purposes.”
In response to this resolution, the Committee on Next Steps in the Implementation of the Standards of Excellence, co-chaired by Bernard Boucault, the Director of the French National School of Administration, and ASPA President-elect, Meredith Newman, was established. This eighteen member committee has now developed a two year road map for the establishment of a worldwide accrediting body. Obviously, many issues remain to be addressed and resolved during the course of the committee’s deliberations. Certainly the question of whether this accreditation initiative would involve training institutions as well as university based programs and whether accreditation activities involving university based programs include Bachelors and Masters Degree programs are among the issues to be resolved. Similarly, the issues of establishing cooperative relationships with established regional and national accrediting bodies (such as NASPAA and the European accreditation body) are also issues on the committee’s agenda.
It is anticipated that the Committee will have a basic outline of the form that this initiative might take to be presented at IASIA’s next annual conference which will occur this July 12 to 17 in Bali, Indonesia. Obviously members of this committee, which includes from the US, in addition to one of its co-chairs, Blue Wooldridge and Kathleen Beatty, will be delighted to receive inputs and suggestions.
ASPA member Allan Rosenbaum is president of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration. Email: [email protected]