Response to "Let the Games
by Peter Calladine
To anyone outside the academic community, the concept of an educational establishment being bone fide often requires an understanding of the legal basis of expressions such as "recognized," "validated," and "accredited." Fred Nickols' article "Let the Games Begin" about Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh contains a number of inaccuracies, and readers may find an explanation of these terms useful in clearing them up.
"Recognized" institutions in the United Kingdom may offer a degree. UK universities and some colleges are empowered by either a Royal Charter or an Act of Parliament to confer degrees on their own students and on those from other colleges whose courses may be "validated" by the "recognized" university.
Accreditation is not a legal status; it indicates that a professional body recognizes the course in question. Lack of accreditation may deny graduates of non-accredited programs certain benefits, such as the right to join a professional body as an individual member. Professional bodies represent graduates of acceptable courses. Accreditation is, therefore, consumer driven and is aimed at maintaining high standards.
In the UK the Association of MBAs is an accreditation body. It is funded by its individual members, all of whom are from accredited programs (including schools in the United States). The Association of Business Schools is not an accreditation body but a trade organization representing about one hundred UK business schools.
Heriot-Watt University is a "recognised" university which confers "validated" degrees. Its MBA programs are not, however, accredited by the Association of MBAs. The Association of MBAs accredits MBA programs at 35 UK and 20 continental European schools. It accredits individual MBA programs, not the business school per se.
For clarification I quote from the UK Universities and Colleges Offering Courses Leading to Recognized Degrees, published by the British Government's Department of Education and Employment:
"The Education Reform Act 1988 included legislation designed to end the trade in bogus degrees in the UK. It is a criminal offence for any institution or person to award of a UK institution unless the Secretary of State has 'recognised' the institution, or for Northern Ireland purposes the Department of Education for Northern Ireland.
"The Secretary of State 'recognises' institutions which have been given degree awarding powers either by a Royal Charter or by Act of Parliament. All UK universities and some colleges are 'recognised bodies.'
"Other colleges, which do not have their own degree awarding powers may provide courses which lead to a degree of a 'recognised' institution. These are 'validated' courses."
Another small point: the author refers to London's Open University. There is no such institution. If he meant the Open University Business School then he is incorrect in stating that admission is restricted to European Union citizens.
Educational services manager
Association of MBAs, London, UK
United Kingdom Department of Education and Employment (1999, September). UK Universities and Colleges Offering Courses Leading to Recognised Degrees. London: Department of Education and Employment.