The role of accreditation in the encouragement, restriction and steering of private higher education in Eastern Europe: A case study of Romania
Faitar, Gheorghita Mihaela
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The transition to open societies and market-oriented economies that occurred in countries from the Central and Eastern European region in the early 1990s, implied major changes in the educational sector. The most significant one was the privatization of higher education. The quality of education in the newly established private universities has been regulated through the process of accreditation, which is a state policy tool with multiple and sometimes competing purposes. The topic of the present research was to study the accreditation process in post-communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe, focusing on Romania. Its characteristics were also compared with aspects of privatization in other former communist countries such as the Czech Republic and Poland. Particularly, the goal was to investigate to what extent, and by what means, does the official policy of, and procedures for, higher education accreditation stimulate, impede, or otherwise steer the development and growth of private higher education in Romania. The project involved a multi-site case study of Romanian universities experiencing the accreditation process. The views and perceptions of both government representatives and university administrators were investigated using interviews and documentary reviews. The data from these interviews were analyzed through an open coding procedure in order to identify emergent themes within a list of major pre-determined categories. This procedure generated patterns of various properties that were grouped based on the stimulatory and inhibitory aspects of the accreditation mechanism present in the institutions of higher education. The intent of this study was two-fold: to anticipate the effects of a national educational policy of accreditation standards on the development and growth of private higher education, and to discover any new consequences of the accreditation mechanism in the university environment.