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ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is a non-profit organization that serves the public by accrediting United Statesmarker postsecondary degree programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. Accreditation is intended to certify the quality of these programs. There are over 2,800 programs accredited at over 600 colleges and universities in the U.S.

ABET is the recognized U.S. accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. ABET also provides leadership internationally through workshops, consultancies, memoranda of understanding, and mutual recognition agreements, such as the Washington Accord. ABET has been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) since 1997.

History

ABET was established in 1932 as the Engineers' Council for Professional Development (ECPD) by seven engineering societies: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (now the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE), the Society for the Promotionof Engineering Education (now the American Society for Engineering Education), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and the National Council of State Boards of Engineering Examiners (now NCEES).

ECPD was originally founded to provide a "joint program for upbuilding engineering as a profession." However, it almost immediately began developing as an accreditation agency, evaluating its first engineering program in 1936 and its first engineering technology program in 1946.

ECPD changed its name to Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in 1980, and in 2005 changed its name again to ABET, Inc.

Member Societies

ABET is a federation of 30 professional and technical societies representing the fields of applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. These societies own and operate the organization.



The ABET Accreditation Process

Accreditation of engineering programs is voluntary; the request for accreditation is initiated by the institution seeking accreditation. Accreditation is given to individual programs within an institution rather than to the institution as a whole. Accredited programs must request re-evaluation every six years to retain accreditation; if the accreditation criteria are not satisfied, additional evaluations may be required within the six-year interval. Programs without previous accreditation can apply for accreditation as long as they have produced at least one program graduate.

The first step in securing or retaining ABET accreditation is for an institution to request an evaluation of its program(s) by January 31 of the year in which accreditation is being sought. The eligibility of the institution must be established, which can be satisfied if the institution is accredited by a regional accreditation agency. Each program is then assigned to one of four accreditation commissions within ABET:
  • Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC)
  • Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC)
  • Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
  • Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC)
The program is assigned to a commission based on its title (the program name shown on the transcript). Each commission has different accreditation criteria.

Each program then conducts an internal evaluation and completes a self-study report. The self-study documents how well the program is meeting the established accreditation criteria in multiple areas, such as their students, curriculum, faculty, administration, facilities, and institutional support. The self-study report must be provided to ABET by July 1.

While the program conducts its self-study, the appropriate ABET commission (Applied Science, Computing, Engineering, or Technology Commission) will choose a team chair to head the on-campus evaluation visit. A visit date (generally in the September - December time frame) is negotiated between the team chair and the institution. Once the date is set, the ABET commission will assign program evaluators (generally one per program being evaluated). The institution is provided the opportunity to reject the team chair or program evaluators if a conflict of interest is perceived. The team chair and evaluators are volunteers from academe, government, industry, and private practice.

Once the program evaluators are accepted by the institution, they are provided with the self-study report for their assigned program. This report forms the basis of their evaluation of the program, and prepares them for the campus visit.

The evaluation team (team chair and program evaluators) will normally arrive on campus on a Saturday or Sunday. During the on-campus visit, the evaluation team will review course materials from each program, as well as student projects and sample assignments. Evaluators will also interview students, faculty, and administrators, and tour the facilities to investigate any questions raised by the self-study. The visit will normally conclude the following Tuesday with an exit interview with the institution’s chief executive officer, dean, and other appropriate institution personnel as appropriate. This interview is intended to summarize the results of the evaluation for each program.

Following the campus visit, the institution has 7 days in which to correct perceived errors of fact communicated during the exit interview. Following this period, the team chair will begin preparation of a draft statement to the institution; this statement undergoes extensive editing and will typically be provided to the institution several months after the visit. On receipt of the draft statement, the institution has 30 days to respond to issues identified in the evaluation. After this response, the team chair prepares a final statement to the institution.

The final statement and recommended accreditation action is reviewed by the large annual meeting of all ABET commission members in July after the campus visit. Based on the findings, the commission members vote on the final accreditation action, and the school is notified of the decision in August.

The information the school receives identifies strengths, concerns, weaknesses, and deficiencies of the program, as well as recommendations for compliance with ABET criteria. Accreditation is granted for a maximum of six years, after which the institution must request another evaluation.

Criteria

ABET specifies minimum curricula for various engineering programs. For instance, ABET requires that all engineering graduates of a baccalaureate program receive at least one year of study in the natural or physical sciences and mathematics, and requires some study within general education. ABET also requires that each student complete a capstone project or design class in their education. Because of ABET's involvement, engineering curricula are somewhat standardized at the bachelor's level, thus ensuring that graduates of any ABET-accredited program have some minimal skill set for entry into the workforce or for future education.

EC 2000

For most of its history, ABET’s accreditation criteria specifically outlined the major elements that accredited engineering programs must have, including the program curricula, the faculty type, and the facilities. However, in the mid-1990s, the engineering community began to question the appropriateness of such rigid accreditation requirements.

After intense discussion, in 1997, ABET adopted Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000). The EC2000 criteria shifted the focus away from the inputs (what material is taught) and to the outputs (what students learned). EC2000 stresses continuous improvement, and accounts for specific missions and goals of the individual institutions and programs. The intention of this approach was to enable innovation in engineering programs rather than forcing all programs to conform to a standard, as well as to encourage new assessment processes and program improvements.

Miscellaneous

To become a licensed professional engineer, one common prerequisite is graduation from an EAC or TAC of ABET-accredited program. TAC graduates typically require more experience, if accepted for testing at all. Requirements for professional engineer testing for EAC and TAC accredited programs vary from state to state.

The Engineering Credential Evaluation International (ECEI) was established in 1997 as the credential evaluation service of ABET, Inc. ECEI specialized in the evaluation of degrees in engineering, engineering technology, computer science, and surveying from outside the U.S. As of October 30, 2006, ECEI stopped accepting applications for credentials evaluation; a business decision made by the ABET Board of Directors.

Citations and notes

  1. ABET History from ABET's website
  2. ABET's Member Societies from ABET website
  3. The Basics of Accreditation from the ABET website
  4. Information for Programs Seeking Initial Accreditation: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Accreditation criteria from ABET's website
  6. Engineering Change: A study of the impact of EC2000 (executive summary)
  7. ECEI FAQ


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