Is ASIC an end run around recognized accreditation?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Bruce, Oct 16, 2015.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    I know this has been addressed in the AIU thread, but it's interesting enough (to me, anyway) that I thought it warrants its own forum.

    I freely admit that I'm a bit perplexed by the legitimacy of ASIC accreditation; I realize that it's not recognized by the DoE or CHEA, but they make a pretty convincing case on their website that they're a legitimate organization.

    The US schools on their accredited/premium (whatever that is) list don't appear to be outright mills, with their degree offerings usually limited; no "everything under the sun" programs like we're used to seeing with sketchy schools.

    Is ASIC still an unknown commodity in the US, with recognition coming someday, or could it be the latest end run attempt around legitimate accreditation?
  2. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member


    Thank you for starting this thread. I was considering the merits of breaking ASIC out of the AIU thread and discussing it a bit further. I, too, find it interesting.

    They are a legitimate accrediting agency in the UK for what they are. The key difference is that accreditation in the UK appears vastly different from accreditation in the U.S. If your UK University has a Royal Charter then that's all it really "needs" to operate. Accreditation is wholly voluntary and doesn't confer degree granting authority because that's not how degree granting authority is conferred in the UK. The issue with ASIC seems to be, much like ACBSP, that some of the schools accredited by them lack institutional accreditation and/or authority to award degrees in their respective country.

    In the case of Warnborough College Ireland, this was made abundantly clear by the Irish regulators. Warnborough straight up wasn't recognized as a provider of HE in Ireland yet was awarding degrees there. That's a problem. It gets hazier in places like Switzerland (Horizons University, for example) or in the U.S. (AIU, for example) because of some weirdness as to who actually grants degree authority. In the U.S. a state can grant a university authority to award degrees. In fact, this authority is necessary to even pursue institutional accreditation (which, in many states, is still voluntary for a school). So, are these schools operating legally? Yes, they are. And they award degrees with appropriate authority. The same can be said for any school on the religious exemption list for Florida or Virginia. The same can be said of LBU and Trinity College and Seminary and WISR and countless other examples.

    But ASIC doesn't claim to be granting degree authority to any of these schools. They accredit UK-based schools (who, presumably, have authorization to do what they do). Indeed, Kensington Business School is basically just a learning center for University of London. So, if you attend their courses you earn a credential from UoL. That's a scheme that we don't really have in the same functional way in the U.S. In the U.K. I can conceivably start a school and be "accredited" by an established university which will award my degrees. Or I can have them "validate" my coursework (which appears closer to the U.S. notion of "accreditation").

    It's true. And, honestly, the ASIC accreditation does cause me to view schools like AIU a bit more favorably than I had previously. If you can imagine that I separate all schools into "tiers" this little study caused me to create a new tier in between diploma mills (Almeda, for example) and unaccredited schools who are known to be earnestly pursuing accreditation and have a good chance of getting it (which, itself, is a tier below NA U.S. based schools). But, there are still concerns. For starters, it seems that ASIC evaluates programs. But, are they actually in a position to guarantee that degrees aren't being sold? Again, their accreditation services presume that your school is legally operating and that you'd be shut down if you did something exceptionally shady.

    But is it possible that schools like AIU, American Liberty and others simply submitted curricula for evaluation that they simply never use? I'm not saying that they do. What I wonder about is whether ASIC's review provides any sort of quality assurance on that front. If they do, great! If they don't then I can see how an unscrupulous school could game the system.

    ASIC isn't some start-up accreditor. They are a recognized UK accreditation agency that just happens to also accredit foreign schools (just like the British Accreditation Council). I can't see why they would actively pursue CHEA/DOE recognition. Again, I come back to ACBSP accrediting foreign schools. ACBSP is recognized in the U.S. as a programmatic accreditation agency. In many ways, ASIC is a UK equivalent. The difference is that they are accrediting all programs (but not providing institutional accreditation) rather than specific programs. You'll also note that a significant number of the UK based schools accredited by ASIC do not award degrees at all (or only award degrees through validation/accreditation schemes with other universities where the larger, more establish university is actually issuing the paper).

    I mean, I'd bet it's cheaper than pursuing U.S. accreditation. But it's also easier to just claim bogus accreditation and sell certificates to anyone with a valid credit card number. ASIC isn't so high profile that it would really be worth the effort for an outright scam.

    But, I think it is a bit US-centric to think that a foreign accreditor, to be considered "legitimate" would pursue USDOE/CHEA recognition (or that they even should). Deakin University was previously DETC accredited. They let it lapse. That didn't make Deakin a diploma mill. It's a well established public university in Australia. I don't think anyone could reasonably claim that it was a lesser school than Athabasca (Canadian) just because Athabasca had RA. Both schools have (or had, in the case of Deakin) U.S. based accreditation to make themselves more marketable to U.S. students and (presumably) to give them access to Title IV funding. But those schools legally exist and derive their authority to award degrees from their state and province, respectively.

    We always look at unaccredited schools in terms of "red flags" (i.e. mailing address is a post office box, weird statements about how they don't need accreditation, accreditation through unrecognized accreditors etc). We use those red flags to try to triangulate an opinion of where the school falls on a spectrum of pretty certificates mailed out of Neuhaus's garage to Oxford. I suppose it would be appropriate to consider things in the reverse order as well. ASIC? Yeah, OK, I'll grant you that is a sign that you might actually be teaching. But that alone is not enough for me to call a school "good" or even "legitimate."

    Now, it's possible that people in the UK who receive a foreign degree accredited by ASIC or BAC have their needs met well with that degree. A case could be made that if I have a foreign credential, awarded under dubious degree authority, but accredited by ACBSP, that I would find some utility in it if I live in the U.S. But if I live in Switzerland and I earn a degree from a Swiss school that isn't considered to be a "real" degree then ACBSP isn't going to help me at all. Likewise, if I live in the U.S. and I earn a degree from a U.S. based unaccredited (by a USDOE/CHEA recognized accreditor) school, the fact that that school has accreditation through ASIC or BAC isn't really going to help me. I'm still not going to qualify for a professional license, government work or a variety of other useful outlets.

    And we can hem and haw over ASIC all day. Realistically, there are two things that would significantly tip the scale in either direction.

    1) If I earn a degree from an ASIC accredited school and submit it to WES, what will the response be?
    2) If I earn an undergraduate degree from an ASIC accredited school and apply to graduate studies will any legitimate school accept me?

    For (1), that's an interesting and fairly easy to achieve measurement. If WES says that an ASIC accredited degree is equivalent to, say, a Canadian degree then maybe they're onto something.

    For (2) the greatest test of this would be to apply to a UK school. ASIC is a UK accreditor. So if I earn a B.S. from AIU can I continue on and earn a Masters at UofL? It seems to me that this would be a very important test. Because if ASIC accreditation can't even reasonably equate to your credential being accepted in the UK then what chance would it have in another country?

    But I mean, it's legitimate accreditation, in the UK sense. But when the word "accreditation" means different things in different countries it can lead to people exploiting that double meaning.
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I agree that it does boil down to those questions. A slightly smaller spinoff question might involved the acceptability of transferring credits to say, an RA school. However, it's been pointed out that some ASIC accredited schools appear shadier than others and so even if credits, or a degree is not accepted it would remain a bit unclear if that denial is about the school or about the accrediting agency. It can be a bit murky. Someone might do a bit of research and seek out someone with an ASIC accredited Bachelors degree and an RA grad degree . . .
  4. airtorn

    airtorn Moderator Staff Member

    There are multiple CHEA recognized accreditation options for US schools. Because of this, I have trouble seeing this as anything other than a run around attempt specifically for US based schools.
  5. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    ASIC does seem to have some very opaque recognition from the British government as an accreditor of non-degree-granting adult education programs inside the UK. The UK Border Agency recognizes ASIC accreditation for the issuance of student visas, for what that's worth. It isn't clear what academic meaning ASIC accreditation has even in the UK context, nor is it clear what recognition it receives from British employers and professional bodies.

    As far as I know, ASIC isn't responsible for academic quality assurance for any domestic British degree-granting university. That's the function of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (the QAA).

    Outside the UK ASIC presents a very different face, positioning itself as a university accreditor. Its internet champions try to spin domestic British recognitions that seemingly have little or nothing to do with higher education into the British equivalent of US Department of Education accreditor recognition. I don't find that credible.

    But the main thing that turns me off ASIC is its list of accredited 'universities' outside the UK. Several of them seem to me to be extremely doubtful.

    So all in all, I consider ASIC accreditation, when it's applied to obscure internet universities based outside the UK, to be a bright red flag.
  6. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Let me just add that I've spent about an hour (I'm on vacation today) looking at some other ASIC schools. Those that award degrees in the UK appear to be doing so through other schools.

    A bunch of others, if they are awarding any sort of credential, appear to be career focused or simply not in the business of awarding academic credentials. Examples of this would be the Israeli Dance Institute and Warnborough College (if you go to Warnborough's website in the UK it points to career diploma programs in bookkeeping but when you click on academic programs it directs you to Warnborough Ireland which has its own issues with Warnborough offering academic degrees).

    My point is that there are very few ASIC accredited schools that even issue credentials that would ever be subjected to the two questions I've posed. If I get a degree through Kensington School of Business my credential comes from the University of Wales. So Kensington having ASIC doesn't impact the transferability of credits.

    Warnborough is probably the best example of a school similar to AIU. It does not have authorization to award UK degrees themselves. They do not have another university validating their degrees. They do not simply serve as a learning center for a university. They have zero degree granting authority in the UK or Ireland.

    The result? The Oregon Office of Degree Authorization specifically added them to the ban list.

    Warnborough, to me at least, appears to be the UK mirror image of AIU. And it isn't working out very well for them.

    But I'm largely just rehashing the eloquent evisceration of Warnborough that our very own Johann completed two years ago.

    I do not believe ASIC is a bad organization. I do not believe ASIC is trying to mislead anyone. In fact, I think ASIC has attempted to make it abundantly clear what they do and what they absolutely do not do.

    Likewise, I think that ASIC accredited schools are not diploma mills in the sense that if you write them a check they send you a "degree" for little work. But, ASIC accreditation is not a substitute for RA/NA for a U.S. based school just as ASIC is not a substitute for the authority to grant UK degrees for a UK based school. ASIC, in its present form, appears to be something that might be fun to have in addition to those accreditations (and approvals, in the case of the UK) but certainly not instead of.

    So, I look at it as a double edged sword. On the one hand, this means an ASIC accredited school isn't Almeda. I can't write a 50 word essay, hand over my credit card and get a snazzy piece of paper. That's a good thing. But it's clear that there are some ASIC schools who are trying to claim that ASIC is "enough" and a suitable substitute for the institutional approvals or accreditations they simply don't have.

    But I'm perfectly comfortable with thinking of accredited schools in varying ways. If WISR becomes ACICS accredited I will hold them in much higher esteem than, say, Ashworth College even though, legally, they are equals.

    Likewise, I can envision myself looking at a school like AIU and saying "still pretty sketchy, but not as sketchy as Almeda." At a minimum this makes me react to their alumni differently. If you go to Almeda, pay them and receive a diploma in the mail two weeks later, shame on you. Your greed deserves whatever wrath your employer brings down upon you when you are discovered.

    But if you went to AIU or Warnborough, enrolled in a course, completed assignments and exams, attended lectures, prepared a dissertation, defended a dissertation and, by all outward appearances, actually "earned" a degree then still shame on you for not properly vetting a school but the former feels more like intentional deceit by the "student" while the latter gives me the impression that the student him/herself was simply ignorant that their degree wasn't properly accredited.

    And, again, if AIU takes proactive steps to show all of us that they are indeed a legitimate institution and secures additional approvals to further that reality then I'll be suitably impressed. Though, if they were to jump through all of those hoops, perhaps they would just be accredited. That would just be easier for everyone.
  7. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    OKOK, wait for it . . . wait for it . . . This is usually the point where some newbie shill inserts himself into the thread with some sort of babble that suggests we don't know anything about anything.
  8. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Usually. Instead, I sort of wish that ASIC would drop by and offer some information.
  9. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    For me, I've narrowed it down to two opinions:

    1. If you think accreditation is a racket and, as a matter of principal, want to attend an unaccredited school I would probably pick a school that was ASIC accredited over one that had no recognized accreditation (in any sense of the word). Some QA is better than absolutely no QA.

    2. If you want an accredited degree, the utility that comes with an accredited degree and care about how your degree "looks" in the grand scheme of higher ed, ASIC accredits some schools that provide a platform for learning at some very well respected UK Universities. We constantly talk about UoL, Liverpool, Leicester and a few others. Here is the opportunity to pursue some credentials at some absolutely above reproach UK and Irish universities we don't frequently talk about (and who don't, on their own, offer DL). Those are some great opportunities. But I would not consider a school that tries to use ASIC accreditation to skirt the fact that they don't award fully accepted credentials in their home country.
  10. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    If I was going to choose a nonaccredited degree program, I'd look at its curriculum and its faculty listing. Does it teach subjects that I want to study, does it take an approach to its subject that I'm comfortable with, and does it offer me the opportunity to study with professors I've heard of and respect? I'd also want to make sure that the named professors really do teach classes for the school and acknowledge their association with it.

    I'd also investigate the school's reputation in its field. Particularly if it offers doctoral programs, does it show any signs of productive scholarship? Does it generate any favorable comment from respected organizations and professionals in the subjects it teaches?

    I wouldn't weight ASIC accreditation very highly and would likely consider it a negative.

    The relevant British accreditation in those cases would seem to be accreditation of the degree-awarding university and its remote-site 'validation' arrangement by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). I don't know what additional value ASIC accreditation would add to that.

    Where ASIC accreditation might be more relevant is if somebody wants to travel to Britain to enroll in some non-university-level vocational diploma course. ASIC accreditation might simplify getting a student visa in order to do that and it might tell us something (it's unclear how much) about the program's academic credibility. I would give it some weight in that kind of situation.
  11. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member rang? :smile:

    Two things. I'm not suggesting either is that important.

    Horizons is in France. However, much like the Swiss situation, it can legally offer degrees but they do not have mainstream French Government recognition. A French poster kindly confirmed that for us. Up to the beholder what recognition, if any, is given.

    Right - ASIC never accredited Almeda. They did accredit Paramount California U. which imploded - but that was later. IIRC, a school that did turn out to be a cyber-mill, called Orlando University flew the ASIC flag - but only for a brief while - in 2013 or 2014. It was at www-orlandouniversity-dot-com and you can still pull it up via the wayback machine now. Not to be confused with the unaccredited-but-legit-appearing Orlando University at homepage

    I don't think U-of-Orlando-God-Knows-Where had the ASIC sticker for more than a few weeks and I'm pretty sure (but not positive) I checked ASIC's list to make sure the ASIC entry wasn't just improperly used by the bogus school. My guess is ASIC didn't take long to remedy a mistake. Sticker all gone. If ASIC actually accredited this school (and in absence of contrary evidence I think they did) then I wonder where the site visit took place. I never did find a terrestrial location for this school. Could have been Pakistan, Moldova or Los Angeles for all I know.

    Important thing to remember, concerning US Universities: most people (I mean most employers and university admissions officers) require NA or RA. A US school with ASIC alone has neither. Yes, people have made it from unaccredited undergrad degrees to mainstream grad schools. I know of a (very) few. Think you can, anyone? Don't let me stop you.... :smile:

    I don't believe there are any ASIC schools in Canada as yet. Maybe because Canada is a little like Dr. Steve Levicoff, although without the warmth, charm and wit. :smile: He's staunchly RA or the highway - and so is Canada, when it comes to US degrees. We had a couple of NA (DETC) DL starters in New Brunswick - Lansbridge and Meritus, which are gone now. These schools could legally issue their NA degrees, but I believe they were considered somewhat separate-and-unequal in standing to those of traditional universities in the province.

    You might land a job with an NA degree here, if your employer likes everything else about you and there's not a professional body involved that doesn't accept them, to nix the deal. In most cases an NA degree will probably do you no good whatsoever at a Canadian University.

    And an unaccredited US degree? Neither NA nor RA? HERE? Well, perish the thought... :smile:

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2015
  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Accreditation in the UK means something completely different, something that others (those pretending to be U.S. schools) might pervert.

    Accreditation in the UK is about quality control. It is not about degree-granting recognition, which is its primary reason in the U.S.

    Some school-like operations are going to pervert that to fool unsuspecting customers (and their employers).

    You can over-think this, but you don't have to.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2015
  13. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I guess I'm just suspicious by nature but when I find one of these situations where things are murky, I assume thet they are deliberately murky and that, all by itself, is enough for me to get an attitude. It's just so easy to do this cleanly that when it's not clean it's just dirty. Thats the way I'm like Levicoff and why I appreciate his mind set.
  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    That's a straightforward, concise summary - dispels the murk quite nicely. :smile:

    I appreciate it too - and his magnificent flame-thrower skills, when called upon.

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2015
  15. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Well, when American schools rush to get some off-brand British accreditation I've never heard of, I get a bit suspicious.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    "Suspicious" implies remaining doubt.

    My hypothesis: This operation exists in order to market degrees to overseas customers who want the appearance of having earned an American degree. So it gets state-authorization, which is extremely appealing to overseas customers who come from systems where the government determines degree-granting authority. Then it follows up with some unrecognized (for degree-granting purposes) agency that performs a generic form of quality control and, unfortunately, calls it "accreditation." Voila! We're accredited! This adds even more (maybe just enough?) gravitas to make the degrees appealing to those customers. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that almost all their customers come from outside the U.S.

    How this school is set up is perfectly legal. I have no idea what they tell their customers. It doesn't matter, though, since those people wouldn't have legal standing in order to take action. And with a non-existent federal role, this is left to the individual states. Hawaii chooses this approach to regulating unaccredited schools.
    Sosuba likes this.
  17. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Both work places, my and my wifes require Regionally accredited degrees, My wife's employer ( Government) also accepts NA degrees. My employer accepts only RA degrees or International equivalent, NACES member services evaluation accepted for non Professional Degree positions.

    I assume and speculate that graduates of ASIC accredited schools
    most likely be rejected by both employers unless there is another recognized accreditation in case of my wife's employer.
    My employer only accepts RA degrees.
  18. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    This confusion is what happens in an environment where accreditation is supposed to replace research and discernment by prospective students rather than simply serve as a useful indicator. ASIC isn't doing anything they don't say they do. They are an accreditor, and these schools are accredited by them. Even ASIC's critics seem to agree that they don't accredit mills, so we're not talking about a bogus situation here.

    The complaint seems to be that credentials from U.S. schools that have state authorization and ASIC accreditation but not any other third party validation might not be as useful in all cases as credentials from schools that are accredited by different organizations. And that may be true, especially for American students. But just as most people don't say that DETC is not a real accreditor just because its schools aren't always recognized by their regionally accredited peers, neither should people say that ASIC is not a real accreditor just because its schools may not be recognized in every situation.

    The bottom line hasn't changed. Accreditation is a very useful piece of information about a school, but it's no substitute for students knowing what their goals are and selecting a program and school that will help them reach those goals. Prospective students shouldn't simply ask a school whether it's "accredited": that's not the right question, especially in a vacuum. Instead, as with any other investment, they should ask how it can help them do what they want to do. And if an ASIC-accredited school can answer that question to many students' satisfaction, then I don't see a problem with that.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2015
  19. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Yes - that's the complaint. And that's a big hurdle, as I see it. I'd rephrase the complaint a little. As I see it, in the US, a degree from such a school might not be useful in many cases, rather than "some". Likely limited employment use (due to RA and NA requirements) and extremely limited prospects for transfer or further study at an RA or NA school. Not a prospect to be overlooked.

    Not the same thing, although I'd agree both are real accreditors. Most people (even most of those who object to NA) don't say DETC isn't a real accreditor, simply because - like it or not - it IS real. It's listed by CHEA as a National Accreditor.

    ASIC is neither on the RA list nor the NA. So what is it, In US terms? Trying to be as accurate as possible, I'd have to say only that it's an accreditor, unrecognized as NA or RA. So what IS it recognized as in America? I leave that up to you. Two things for sure. Such a school won't have a FAFSA code for Federal Student Aid. And you'll have - at the very least - difficulty with credit transfer.

    Yes - you should ask any school this - from Harvard down to the lowest degree mill. And low end or high, they'll have a good story for you. At the top end, perhaps the story will be nearer the truth. At the low end, it will likely be complete fiction.

    "Will I be prepared for licensing?"
    "Oh yes - we've enabled thousands to become professionals..."

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 18, 2015
  20. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    No, that's not the complaint at all. Nor is it a matter of a sliding scale of acceptance. The fact is, you're comparing two incomparable subjects.

    The term 'accreditation' as ASIC uses it has no relevance to what the term means in the U.S. It's the same word, but two entirely different meanings. Unfortunately, there are some entities willing to exploit this situation.

    As far as degree-granting authority goes--or recognition of a university as an entity that awards degrees--ASIC does NOT 'accredit,' despite its use of the word. It even notes this distinction on its website.

    So why even use the term? Because it means something entirely different in the UK, where what is and is not a British university is determined by processes that are not called 'accreditation.' I would guess they're not even that sensitive to the distinction under question, as it doesn't play over there.

    The comparison to DEAC doesn't work because, unlike with ASIC, accreditation by DEAC DOES recognize a school as a degree-granting authority. THAT's where the sliding scale of recognition and acceptability comes in. ASIC is only a player when a school wants to exploit this issue to mislead customers.

    I would find it much more acceptable if AIU made it clear that ASIC accreditation doesn't change their status in the pantheon of higher education in the U.S. But that would tend to defeat the purpose, no?

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