Some engineering graduates looking for a job in another country in the Caribbean and Latin America find their degree is not accepted there, because accreditation standards differ from country to country.
That may end soon, thanks to two years of hard work by the IEEE Educational Activities’ Committee on Global Accreditation Activities seven accreditation agencies in the Caribbean, Central America, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru signed the Lima Accord in September.
“The Lima Accord is a first step in assuring that engineering programs in Latin America maintain a high standard and are recognized by the international community,” says IEEE Senior Member Saurabh Sinha, who was vice president of the 2015 IEEE Educational Activities Board.
IEEE works to get accrediting agencies in different countries to honor one another’s engineering school programs. An accord among two or more agencies in different countries signifies that graduates of accredited programs in any of the signatories are recognized by the other countries as having met common academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering. In other words, the graduates are all considered to have the same level of professional competence. The accredited programs need not be equal but, as the accord describes it, “must achieve the same results” or “demonstrate substantial equivalence.”
The Lima Accord effort began in 2014 during the IEEE Region 9 Latin American Accreditation Body Summit, held in Lima, Peru. Participants worked to develop a road map for establishing mutual-recognition agreements. In September 2015 the accrediting bodies signed the Lima Declaration, in which they pledged to work toward the accord. Last year representatives from IEEE and the accrediting bodies drafted the accord, sought feedback, and finalized the agreement. The signing ceremony was held on 6 September in Lima.
Seven agencies signed the accord: the Caribbean Accreditation Council of Engineering and Technology; Agencia Centroamericana de Acreditación de Programas de Arquitectura y de Ingeniería Central America; Agencia Acreditadora Colegio de Ingenieros de Chile; Costa Rica’s Agencia de Acreditación de Programas de Ingeniería y de Arquitectura; Mexico’s Consejo de Acreditación de la Enseñanza de la Ingeniería Superior, A.C.; and Peru’s Instituto de Calidad y Acreditación de Programas de Computación, Ingeniería y Tecnología; and its Sistema Nacional de Evaluación, Acreditación y Certificación de la Calidad Educativa.
The work on the accords hasn’t ended. The agencies are now busy developing rules and procedures describing day-to-day operations as well as the criteria that will be used to assess substantial equivalence for future signatories. Another priority is to establish the governance structure for the Lima Accord, specifying the selection of officers as well as how the accord will be administered.
The team expects the Lima Accord to become part of the International Engineering Alliance in September. The alliance is composed of seven other international agreements that govern mutual recognition of engineering qualifications and professional competence. Those agreements span countries from Australia to Ireland.
IEEE Member Burt Dicht is director of IEEE Educational Activities’ Student and Academic Education Programs, in Piscataway, N.J.