Anglo-American University gains US accreditation

Transferring credits and going to grad school will be much easier

Anglo-American University, located in Prague, has added another achievement to its list. It is now accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a US-based academic body that oversees academic standards in schools. It is one of six regional programs in the United States. Anglo-American University also continues to be accredited in the Czech Republic by the Czech Ministry of Education.

The accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission benefits students seeking graduate and post-graduate studies by making an AAU degree more transferable or recognizable internationally. Future employers can also see that the diploma is from an accredited school meeting high standards.

The new accreditation does not just benefit AAU's American students, but its students from anywhere who are interested in further education. All students who graduate from AAU will have an easier time applying to US universities because the AAU degree will be automatically recognized, just as if it had come from an accredited school in the US.

“WASC facilitates everything enormously,” Milada Polišenská, the provost of AAU said. In the past, transferring credits varied from school to school. “Now it will be much easier.” Students when they start at AAU will no longer have to worry about having to repeat some courses if they change schools or enter grad school. “It was always up to the individual decision of the school. Now with WASC accreditation it is as if you are coming from an American school,” Polišenská said.

Katarína Stehlíková, vice president and accreditation liaison officer at AAU, said getting a US-based accreditation made sense due to the student demographics. Enrollment in the school varies but is generally 25 to 35 percent Americans, 20 to 25 percent Czechs and Slovaks, 20 percent from the former Soviet bloc and then the rest of the world. “We have 70 different nationalities so really you can meet students from anywhere,” Stehlíková said.

AAU looked at several US-based accreditation programs but decided on WASC in part because AAU already had cooperation with California-based Chapman University for its MBA program. “We considered something closer because California is far away, but there was already this link [to Chapman] and WASC is also one of the more progressive educational accreditors,” Stehlíková said

Gaining the accreditation took more than six years. AAU first became interested in 2009 and sent in an application for eligibility in 2011, becoming the first international school without any formal connection to the United States to seek accreditation from WASC. Until then, WASC had focused on California, Hawaii and US territories in the Pacific.

In 2012 AAU was granted eligibility and started the process for accreditation. The school hosted two visits from groups representing WASC and achieved candidacy status in 2015. After a third visit this year AAU received the initial accreditation.

The school had to make some adjustments to procedures and make some minor changes to earn the accreditation. Classroom size was already satisfactory, as the school stresses small classrooms. The WASC did require an internal research function be added to track and analyze data on student enrollment, progress and graduation. Polišenská and Stehlíková agreed that the new function has already been a benefit to the school.

There were no real conflicts in keeping the Czech accreditation and adding the one from WASC. “It was not really an issue. They were complementing each other,” Stehlíková said.

AAU does not plan at this time to seek further accreditation for the entire school. “This would make no sense,” Stehlíková said. The accreditation from the Czech Ministry of Education means that AAU degrees are recognized within the EU, and the WASC accreditation shows that the degree meets American educational standards, which are recognized worldwide as the highest, Stehlíková said. The school is now looking at some specific and specialized accreditation for individual programs such as business.

The WASC accreditation will need to be renewed after six years, and the school will send annual reports to WASC and host another visit to ensure that standards don't drop in the meantime.

AAU was founded in 1990 and is the oldest private institution of higher education in the Czech Republic. It moved to a larger campus at the restored Thurn-Taxis Palace in Malá Strana in 2015 as it had outgrown its previous location.

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