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ABET vs. CEAB accreditation

Accreditation signifies that programs have undergone a process of peer-review and were determined to meet or exceed established benchmark of quality. While the process is voluntary, ABET and CEAB accreditation are a necessity for engineering and technology programs across Canada and the United States to remain competitive, attract the brightest students, and ensure strong employability rates.

Founded in 1932, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) is a not-for-profit body which accredits associate, bachelor, and master degree programs in the applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology in the United States. While 81% of its accredited program institutions are located within the United States the ABET provides accreditation services to programs in 30 countries across the world, with the exclusion of Canada.

Programs applying for ABET accreditation are evaluated by one of the body’s four commissions based upon their academic discipline:

  • Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC)
  • Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC)
  • Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
  • Engineering Technology Accredited Commission (ETAC)

The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) was established in 1965 as a subcommittee of Engineers Canada to review and provide quality assurance of undergraduate engineering programs within Canada. Engineers Canada is a non-governmental organization supporting Canada’s 12 provincial and territorial engineering bodies which serve to regulate the profession and licence its 280,000 members. Programs eligible for CEAB accreditation must be in Canada, delivered at the undergraduate level, and include the word “engineering” in their title. While the CEAB does not accredit international programs, it has established equivalency terms with engineering programs in 18 countries across the world.

While the recognition of peer-review is valuable, the important reasons programs seek ABET and CEAB accreditation is so their alumni are able to legally practise. All Canadian engineers must hold a CEAB-accredited or recognized degree in order to apply for licensure and to practise anywhere in Canada. The vast majority of the United States also requires ABET-accredited degrees from prospective practising professionals in engineering and technology.

Academic programs applying for accreditation are evaluated by an external team composed of members from the private, public, and academic sectors. The ABET and CEAB share a similar accreditation process:

Program Requests Evaluation Due by January 31 Due by January 1
Self-Evaluation Program completes an internal evaluation and self-study report to send to the ABET commission before their visit Program completes a questionnaire and sends requested documentation to CEAB before their visit
On-Campus Evaluation ABET commission visits campus for three to four days to:
  • Interview students, faculty, and administration
  • Review course materials, student work, and sample assignments
  • Meet with institution’s CEO, program dean, and other relevant personnel
CEAB team visits campus for three days to:
  • Interview students, faculty, administration
  • Review recent examination papers, laboratory instruction sheets, students transcripts and reports
  • Meet with program dean and department chairs
Review External Report Program has 30 days to respond to issues identified in draft statement report prepared by the ABET commission based upon their evaluation of documentation and campus visit CEAB team provides the academic program with a report based upon their evaluation of documentation and campus visit. Program may address any issues highlighted by CEAP by advising on the steps for improvement that will be implemented during the current academic year.
Notification of Decision Decision made in August. Accreditation is granted for a term of up to six years Decision usually made in June. Accreditation is granted for a term of up to six years

ABET or CEAB accreditation processes require a significant level of coordination and planning within academic programs. The collection and documentation of years’ worth of assessments, course materials, and student transcripts often poses the largest logistical challenge. In order to alleviate the stress during accreditation review, an increasing number of institutions are using digital educational technologies which serve to organize and store digital artefacts and records of student assessments and documents on a regular basis.

While pursuing accreditation is technically a voluntary process, in reality it is mandatory for academic engineering and technology programs across Canada and the United States

ABET and CEAB applications and renewals may be resource and labour intensive tasks; however, engaging in good record keeping through digital technology and maintaining proactive communication with students and faculty make the processes much more manageable.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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