AUPRICA – Asociación de Universities Privadas de Centro América
AUPRICA (the Association of Central American Private Universities), was established in 1990. It is AUPRICA’s mission to set up a trustworthy system of accrediting private academic institutions of higher education in the Central America region. AUPRICA was founded as a response to the increasing number of private colleges and universities that operate in the region and today, there is increased awareness of the need for monitoring quality educational and safety standards in higher education all across the globe.
AUPRICA has developed a reliable accreditation method, the Central American University Accreditation System (Sistema Centroamericano de Acreditación Universitaria), in cooperation with and supported by the Council of Independent Colleges, a U.S. based organization committed to improving the commitment to society of institutions of higher education. AUPRICA is only accrediting colleges and universities that are members of the organization that are basically found in Honduras and El Salvador and Honduras. The universities and colleges assessed and accredited by AUPRICA are typically not as big as the national universities in Central America and are therefore recognized differently. Today, more than 20 universities hold AUPRICA accreditation and these school are located in Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
AUPRICA’s Organizational Structure
AUPRICA has no permanent headquarters and is governed by a board of directors that rotates. AUPRICA’s accreditation commission is not permanent and comprises of members in accordance with evaluation procedures and schedules. The accreditation commission consists of five members that are academic specialists with institutional and international evaluation and accreditation experience. Each of the four AUPRICA member countries provides one commission member and there is one coordinator. AUPRICA’s member institutions appoint additionally external evaluation teams.
If schools want to become accredited AUPRICA members, they need to go through the organization’s accreditation process. AUPRICA will assign an accreditation commission that initially helps the school with setting up an internal evaluation process that is in line with official guidelines. After the internal evaluation, the accreditation commission will appoint external evaluators that come from member institutions in different countries to visit and evaluate the institution and produce an assessment. This assessment is a validation of all assertions found in the initial internal evaluation. The general assembly of AUPRICA members, together with the accreditation commission, will review both the internal and the external evaluations reports and decide on the requested accreditation.
The number of private colleges and universities in Central America is growing exponentially and the need for monitoring quality standards in academic institutions is more and more a pressing issue. There is not enough student capacity at the majority of Central American nations’ academic institutions and private institutions are increasingly accommodating post-secondary students. The extent to which these private colleges and universities are accountable for education quality and to their students, however, has been often questioned by numerous government officials and other observers. AUPRICA is an organization that wants to change this perception and offers private colleges and universities the opportunity to have their programs validated by becoming members and subsequently apply for accreditation. Unfortunately, most academic institutions in the region are lacking the proper resources for pursuing such a venture.