Regulating Higher Education through Accreditation: The Chilean Case

41 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2014

Date Written: February 18, 2014


This article comprehensively examines the Chilean system of accreditation of higher education institutions. The analysis begins with the liberal policies introduced by the military government that effectively promoted the market that accreditation came to regulate. This article then describes the debate surrounding accreditation and the compromises and innovations that the accreditation process suffered in the name of consensus. After a review of the background and history of its normative framework, the article assesses how accreditation has been applied and exposes some of its weaknesses, linking them to the regulations that accreditation had to overcome, the dynamics of market and the system’s own design flaws. Regarding the latter, it argues that the incentives chosen to induce institutions to seek accreditation, accreditation’s grading system, and the public body entrusted with the overview of the system conflated to displace quality assurance in favor of maintaining or increasing the access of disadvantaged students to higher education. This was evidenced by the existence of sham accreditations in which policy considerations regarding disadvantaged groups weighted more than the quality of underperforming institutions. In view of this and other failures, this article ends by advancing some proposals for reform that could help situate accreditation as a process for assuring and enhancing quality, without losing its regulatory impetus and its concerns regarding the use of public funds.

Keywords: Chile, Higher Education, Universities, Accreditation, Accreditation of Higher Education, Student Financing, Comisision Nacional de Acreditación, Crédito con Aval del Estado

JEL Classification: H52, I20, I22, I28, I29

Suggested Citation

Barroilhet, Agustin, Regulating Higher Education through Accreditation: The Chilean Case (February 18, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Agustin Barroilhet (Contact Author)

University of Chile Law School ( email )

Pio Nono 01
Providencia, Santiago
Chile, Santiago

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