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Higher education is one of the most successful sectors in the nation at a time when much of the economy is struggling. Its quality has been buoyed by a long tradition of investment, both public and private, and by a healthy degree of autonomy from governmental control. America’s three governance innovations, citizen governing boards, shared governance, and accreditation, also have encouraged both quality and institutional autonomy in higher education.

Accreditation has been a particularly important contributor to the institutional diversity and vitality of American colleges and universities. Most nations have a ministry of education that oversees institutions of higher education. But, such centralized control too often stifles innovation and quality. By contrast, the United States has long relied on private accreditors that use periodic peer assessments to support continuous quality improvement.

Legal accreditation at the moment is out of step with most of higher education accreditation because of arbitrary limits placed on the participation of legal educators by the Council of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. It is time for legal education to have a system of accreditation that is grounded on peer assessment, dedicated to improving, and not just assessing, the quality of legal education, and guided by the same peer governance structure that has worked so well for the rest of American higher education.

Publication Citation

96 Iowa L. Rev. 1471 (2011)