An Emerging View on Accountability in American Higher Education


Higher education has become the focus of increased public debate. Stewardship of public resources, student achievement or the lack thereof, relationships and “partnerships” with business and industry in the area of research, substantial increases in tuition and fees, public perception of wrong-doing in the quality of programs, and allegations of wrongdoing in financial and programmatic areas have all led to calls for greater transparency, accountability, and impartiality. At root, these issues all concern trust. This paper discusses accountability in higher education as well as the need to promote increased public trust, and focuses on the need for a balance between autonomy and accountability. It identifies the drivers for accountability at the international, national, and state levels, and offers new ways of thinking about the relationship between accountability and accreditation processes. Policymakers and educational leaders must address the accountability process in addition to nurturing the public’s trust while balancing the interactions among the responsibility of various educational actors, goals, resources, standards, and rewards/sanctions. In providing this emerging view of the issues of accountability and pubic trust in higher education, the paper is intended to serve as a catalyst for discussion as a means to advance the overall delivery of high quality higher education.

David E. Leveille
Publication date: 
May 1, 2005
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
Leveille, D. E. (2005). An Emerging View on Accountability in American Higher Education. UC Berkeley: Center for Studies in Higher Education.