CNA - Consejo Nacional de Acreditación de Colombia

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Country: Colombia
Name in English: CNA - National Accreditation Council
National name: CNA - Consejo Nacional de Acreditación de Colombia

Agency's position within the national higher education system

Over the last 10 years, Colombian Higher Education has increased its coverage significantly. The expansion of the offer of higher education required to develop strong strategies to ensure the quality of the offered programs. For that reason, a System of Quality Assurance for the Higher Education was implemented; in which assurance is understood as the set of actions oriented to promote, manage and permanently improve the quality of the institutions and programs of higher education and their impact on the students learning.

The Assurance System of Quality of the Higher Education consists of three interrelated components: information, assessment and promotion. The assessment component has two levels:

  1. Qualified Registry: Is the instrument of the Assurance System of Quality of the Higher Education through which the State verifies the mandatory fulfillment of the basic conditions of quality for the operation of academic programs by institutions of higher education. CONACES is in charge of this.
  2. Accreditation of High Quality: Act by which the State adopts and makes public the recognition that the academic peers make, of the verification carried out by an institution, about the quality of its academic programs, its organization and operation and the accomplishment of its social function. It is voluntary as established by the Law 30, 1992 through which the public service of Higher Education is organized, and its process is responsibility of the National Accreditation Council.

Description of the agency

The CNA is an advisory board of the quality policy and executor of the high quality accreditation processes for both academic programs(undergraduate and postgraduate) and higher education institutions. It is part of the structure of the Colombian Educative System, which follows the educational policies defined by the Ministry of National Education and the National Council of Higher Education (CESU).

The history of the agency

The National Accreditation System was created by the Law 30 of 1992 (Article 53), which organizes the Higher Education in Colombia, in order to guarantee to the society that the accredited academic programs and institutions of higher education offer the public service of education within high quality standards. The National Accreditation Council, CNA, was also created by the same Law 30 of Higher Education year 1992, (Article 53), with the main task of implementing the System.

  • 1992:
    • Law 30 of 1992.
  • 1994:
    • Ordinance 2904 of 1994.
  • 1995:
    • Agreement # 04 of 1995.
  • 1996:
    • Programmes Accreditation Guidelines
  • 1998
    • First accreditation given: “Medicina de la Universidad CES”
  • 2001
    • Institutional accreditation guidelines
  • 2003
    • First Institutional Accreditation: Universidad Javeriana – Bogotá.
  • 2004
    • RIACES full member
    • Beginning of regional accreditation experiences within MERCOSUR and RIACES frameworks.
  • 2006
    • Postgraduate accreditation guidelines
  • 2010
    • Kick off of Inqaahe´s external review process.
  • 2012
    • Certificate of alignment with INQAAHE´s good practice of accreditation.
    • ECA´s external review
  • 2013

Legal framework

In addition to the established in the Law 30, 1992, there are other basic administrative acts that have been issued to regulate the operation and organization of the accreditation process, which can be found on the [CNA’s website]


The accreditation criteria are applied with complete independence from interest or pressures in relation to the government, the institutions of higher education and other social actors. The independence of the CNA and its peers regarding politic, institutional or corporate influences has been a central element of its credibility. The decision made to recommend or not the accreditation is taken in a consensus way by the Council in plenary session without the participation of other organisms or actors having as unique reference the inputs of the process and the social and academic responsibility pertaining to the Council.

In terms of funding, CNA budget is managed by The Ministry of National Education but its construction is made independently of any kind of pressure. Budget expending is regulated by control entities.


The accreditation process in Colombia is free of charge. The Colombian Government provides resources to the Ministry of National Education which administrates both, accreditation and quality enhancement resources.

The allocation of the annual budget is made by the Ministry of National Education, in a consensus way among the CNA, the Vice Minister of Higher Education and its staff. For this, the CNA prepares an initial proposal taking into account the priorities, needs and goals established in the Strategic Plan of the Council. Normally, the proposal is accepted by the Ministry.

Quality assurance procedures

Main procedures

  • Accreditation of Undergraduate Programs in all levels of the educational level: Technical-professional, technological, professional on campus as well as distance.
  • Accreditation of Graduate Programs: Master Programs, Medical-Surgical Specialization Programs and Doctorate Programs.
  • Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions.
  • Reaccreditation of academic programs and institutions of Higher Education.

Description of procedures

Procedure of programme / institutional accreditation / assessment / audit.

  • Initial Conditions: The formal process of the CNA begins with the expression of interest by the institutions, which must be manifested at present time, through a written document by the President or legal representative of the institution. The programs that voluntarily submit themselves to the accreditation process for the first time must send to the CNA the documentation established in the CNA 01 Procedure Guide – “Review of Initial Conditions” - Second Edition 2006, (“Apreciación de Condiciones Iniciales” - Segunda Edición 2006), for its corresponding analysis. Requirements to become part of the National Accreditation System. Afterwards, a visit is scheduled according to the tasks of the CNA which are to guide the institutions in their self-assessment processes; this visit has as a goal to make the institutions aware about whether or not they have the conditions to advance successfully with the accreditation process. The visits of review of the initial conditions are carried out by a selected commission of the National Accreditation Council (CNA), prior study of the documentation sent by the institution. Additionally to the formal request and previous steps, the CNA’s accreditation model has a mandatory self-assessment stage under the responsibility of the institution or academic program, the External Evaluation or the Peers’ Evaluation, organized by the National Accreditation Council with the support of the Technical Secretariat and the Final Evaluation responsibility of the Councils in Plenary Session.
  • Self-Assessment and Self-Assessment Report of the Program or Higher Education Institution: The self-assessment with accreditation purposes is the internal process made by an institution according to the guidelines defined by the CNA. It is expected that this process serves, not only for accreditation, but mainly for the formulation and development of actions to improve the quality of the academic programs, and that the report produced from this, becomes a responsible and critical work of the corresponding academic community. The evaluation methodology of the accreditation model of the CNA is conformed by a set of Factors, Characteristics and Indicators that serve as an analytical tool in the valuation of the different elements involved in the comprehensive quality review of an institution or of its program and that are described in numeral 4.6.
  • External Evaluation: It is carried out by the academic peers of renowned trajectory in the educational field, designated by the CNA. Its task focuses on the identification of the coherence among what the self-assessment report presents and what actually is found in the institution. The peers emit their quality judgments based on the obtained information and even in those areas that were not considered in the self-assessment and are equally relevant for the institution’s quality and programs in a specific area. As a result of the external evaluation the peers present a report to the National Accreditation Council.
  • Comments from the President to the Peers’ Report: Once reviewed the internal consistency of the external evaluation report by a Council of the CNA, the report is submitted to the institution seeking the accreditation, in order to be known by the President and for him/her to give its comments regarding the report.
  • Final Evaluation or Concept of the CNA: It consists of the technical and academic concept issued by the CNA, based on the self-assessment program; in the report given by the team of peers; and in the institution’s reaction to the report. This technical concept includes, when appropriate, a recommendation about the validity of the accreditation (neither less than 4 years nor more than 10), and it is transferred to the Minister of National Education for the issuance of the accreditation act. If the concept is not favorable, the next procedure is to communicate, in a confidentiality mode, to the institution the pertinent recommendations with the intention of presenting the program again in a term no lower than two years.
  • Accreditation Regulation of the Program or Institution: It is the administrative act issued by the Minister of National Education when the accreditation has been granted.
  • Continuous Improvement Process: As a result of the self-assessment process, the institution establishes an improvement plan, which is feedback with the recommendations and suggestions given by the National Accreditation Council once this process is over in the Council.

Validity of the decision(s)

Undergraduate, postgraduate and HEI´s are accredited for a period of 4, 6, 8 or 10 years depending on its quality level regarding the self- assessment, peers visit and board judgment. In case the accreditation is not given, the program or institution can apply for a new evaluation two years after the previous decision has been made.

Publication policy

When an accreditation is given, the “resolución” (formal document) is posted in the Agency´s website. In case an accreditation is not given, a private document is send to the IES president, including recommendations which the programme or HEI should take into account when coming back for an evaluation.

(Legal) appeal system

The CNA has elaborated clear processes and procedures to develop the accreditation and hence, counts with defined and encoded formats in the Integrated Management System of the Ministry of National Education that ease internally as well as externally the processes of accreditation. Among them is approved and established the process “Issue and reconsider the CNA concept” (“Emitir y reconsiderar concepto CNA”) that allows the IES to request to the Council the review of the decisions about not granting the accreditation of a program or institution, or to appeal reconsideration against the Regulation issued by the Ministry of Education based on the technical concept of the CNA.

To handle reconsideration cases of the decisions are contemplated two situations:

  1. When the program or the institution requests a reconsideration of the decision of not granting the accreditation, this means those cases in which the Council provides only confidential recommendations.
  2. When the Institution files a motion to set aside to the administrative act issued by the Ministry of National Education granting the accreditation.

In the first case, the request must be presented to the CNA coordinator through a written paper properly filed in which the reasons for it are given. The IES must attach the supports or complementary documentation if it is necessary.

It the second case, the procedure must be filed to the Ministry of National Education according to the terms legally contemplated in the corresponding law. This request is redirected by the Ministry of National Education to the CNA who has the responsibility of: analyzing it again in a session and establishing by consensus the next procedure, in which may be chosen the immediate ratification of the previous decision or make another complementary visit; for the request of additional information to the institution; for the summon of the committee of peers to the next Council session; among other strategies depending on the particular situation. According to the agreed option, is continued the activity of the corresponding process which is to issue and reconsider the CNA concept. All the reconsideration cases are included by the Technical Secretariat of the CNA on the agenda for analysis in plenary session of the Council prior to the appointment of the case to a Council different from the one who made the initial study, which acts as a speaker. The decisions about the result of the analysis are contained and supported in the minute of each session.

Figures on Quality Assurance / Accreditation Procedures

Data until 31 December 2013

  • 754 - Undergraduate
  • 42 - Postgraduate
  • 28 - HEI´s

International activities

Member of international quality assurance networks / organisations

External reviews, compliance with ESG

Accreditation procedures in another jurisdiction

The CNA has evaluated programmes in Peru.

Agreements concerning the mutual recognition of accreditation

In 2013, the CNA signed the Multilateral Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of Accreditation Results regarding Joint Programmes (MULTRA).