Accreditation Process

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation, founded in 1970, is an international non-profit organization that accredits postsecondary interior design education programs in the United States and Canada. The voluntary accreditation process uses internationally recognized educational standards to review programs.

As detailed in the Accreditation Policy and Procedure, the accreditation process involves the following primary steps:

  1. Request for Review
  2. Determining Program Readiness
  3. Preparing the Program Analysis Report (PAR)
  4. Site Visit
  5. Visiting Team Report
  6. Accreditation Decision

A program seeking re-accreditation is not required to submit an application form or fee. Otherwise, the program prepares for a re-accreditation visit as it would for an initial accreditation visit. CIDA’s accreditation process is intended to facilitate continual program development. Therefore, a program should review its previous Accreditation Report when preparing for a re-accreditation visit to assess its progress since the last site visit.

Steps In the Accreditation Process

1. Request for Review

CIDA will review an educational program only upon invitation by the institution granting the culminating degree. The initial request that CIDA conduct an accreditation review must come from the chief executive officer of the institution or an institutional administrator authorized to act on behalf of the chief executive officer. Formal application may be made according to the program’s schedule for seeking accreditation; however, application materials must be submitted a year or more prior to an intended site visit date.

2. Determining Program Readiness

Success in seeking accreditation is dependent on the program’s ability to demonstrate achievement of CIDA standards. For this reason, programs are encouraged to undertake a thorough self-study, in which the program examines itself in relation both CIDA standards and to its own educational goals. Upon completion of the self-study, the program emerges with a view of its own strengths as well as gaps in its educational program and actions necessary to fill those gaps. The self-study process may also help frame a strategy for future program improvements.

CIDA provides Guidance for Self-study (section III of the Accreditation Policy and Procedure) to assist programs in organizing self-study efforts, and periodically conducts workshops to assist programs interested in seeking accreditation.

3. Preparing the Program Analysis Report (PAR)

Interior design programs seeking accreditation must complete the Program Analysis Report (PAR), the self-study evaluation form that communicates to CIDA the results of the program’s internal analysis of its strengths and any gaps in education it might have identified in relation to meeting CIDA standards. The PAR provides background and context for reviewing the program and serves as a “roadmap” for CIDA’s site visit team, especially in reviewing student work. It contains background and context for understanding the environment in which the program operates and any unique relationships that might have an impact on the program.

4. Site Visit

CIDA requires a three-day on-site review by a visiting team to determine whether a program meets its standards for interior design education. A significant element in this peer review process is evaluating student work to determine achievement levels as a indicator of the adequacy of the required curriculum. Student learning is a primary gauge of educational quality, and so is evaluated for demonstration of knowledge, understanding, ability, skills, appropriate application, and competency.

Additional factors considered by the visiting team include: academic and professional qualifications of the faculty in relation to the purposes and objectives of the program; adequacy of the facilities for the educational program; administrative structure of the program and its relationship to the institution as a whole; and program assessment methods and the program’s continued development and improvement as a result of assessment.

A program is evaluated based on what is in place at the time of the site visit. New evidence, intended to demonstrate compliance with CIDA standards, is not considered after the site visit.

The visiting team consists of three members (at least one educator and one practitioner).

5. Visiting Team Report

The visiting team drafts the Visiting Team Report (VTR) before the visit is concluded. Once it is submitted to CIDA, two primary reviewers from the Accreditation Commission along with accreditation staff work with the visiting team to finalize the report. CIDA submits the VTR to the interior design program coordinator for review to check for technical and content accuracy. Content concerns are forwarded to the visiting team, and the team may make changes or write a response based on program concerns. It is the right of the program seeking accreditation to review CIDA’s Visiting Team Report for accuracy. The program coordinator must acknowledge receipt of the VTR in writing. If the program finds any misrepresentations in the report or any errors of fact, the coordinator must submit a written response, or rebuttal, to the CIDA office. The program response will be appended to the VTR and circulated to all readers of the report.

6. Accreditation Decision

The VTR is then reviewed by a group of peer CIDA site visitors who comment on the accreditation status proposed by the visiting team in relation to the findings presented in the report. The PAR, VTR, the program response, team comments regarding program concerns (if any), and feedback from the site visitor reader group are considered by the Accreditation Commission. Based on this information, the Accreditation Commission makes a final decision on accreditation status for the program. Decisions regarding accreditation status must be unanimous and require a quorum of five members. The Accreditation Commission may, at its discretion, elaborate on or clarify evaluative comments contained in the VTR. The final report resulting from the Accreditation Commission’s action is based on the VTR and is the Accreditation Report.

The Accreditation Commission meets a minimum of twice a year for the purpose of reviewing programs for accreditation. If the Accreditation Commission determines the program is in compliance with its standards, the program is awarded accreditation for six years.

The Accreditation Report may identify areas that require further development or are of concern. All accredited programs must submit a written Progress Report on areas identified as having deficiencies three years from the time of the accreditation decision. The Accreditation Commission may also require an interim on-site review as a condition of accredited status in order to monitor the program’s progress toward improving weaknesses identified at the time of the last accreditation review and the program’s continued compliance with standards. An interim visit is required in addition to a Progress Report if areas for improvement identified from the last accreditation review require on-site evaluation to ensure that the quality of the educational program is being sustained and is not jeopardized by further decline.

A program that is determined not to be in compliance with Council for Interior Design Accreditation standards will be denied accreditation. In this case, the Accreditation Commission has identified major weaknesses with respect to important aspects of the educational program, which are identified in the Accreditation Report.