Background: : In order to improve the quality of education in universities of medical sciences (UMS), and because of the key role of education development centers (EDCs), an accreditation scheme was developed to evaluate their performance.
Method: A group of experts in the medical education field was selected based on pre-defined criteria by EDC of Ministry of Health and Medical education. The team, worked intensively for 6 months to develop a list of essential standards to assess the performance of EDCs. Having checked for the content validity of standards, clear and measurable indicators were created via consensus. Then, required information were collected from UMS EDCs; the first round of accreditation was carried out just to check the acceptability of this scheme, and make force universities to prepare themselves for the next factual round of accreditation.
Results: Five standards domains were developed as the conceptual framework for defining main categories of indicators. This included: governing and leadership, educational planning, faculty development, assessment and examination and research in education. Nearly all of UMS filled all required data forms precisely with minimum confusion which shows the practicality of this accreditation scheme.
Conclusion: It seems that the UMS have enough interest to provide required information for this accreditation scheme. However, in order to receive promising results, most of universities have to work intensively in order to prepare minimum levels in all required standards. However, it seems that in long term, implementation of a valid accreditation scheme plays an important role in improvement of the quality of medical education around the country.
Keywords: Accreditation, Education, Medical science, Quality improvement, Education development center
Capable staffand an efficient system are essential requirements in order to provide an acceptable level of health services in a community. Therefore, there are special quality assurance schemes in place to assess the excellence of education in medical sciences fields in most of developed countries. For such an assessment, accreditation is a highquality evaluation scheme (1).
According to the definition introduced by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) in USA, accreditation is a process based on self and elite's assessment for guaranteeing and improving the quality and responsibility of an institute or university course. In such a process, it can be specified whether the studied institute or program is based on standards issued by the CHEA and whether their performances fulfills the specified goals of the CHEA or not (2).
Thus, one of the most important advantages of accreditation is to ensure the government, society, learners, and the executive authorities of educational institutes about education quality and the quality of learners through guaranteeing the quality of the under-assessment unit. However, it should be considered that the value of accreditation is not limited to investigations and supervisions, but experiences of accreditation systems rather show that the activities of such systems will lead to establishment and reinforcement of internal assessment processes in educational institutes. In fact, internal and external assessment inside an accreditation structure can help such structures to make best use of the benefits of the both methods (3, 4).
EDCs were established in universities of medical sciences in Iran in the late 90s; their main aim has been to improve the education quality (5). The tasks for these centers, classified in five main fields: 1) educational planning 2) teacher training 3) research in education, 4) standardization of exams and teaching assessments, and 5) continuous medical education (6). However, by extension of the education fields in clinical and non-clinical fields, the tasks of EDC especially in recent years has been widening, which are as follows (7):