International quality assurance for psychology education and training

APA's role in international quality assurance: APA as a learning partner

Executive summary

In response to international trends in the development of psychology, the development of quality assurance mechanisms for education generally, and increased calls for reciprocity in recognition of education and training across country borders, the APA council of representatives approved a Task Force to advise APA on international issues in quality assurance and on possible roles that APA might play in this arena. The charge of the Task Force was as follows:

The BEA/CIRP Task Force on APA’s Role in International Quality Assurance shall survey existent quality assurance mechanisms in place internationally. It shall consider the range of roles that an organization like APA might play in the development or implementation of mechanisms for quality assurance in the international arena (these roles may range from serving as a catalyst for the development of a global, umbrella quality assurance program with representation from many countries, to developing international standards, to providing consultation or training to national associations developing quality assurance programs, to providing certification of education and training programs at different levels of education and training).

The Task Force shall develop a report to advise APA on: 

  • Whether APA should play a role in international quality assurance procedures / agreements / policies at different levels of educational attainment and areas of psychology. 

  • If yes, describe the possible roles, and discuss the merits and issues related to each role for the specific level of education and areas of psychology.

The Task Force met in December 2007 to review the status of quality assurance internationally and to develop a framework for APA actions in this arena The Task Force acknowledged the diversity in the scope of psychology and in psychology education and training world wide, and affirmed a set of operating principles to position APA as a “learning partner” that works in an inter-organizational context to seek opportunities for mutual learning and mutual capacity building in sustained collaborations that respect cultural differences and local histories, and that are focused sustained, stable collaborations that promote quality assurance processes, not products or outcomes.

The Task Force report provides an overview of the status of quality assurance in the United States and internationally, discusses international issues in quality assurance in general, and for professional psychology in particular, and outlines several models for quality assurance that are currently in place around the world. The report reviews international trends in higher education and in the discipline, including changes in psychology’s scope, demographics, internationalization and technological infrastructure. In addition, the report discusses the opportunities for APA engagement in quality assurance activities worldwide, as well as the challenges in doing so.

The Task Force considered a variety of possibilities for APA action in the quality assurance arena and suggested that APA serve in learning collaboration with others as a source of information and expertise; as a convenor; and as an agent of capacity building. The Task Force recommended that APA refrain from serving as an international accreditor, although it did recommend that APA work with others toward developing a multicultural framework for quality assurance in psychology.

The Task Force recommended a set of 8 broad initiatives for moving forward in compiling and disseminating information and developing opportunities for discourse and cross-nation collaboration on quality assurance. The recommendations were as follows:

  1. APA should develop activities focused on fostering knowledge among its members on international issues in quality assurance. One vehicle for this would be development of materials on US education and training, materials on systems elsewhere, and materials on international issues. 

  2. APA should develop informational resources on psychology education and training in the US, including model curricula, model assessment procedures, standards and guidelines, and model quality assurance procedures in place in the US for use by others as examples in the development of their own systems for quality assurance of psychology education and training.

  3. APA could work with partner organizations at the international level (such as the International Union of Psychological Science, IUPsyS, the International Association of Applied Psychology, IAAP, the International Association of Cross Cultural Psychology;) and regional level (such as the European Federation of Psychology Associations, EFPA; InterAmerican Society of Psychology, SIP; Asian Union of Psychological Societies, ARUPS) to develop a collaborative role in discussing mechanisms that may lead to international quality assurance.

  4. APA should develop mechanisms to provide expertise on quality assurance, when invited to do so, in consulting and collaborative roles. This expertise might include developing opportunities for demonstration projects on the development of quality assurance programs through fellow national psychology organizations.

  5. APA should collaborate with others on creating opportunities for the development of psychology leadership in quality assurance worldwide through establishment of a Psychology Leadership Academy for colleagues internationally.

  6. APA should work toward and participate in international opportunities to develop competency-based quality assurance models.

  7. APA should continue ongoing activities in internationalizing the US psychology curriculum.

  8. APA should develop mechanisms to stay informed of current trends on higher education and quality assurance around the world.

The Task Force developed a resolution to articulate a broad framework for APA’s actions in international quality assurances issues. The policy (presented to the APA Council for adoption in February 2009) is as follows: 

Resolution on APA's role in international quality assurance

Quality assurance in international education and training: APA as a learning partner

Based upon the considerations outlined in the Report of the BEA/CIRP Task Force on APA’s Role in International Quality Assurance: APA as a Learning Partner, (PDF, 268 KB) BEA and CIRP recommend that APA adopt as its policy an approach articulated in that report to engage internationally in a spirit of sustained learning and collaboration, and to promote the development of international discussions to set the framework for policy on quality assurance in psychology education and training. Thus, in all international endeavors regarding quality assurance, APA and its representative members should strive to:

  1. Develop a consistent and trusted presence in the international arena;

  2. Share knowledge and expertise of quality assurance mechanisms when and where it is invited and learn from those examples as they exist elsewhere;

  3. Where invited, collaborate with local colleagues in other countries to share information and expertise; and

  4. Seek to work as a learning partner in the development of a framework for international policy for psychology education and training.

Whereas psychology as a discipline in the United States has a formal system of quality assurance in professional psychology in its accreditation and licensure standards,

Whereas international colleagues in countries that may not have formal systems of quality assurance for psychology education and training have expressed an interest and desire to develop such systems,

Whereas APA desires to learn from others,

Whereas APA desires to serve as a useful source of information about its own systems,

Whereas international discussions of quality assurance may inform future directions in mobility across national boundaries,


APA will not engage in quality assurance reviews of psychology education and training programs at the international level.

In international education and training arenas APA will strive to be:

1. A source of information and expertise to work and learn with and from others in the international arena

2. A collaborator in convening with others around shared goals for policy in quality assurance for psychology

3. An agent of capacity building about quality assurance in education and training internationally among its own members and with other psychologists around the world

4. A collaborating organization in developing policies to promote international mechanisms for review of professional credentials.

And APA will strive to:

5. Use the knowledge gained from collaborations with others to evaluate, enhance and refine its own efforts in this area.