Quality Assurance of Engineering Education through Accreditation: The Impact of Engineering Criteria 2000 and Its Global Influence


  • John W. Prados,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemical Engineering The University of Tennessee
    Search for more papers by this author
    • John W. Prados, Ph.D., PE, is vice president emeritus and University Professor at the University of Tennessee, where he has served for forty-eight years. A consultant for industry, government, and education, he was also senior education associate in the NSF Engineering Directorate (1994–97). His professional service includes Engineering Accreditation Commission chair (1984–85) and president (1991–92) of ABET; treasurer and director of AIChE; president and treasurer of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; Executive Council, Tau Beta Pi; Commission on Colleges and Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; and editor (1996–2001) of the Journal of Engineering Education. He is a fellow of ABET, AIChE, and ASEE and is a registered Professional Engineer in Tennessee. He received the B.S. from the University of Mississippi, and the M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, all in chemical engineering.

  • George D. Peterson,

    Corresponding author
    1. ABET, Inc.
    Search for more papers by this author
    • George D. Peterson, Ph.D., PE, is executive director of ABET, Inc. He received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University, an M.S. from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He has served as section head of Faculty and Teacher Development at the National Science Foundation, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of electrical engineering at Morgan State University, and chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the United States Naval Academy. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a fellow of ABET, a fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland and a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Colorado and Maryland.

  • Lisa R. Lattuca

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for the Study of Higher Education The Pennsylvania State University
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Lisa R. Lattuca, Ph.D., is assistant professor and research associate at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the Pennsylvania State University. She is project director and co-principal investigator (with Patrick Terenzini and J. Fredericks Volkwein) for the EC2000 Study. Dr. Lattuca's research focuses on curricula, teaching, and learning in higher education; interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge production; and the influence of academic disciplines on faculty work. She is also completing (with Dorothy Evensen) a study of NSF Planning Grants to improve engineering education. She is the author of Creating Interdisciplinarity: Interdisciplinary Research among College and University Faculty (2001), and co-author (with Joan Stark) of Shaping the College Curriculum: Academic Plans in Action (1997). In addition, she is co-editor of a forthcoming volume, Advancing Faculty Learning through Interdisciplinary Collaboration.

419 Dougherty Engineering Building, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-2200; telephone: (865) 974- 6053; fax: (865) 974–7076; e-mail: jprados@utk.edu.

400 Rackley Building, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802-3203; telephone: (814) 865–9754; fax: (814) 865–3638; e-mail: lattuca@psu.edu.

ABET, Inc., 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202; telephone: (410) 347–7700; fax: (410) 625–2238; e-mail: GPeterson@abet.org.


For more than 70 years, accreditation has provided quality control for engineering education in the United States, seeking to assure that graduates of accredited programs are prepared for professional practice. However, by the 1980s, the accreditation criteria had become increasingly prescriptive, inhibiting development of innovative programs to reflect changing needs of practice. In response, ABET (formerly Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) and its stakeholders developed revised criteria, Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000), which emphasize learning outcomes, assessment, and continuous improvement rather than detailed curricular specifications. These criteria, together with international agreements among engineering accrediting bodies, facilitate mobility of an increasingly global profession. To assess the utility of the new criteria, ABET has commissioned a multiyear study of the impact of EC2000 on U.S. engineering education. Initial results from the study are encouraging and, as more results emerge, should support continuous improvement of the accreditation process, itself.