Samford University President Thomas E. Corts is one of 21 American educators named to participate in the Syrian-U.S. Partnerships in Higher Education Conference May 15-16 in Damascus, Syria.
Dr. Corts will travel to the Middle East as part of the Consortium for Global Education. Members of the group will meet with Syrian government and education officials for discussions of various aspects of higher education.
Corts will speak on accreditation in American universities. He is former president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regional accrediting agency.
"The Government of Syria has just opened the door to the possibility of private universities," Corts said. "Heretofore, all universities in Syria were government-sponsored. This initiative has given rise to concern about how higher education is done in other parts of the world."
No accreditation system has been necessary previously because whatever the government funded was approved, Corts noted.
"Now, they are concerned that private universities meet some standards, and they are willing for public institutions to do likewise" he said.
Corts will discuss how accreditation works in the U.S., "where government has no direct role, but only an indirect role by approving the accrediting agencies but not individual institutions," he said.
The feeling is that "this is a significant way in which politics are kept out of the accreditation process," he added.
The group of American educators represents a cross-section of private and public universities.