Many higher education systems are undergoing transformations in the face of today‟s highly changing environment. One such change has to do with the establishment of external quality assurance systems. In Ethiopia, the number of private higher education institutions (HEIs) has increased significantly over the past decade. The government of Ethiopia has set up, as the main mechanism of overseeing the performance of private HEIs, an accreditation system. Higher education relevance and quality agency (HERQA) is the main agency appointed by the government to undertake the accreditation system.This study analyzes the functioning of the accreditation system in Ethiopian higher education with an emphasis on the opinions of private HEIs about the current accreditation methods and procedures. To explore this topic, the study draws on relevant literature to identify the rationality behind the set up of the Ethiopian accreditation system. Both quantitative and qualitative study approaches are used. In addition, questionnaires, document analysis and personal communication through email are used as the main data collection tools.The study shows that the Ethiopian accreditation system is more inclined to accountability rather than improvement. Moreover, the private HEIs identify delays, stringent standards, a focus on input and a general negative attitude held towards them as major weaknesses of the accreditation system. Nevertheless, the private HEIs concur that the accreditation system has to be implemented in Ethiopia to enhance the contribution of private higher education to the country‟s development goals.Key words: Accreditation, private higher education, accountability and improvement.