Accreditation Q&A

November 04, 2010
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What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary, systematic review of an institution by an internationally recognized independent body of post-secondary professionals to assure high standards for performance, integrity and quality and to encourage continuous improvement. For example, among other things, the NWCUU will examine SFU’s governance and administration, academic programs, fi nancial condition, admissions and student services, resources, student academic achievement and organizational effectiveness.

Why is Accreditation Important?

Accreditation conveys to the public that an institution has met the highest standards; it assures prospective students both at home and abroad that its programs and courses are of the highest quality and value.

Why is SFU Seeking Accreditation - and why in the U.S.?

SFU is seeking U.S. accreditation because Canada has no equivalent national or regional post-secondary accreditation process.

The university has several major reasons for wanting to be accredited:

  • Accreditation is a globally recognized stamp of quality assurance, one that is increasingly important to international students seeking a North American education, particularly in B.C. where recent private postsecondary school failures have caused a great deal of negative publicity abroad.
  • Accreditation will help SFU attract the very best international students.
  • Accreditation goals and outcomes match up well with SFU’s academic planning objectives and its larger strategic-planning efforts.
  • Accreditation adheres the university to a widely recognized set of best practices and a process of continuous improvement that will enhance academic quality, spark curriculum reform, increase accountability and improve institutional assessment and evaluation.
  • International accreditation will enhance the value of an SFU degree for alumni abroad.
  • Accreditation will simplify SFU relationships with U.S. institutions and agencies.

What is the NWCCU?

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is an independent, non-profi t membership organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It is the regional authority on the educational quality and institutional effectiveness of post-secondary institutions in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and now British Columbia. The commission oversees regional accreditation for 163 institutions. Its decision-making body consists of as many as 26 commissioners.

How Long Will Accreditation Take?

The full accreditation process will take between fi ve and seven years to complete. SFU is currently classifi ed as an “applicant”. Once SFU completes a self-study detailing how its policies, procedures and practices meet NWCCU prescribed standards and hosts a site visit from an evaluation committee of senior administrator and academic peers from U.S. institutions, it will receive “candidate” status. During the “candidacy” period, which typically lasts three years, SFU will need to submit annual reports to the NWCCU and host further site visits from the evaluation committee every 18 months. Thereafter, if all goes well, SFU will be “accredited”. To maintain its accreditation status SFU must complete a full reaccreditation every seven years with regular reporting and site visit evaluations.

How Much Will it Cost?

Based on the NWCCU’s current figures, SFU’s annual dues would be U.S. $13,600 once it is accredited. Until it becomes accredited, SFU will pay U.S. $22,000 annually, plus costs associated with evaluation committee site visits, self-study preparation and project management. The university will use Fraser International College revenues to pay for all costs incurred to obtain accreditation.

Where Can I Learn More?

  • Accreditation at SFU: www.sfu.ca/vpacademic/Academic_Planning/ Accreditation/
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accreditation standards: www.nwccu.org/Standards%20Review/Pages/RevisedStandards.htm
  • An example of a recent self-study report: University of Alaska Anchorage
    www.uaa.alaska.edu/accreditation/
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