Accreditation: Year-one report
Rich Chambers cut his teeth on SFU’s accreditation process in August, helping write and submit the University’s Year One Self Evaluation Report to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), which accepted SFU’s candidacy in January 2012.
And he says the experience has convinced him that while SFU may be the first major Canadian research university to be accredited in the U.S., it won’t be the last.
“Without a national accreditation system in Canada, it seems like the smart thing to do,” says Chambers, who joined the VP, Academic’s office in April as accreditation and special projects officer. “Other big schools could easily follow our lead.”
SFU’s candidacy, which it applied for in 2009, resulted from an extensive self-study submitted in August 2011, a commission site visit in October 2011, and a presentation to the NWCCU’s board by President Andrew Petter and VP, Academic Jon Driver.
SFU’s candidacy period could last up to five years, entailing annual reports with the commission and two further self-evaluation reports and site visits in 2014 and 2016.
The Year One report recaps a number of institutional changes since the NWCCU site visit.
It responds to commission recommendations that SFU adopt a clearly stated mission, implement learning outcomes and assessment (LOA) across the institution, present general education requirements to students and address deferred maintenance needs.
SFU’s new mission—to be the leading engaged university—fulfills the first recommendation, and a university LOA plan will meet the second, says Chambers.
“As for a general education program model, we made the case that Canada doesn’t have the same setup as the U.S., but our WQBs—writing, quantitative and breadth requirements, fulfill roughly the same purpose.
“And we highlighted the renovated Chemistry building and other examples to demonstrate we’re dealing with the maintenance issue.”
Aside from improving internal accountability, and fostering and supporting best practices, Chambers says SFU accreditation will serve as an international recruitment incentive.
Says Chambers, “International students and potential students regularly ask us, ‘Who accredits your university?’
“Accreditation with NWCCU will answer those questions and help us attract the best students from the U.S. and other countries."