Accreditation Questions and Answers

Answers to commonly asked questions about institutional accreditation have been provided below.  This information will be updated as the need arises.

What are the benefits of institutional accreditation with the NWCCU?

How was it decided to seek accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)?

Will being accredited by the NWCCU affect the academic freedom that is currently enjoyed at SFU?

What are the financial costs involved in being accredited with the NWCCU?

What kind of extra workload will be placed on the Faculties and Departments as a result of accreditation with NWCCU?

How is membership in the NCAA connected with NWCCU accreditation?

Please submit your question to accredit@sfu.ca

Q1: What are the benefits of institutional accreditation with the NWCCU?

A:  These benefits are associated with accreditation:

· Regular external assessment of SFU's adherence to best-practice standards will increase our accountability to stakeholders.

· Accreditation will help establish clearer benchmarks/standards for assessing learning outcomes and thus benefit students’ learning experiences.

· Accreditation will enhance the value of an SFU degree for alumni abroad and for international students returning home.

· Accreditation will simplify our relationships with US institutions, including government, foundations and collegiate sports associations (NCAA).

· Accreditation will foster public confidence in SFU's ability to fulfill its stated mission and goals.

Q2: How was it decided to seek accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)?

A:  Discussions began as early as 1998 regarding admission to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  In January 2008, the NCAA voted to accept a 10-year pilot project that would allow Canadian institutions to apply for membership in the NCAA Division II.  One of the requirements is for member schools to be accredited by an appropriate regional accrediting agency.

In 2008, SFU began exploring the benefits of an institutional (university-wide) accreditation with the NWCCU in light of the interest that was being demonstrated in joining the NCAA.  A review of NWCCU standards showed a good match with SFU’s history and values.

An application for consideration for candidacy was submitted to the NWCCU in the fall of 2008 and accepted by the Commission in January 2009.  After further deliberation and investigation, a decision was taken by senior management to pursue accreditation by the NWCCU.

In the fall of 2009, Senate and the Board of Governors were advised of senior management’s decision and informed on the process.

Since 2010, information on accreditation has been communicated broadly to the SFU community, with updates to Senate and the Board of Governors; presentations to vice presidents, chairs and directors; the launch of an accreditation web site; articles in SFU News, The Peak, Maclean’s, etc.

Q3: Will being accredited by the NWCCU affect the academic freedom that is currently enjoyed at SFU?

A:  The NWCCU does not expect or ask any institution to change its policies regarding academic freedom.  The NWCCU Accreditation Standard 2.A.28 states:
“Within the context of its mission, core themes, and values, the institution defines and actively promotes an environment that supports independent thought in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.  It affirms the freedom of faculty, staff, administrators, and students to share their scholarship and reasoned conclusions with others.  While the institution and individuals within the institution may hold to a particular personal, social, or religious philosophy, its constituencies are intellectually free to examine thought, reason, and perspectives of truth. Moreover, they allow others the freedom to do the same.”

Q4:  What are the financial costs involved in being accredited with the NWCCU?

A:  Costs associated with accreditation can be classified into three categories:

· Dues:  Institutions pay annual dues to the NWCCU based on the institution’s size.  SFU will be paying $15,162 annually.

· Evaluation Fees:  SFU is required to pay the fees for the NWCCU committee to undertake a site visit once every 2-3 years, estimated to cost approximately $15,000.

· Operating costs:  SFU currently has a staff of three committed to accreditation.  Each of these positions only has a portion of their duties assigned to the accreditation process. The cost of the accreditation process is being funded via Fraser International College revenues.

Q5:  What kind of extra workload will be placed on the Faculties and Departments as a result of accreditation with NWCCU?

A:  The workload expectations related to the accreditation process for faculty are expected to be negligible.  Although the development of learning outcomes is a requirement of accreditation, it is being pursued by SFU irrespective of accreditation with NWCCU, because of its perceived value to students and to the accountability of the University.

The impact on workload of establishing learning outcomes for each course and program has yet to be determined but as assessment of curricula already takes place at SFU the development and assessment of learning outcomes may not necessarily lead to additional work. The Vice President Academic however will make every effort to minimize additional workload on faculty/staff as a result of this initiative.

Senate is responsible for academic governance and the development of learning outcomes and assessment will be authorized by Senate and its committees.

Q6:  How is membership in the NCAA connected with NWCCU accreditation?

A:  SFU currently is the first institution outside of the United States that has been accepted by the NCAA.  One of the criteria for acceptance into the NCAA is that all institutions competing in the NCAA must be accredited or be a candidate for accreditation by one of the six major American post- secondary accreditation associations, of which the NWCCU is one.  It was this requirement of the NCAA that initially caused SFU to investigate the benefits and implications of NWCCU membership.

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