Preparing for HLC Reaccreditation: A Campus Update
In Spring of 2011, faculty, staff, and administrators were invited to volunteer to be part of the self-study process for the university’s 2013-14 Higher Learning Commission (HLC) reaccreditation visit. Since then, more than 100 people have been hard at work. So how are we doing and where are we in that effort?
In addition to the steering committee which Provost LeBel formed in March of 2011, criterion teams were created that spring under the leadership of steering committee members; those groups started work by Fall 2011. Groups were organized around the five criteria for reaccreditation: I – Mission; II – Ethical and Responsible Conduct; III – Teaching and Learning Quality, Resources, and Support; IV – Teaching and Learning Evaluation and Improvement; V – Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness. Their charge was to participate in the process of self-study and review by site visitors that is required of every accredited institution for two main purposes: quality assurance and program improvement.
By the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year, criterion groups were collecting information – minutes, policies, reports, interview notes, budgets, staff lists, web page cites, etc. – which could help them reach conclusions about UND’s performance in the five criterion areas and on each of the “core components” (more specific aspects) of the five criteria.
Under Criterion II (Ethics), for example, group members sought information about institutional policies, transparency, relationship with our governing board, freedom of expression, and UND’s ethics around discovering and applying knowledge. So far, this has been basically an evidence collection process. However, that evidence is now being analyzed by group members in order to reach conclusions about ethics across institutional practices. Each conclusion must be rooted in concrete documentation that supports the judgments reached.
The self-study process is designed to be useful in two ways. Internally, a self-study can provide a fresh perspective on a university’s own work – kind of a “bird’s eye view” of institutional practices. With assessment of learning, for example, members of a department look at student learning in their own majors. Members of the University Assessment Committee review annual assessment reporting information, looking at the work of a selection of departments each year. Essential Studies Committee members consider assessment results submitted during revalidation. The divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs look at institution-wide findings from student surveys like the National Survey of Student Engagement. A dean reads through program accreditation reports for departments in her own college. Each has one piece of the puzzle, but there few opportunities to look at all the information as a whole. However, that’s exactly what the Criterion Four team is doing, and this is why a self-study can help university insiders see the big picture more clearly than would otherwise occur.
The self-study is also valuable for external reasons. It’s an integral part of the accreditation process, and that accreditation serves many purposes: HLC accreditation gives UND the formal stamp of approval that allows our researchers to remain eligible for federal funding, our students to remain eligible for federal student aid, our departments with specialized accreditors to remain eligible for approval by those organizations, and our institution to be viewed as “credible” by colleagues, students, employers, and other parties. It validates the institution as a whole, as well as providing the impetus for our own self-examination in the spirit of continuous improvement.
By Fall of 2012, drafts of criterion chapters will begin to be compiled into a document that represents the whole of the self-study, and members of the campus community will be invited to weigh in on the report by Spring. So please stay tuned: even if you are not serving on the self-study team, your input will be important. And you’ll hear more about that by early Fall 2012.
For more information, see http://und.edu/provost/higher-learning-commission/