University working towards seven year accreditation process

Thompson Rivers University is working on becoming accredited with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) – a seven-year process that the university says will help assure quality.

Valerie Martinez, NWCCU vice-president, said that the accreditation process us so long to ensure the quality of each institution.

“The commissioners do a very thorough job viewing all of the criteria for our eligibility requirements primarily and then the standards,” Martinez said. “We need assurance that, over time, an institution is able to meet the standards and the eligibility requirements and then is able to sustain those efforts once they’ve been accredited.”

The university has marked the beginning of its second year in the process, with an interim candidacy evaluation. The evaluation happened on campus from Oct. 10 to 12 to determine whether or not the university was continuing to achieve and improve upon the NWCCU recommendations.

Donna Petri, TRU’s associate vice-president academic, said that the process for TRU started with an April 2016 site visit by the NWCCU to determine whether or not the university was a candidate for accreditation.

“We received a report and we also received some recommendations,” Petri said. “So, we were granted our candidacy based on the first site visit.”

Petri says that after each evaluation the NWCUU gives feedback on what TRU is doing right and also some recommendations for improvement. Some of the recommendations included essential data and systems be backed up from natural or human disaster, building upon efforts to document student learning outcomes and improving its definition of mission fulfillment. The university won’t know the results of the most recent evaluation until January of 2018.

These recommendations are based on the on the NWCCU’s 24 eligibility requirements and standards. These include academic freedom to library and information resources, the campus’s physical and technological infrastructure and in student achievement.

“There are many, many standards that we have to meet,” Petri said.

In addition to fulfilling the eligibility requirements, TRU must also meet five core standards. The first is with regards to the mission and NWCCU’s core themes, while the second focuses on resources and capacity. Planning and implementation comes third and then effectiveness and improvement. Finally, TRU must demonstrate mission fulfillment, adaptation and sustainability.

TRU annually pays the NWCCU $18,000 USD for costs associated with site visits. Petri added that the process of accreditation has given TRU a chance to look at its mission statement and to reflect.
“This has provided us an opportunity to say are we all working towards that same goal,” Petri said.

In the United States accreditation is usually sought for funding eligibility. However, Martinez says the reason could be a little different in Canada.

“Once accredited, other institutions have confidence that they can accept transfer credits from that institution without further review,” Martinez said.

For more information on the process or requirements of accreditation you can visit the NWCCU’s website at nwccu.org.

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