I was in Oakland last week for a special WSCUC workshop on “The Changing Ecology” of Higher Education. There were about 30 of us there, including panelists from service providers, venture capital firms, and non-profit educational systems. It has all become very complex. We need legal instruction on the form of corporations to do our accreditation work. And, it seems to me, the financial analysis needed for for-profits is such that we need expert help to understand complex financial statements.
The discussion circled around the growth of for-profit institutions in their various forms (including one form designated as a “public benefit” corporation) and relationships between universities and educational providers. An educational provider might be anything from a company which provides a platform for a university’s online courses, or one which almost provides education itself, the content and instruction of courses. Underlying all of this were questions about ‘the changing nature of the professorate.’ All of it is interesting, complex in its implications for accreditation, and urgent given the changes we are facing and the demands coming from the Department of Education.
As I was preparing for the discussion, I read through sections of the WSCUC Handbook of Accreditation, and came upon the foundation of our work. This is the “Core Commitments” of WSCUC accredited institutions. They were a good reminder of what we are doing when think about and work on accreditation. I print them hear as a reminder to all of us. The WSCUC standards derive from these Core Commitments:
The WSCUC process begins by calling upon institutions to ground their activities in three Core Commitments. By affirming these Core Commitments and taking ownership of the accreditation process, institutions create learning environments that continuously strive for educational excellence and operational effectiveness in order to serve both students and the public good.
Core Commitment to Student Learning and Success
Institutions have clear educational goals and student learning outcomes. Institutions collect, analyze, and interpret valid and reliable evidence of learning as a way of assessing student achievement and success. Institutions support the success of all students and seek to understand and improve student success.
Core Commitment to Quality and Improvement
Institutions are committed to high standards of quality in all of their educational activities. They utilize appropriate evidence to improve teaching, learning, and overall institutional effectiveness. Through strategic and integrated planning, institutions demonstrate the capacity to fulfill their current commitments and future needs and opportunities.
Core Commitment to Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability
Institutions recognize that the public has entrusted them with the critical responsibilities of upholding the values of higher education and contributing to the public good. They engage in sound business practices, demonstrate institutional integrity, operate in a transparent manner, and adapt to changing conditions.