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Reaffirmation of accreditation process underway for University

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many Ohio University employees, the University is on the path toward achieving Reaffirmation of Accreditation status from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The process is part of the HLC's Academic Quality Improvement Program, (AQIP), one of HLC's different pathways to institutional accreditation. The reaffirmation process takes place during a seven-year cycle. Most recently, Michael Williford, associate provost for Institutional Accreditation, successfully submitted a key document necessary to apply for reaffirmation: the Systems Portfolio.

The University's Systems Portfolio demonstrates how OHIO meets the Criteria for Accreditation and acts as descriptive document that lets faculty, staff and students share an understanding of how Ohio University is organized, what its processes are and how they perform, and what it is working on to improve.

A major focus of accreditation is demonstrating how the University supports teaching and learning. The portfolio provides evidence to the HLC of the many ways in which the University, through the efforts of its faculty and staff, is working to support its mission of serving the intellectual and personal development of our students. The Portfolio also serves as an opportunity for the University to get expert feedback on strengths and opportunities for improvement from educators versed in academic quality improvement initiatives. A copy of the document is available at http://www.ohio.edu/provost/accreditation/aqip.cfm.

Members of the task for that aided Williford in compiling the document are:

  • Laurie Hatch, College of Arts and Sciences

  • John Day, College of Business

  • Scott Titsworth, Scripps College of Communication

  • Maureen Coon, Patton College of Education

  • Todd Myers, Russ College of Engineering

  • Maureen Wagner, College of Fine Arts

  • Sally Marinellie, College of Health Sciences and Professions

  • Wendy Merb-Brown, University College

  • Theresa Lester, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

  • Marty Tuck,  Regional Higher Education; Ohio University Chillicothe

  • Deb Gearhart, eLearning

  • Scott Seaman, Ohio University Libraries

  • Jenny Hall-Jones, Division of Student Affairs

  • Julie Allison, Division of Finance and Administration

  • Joni Wadley, Office of Institutional Research

  • David Descutner, University College

Many others from across the University provided information that appears in the Systems Portfolio.

The overall AQIP process consists of several milestones in which an institution demonstrates to the Higher Learning Commission it is making progress toward accomplishing its mission, vision, goals, and objectives. AQIP can best be viewed as a self-assessment, rather than a set of guidelines imposed by an outside organization, said Williford.

"The Criteria for Accreditation and the AQIP pathway were created by fellow educators from colleges and universities in our North Central region that came out of their best academic practices," Williford said. "By demonstrating that we meet these criteria within the AQIP process, we are demonstrating that we embrace excellence in all we do, according to Ohio University's own culture, traditions, and mission. HLC developed AQIP to help institutions like us to retain our institutional autonomy and academic freedom by providing a structure to demonstrate what we do to achieve academic excellence."

Though AQIP can sound like a process and evaluation that only affects the work of faculty in the classroom, Williford explains it has an effect on everybody at the University. It is a useful tool that helps everybody -- faculty, staff and students -- participate in the operation and governance of the University.

The next step in the accreditation process is an evaluation of the Systems Portfolio by appointees from peer institutions within the HLC. Feedback on the Systems Portfolio is expected in three months' time. It will then be shared with the University community in preparation for a site visit. A team from the HLC will visit OHIO in the 2014-15 academic year and assess if the University is meeting the criteria for accreditation. From there, another internal HLC review will occur, and the University expects to be granted Reaffirmation of accreditation in 2015-16.


HLC Criteria for Accreditation

The following five points were extracted from the Higher Learning Commission's brief illustrating the criteria for accreditation.

Criterion 1: "The institution's mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution's operations."

Criterion 2: "The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible."

Criterion 3: "The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered."

Criterion 4: "The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its education programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement."

Criterion 5: "The institution's resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future."

For more information about the HLC and the AQIP process, visit http://www.ohio.edu/provost/accreditation/aqip.cfm.