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Mike Williford

Michael Williford, Associate Provost 

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Accreditation at Ohio University




Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) (formerly the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education). While over 30 of the University's academic programs are accredited by their own specialized accreditors, Ohio University as a whole is accredited by HLC; all of the University's programs and units are covered by this institution-wide accreditation. HLC offers three different pathways to institutional accreditation. They are the Standard Pathway, the Open Pathway, and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) pathway. Ohio University has been in AQIP since 2002. The next Reaffirmation of Ohio University's accreditation is scheduled for 2015-16.

Reaffirmation of Accreditation through AQIP
In AQIP, the formal procedure culminating in Reaffirmation of Accreditation occurs every eight years. In the Reaffirmation procedure, an AQIP visiting team reviews each institution's cumulative record of activity and judges whether it has documented that it meets The Higher Learning Commission's five Criteria for Accreditation. The team also recommends whether AQIP or the Open Pathway is the most appropriate pathway to HLC accreditation.

Reaffirmation in AQIP cannot be viewed as a separate standalone procedure. Rather, AQIP's Reaffirmation procedure is the culmination of all the other AQIP procedures: Strategy Forums, Action Projects, Annual Updates, Systems Appraisals, Federal Compliance Review, and Comprehensive Quality Review visit. AQIP Reaffirmation involves review of a broad array of evidence about the institution gathered over a long period.

In AQIP, institutions identify and take action to address important institutional issues (Action Projects) with the assistance of HLC peer review and feedback (Strategy Forums), and AQIP holds them regularly accountable for progress on these projects (Annual Update Reviews). AQIP institutions analyze themselves (following an outline of key processes identified in the AQIP Categories) and prepare a comprehensive written description of their current practices and current levels of performance (Systems Portfolio), keeping this up-to-date with continual revision. AQIP institutions revise their Systems Portfolio to incorporate the results of Action Projects completed as well as to update performance results. Once every four years, AQIP assigns a peer reviewer team to review, rigorously and formally (Systems Appraisal), an institution's current self-description to assure that acceptable practices are being followed, and to provide the institution with actionable feedback on its next priorities for improvement (in a System Appraisal Feedback Report). The Comprehensive Quality Review visit to each institution examines both the seriousness with which an institution is working on its highest priorities and the evidence that it meets all accrediting requirements, focusing particularly on unsettled issues and any gaps in the evidentiary record identified by the Systems Appraisal.

Reaffirmation of Accreditation is the step in which HLC-trained peer reviewers examine all of the findings and evidence from the other AQIP procedures to provide assurance that an institution complies with all accreditation requirements. While not a de novo review of the institution, Reaffirmation of Accreditation comprises a comprehensive examination of questions and conclusions raised by all the other AQIP procedures, one that recognizes the possibility that there may still be unsettled issues of compliance with the five Criteria for Accreditation. If any such issues remain from the earlier procedures, or if any arise during the Reaffirmation procedure itself, there are defined and deliberate steps to be followed to deal with them.

Every eight years in AQIP's Reaffirmation process, the AQIP Comprehensive Quality Review visiting team makes any of the following recommendations to The Higher Learning Commission's Institutional Actions Council (IAC):

  • That the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and the obligations of AQIP without issue, and that it continues in AQIP with its accreditation reaffirmed for another seven years.
  • That the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation and the obligations of AQIP, but that specific monitoring on a progress or improvement issue take place through the Actions Project cycle or another means.
  • That the institution meets the Criteria for Accreditation without issue, but that it should move to the Open Pathway and be scheduled for a comprehensive evaluation in five or fewer years. The standard for this decision is whether there is perceptible continuous quality improvement documented in the institution's materials; continuing to meet the Criteria for Accreditation does not alone provide sufficient grounds for continuation in the AQIP pathway. In addition, the Panel may recommend specific monitoring (reports, focused visits) to be applied in the Open Pathway process.
  • That the institution presents such a serious issue of potential noncompliance with the Criteria for Accreditation that the Commission should consider taking immediate action. The Panel could recommend that the Commission schedule an immediate advisory visit to the institution to evaluate whether to move directly to provisions outlined in its policies for monitoring, sanction, and withdrawal. During that visit, there would also be consideration of whether problems at the institution justify the institution's move to the Open Pathway.
    Source: HLC (

AQIP Reaffirmation of Accreditation Process
AQIP Reaffirmation of Accreditation reviews are scheduled eight years in advance, when an
institution joins the Academic Quality Improvement Program or when an institution already
participating in AQIP is reaffirmed via the AQIP Reaffirmation of Accreditation process. In conducting these reviews, the AQIP Reaffirmation review panel examines the following materials for each institution:

  • AP-Action Projects and Annual Updates (from the HLC Action Project Directory)
  • CM-Federal Compliance Materials (provided by institution just before a visit)
  • FP-Financial Panel (report from institution responding to concerns)
  • IH-Current Commission History File of institutional actions
  • IR-Institutional Responses (to reports from the Commission)
  • IW-Institution's website
  • MR-Monitoring Report, if appropriate (from institution)
  • OP-Current Commission Organizational Profile, which incorporates last Institutional Update
  • QS-Quality Highlights summary (provided by institution immediately before reaffirmation review)
  • SAS-Current Commission Statement of Affiliation Status
  • SP-Systems Portfolio
  • SR-Systems Appraisal Feedback Report

The visiting team also reviews any other major reports or documents that are part of the institution's permanent HLC files. The visiting team drafts a recommendation to be reviewed by HLC and then the institution for response before it is forwarded to the Institutional Actions Council. The Institutional Actions Council reviews all documents and votes to accept or modify the recommendations of the panel. This action then goes to the HLC Board of Trustees for final disposition.