Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 25, 2010

Accreditation self-study document finished and available online

More than two years of gathering information and meeting in groups large and small to take account of the university’s current work, and envision the potential for growth and change, has resulted in a comprehensive document that leaders say not only should fulfill the requirements for re-accreditation, but can help U-M cast a vision for the future.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools self-study titled “The University of Michigan: An Institution of Global Learning, Knowledge and Engagement” is available on the Web at accreditation.umich.edu.

To remain accredited — a demonstration to the public, particularly prospective students, and the federal government of an institution’s commitment to higher education standards — universities must go through a process every 10 years that includes a self-study and site visit by the accrediting organization.

“The accreditation process provides an important opportunity for the university to examine its programs and practices and think critically about how we work to achieve our goals. With the formal report now complete, we anticipate productive conversations with the review team from Higher Learning Commission when they visit campus in March,” says Provost Teresa Sullivan. The visit is scheduled for March 15-17.

While detailing all of the important information for re-accreditation — highlights of activities on teaching and learning, research/creativity and service/engagement — several of the chapters also include a looking forward component.

“The document not only is a demonstration of our activity to meet the bar of the accrediting institution, it is a vehicle for self-reflection and campus discussion,” says Ben van der Pluijm, senior counselor to the provost for university accreditation. “Although it is by no means a long-range planning document, it represents a chance to find out where we might go from here — to consider the things we want to explore.

“This is where we start to think about where we might want to be in the years ahead in the topic areas of teaching, knowledge and engagement.”

For institutions like the U-M, the HLC allows a special emphasis in the self-study. U-M chose to explore the question of what it means to be an international university. For this section of the document, most of the activities outlined are reflections of where the university would like to go, van der Pluijm says.

“It doesn’t mean everything here is something we are going to pursue, but most are things we’d like to pursue. Some are low-hanging fruit, but others will have a greater impact on campus because they might cost money or might restructure how and what we do.”

van der Pluijm says if there are any surprises in the report, it may be the extent to which the university is involved in engagement and service.

“We are more active than others in the area of engagement and service — head and shoulders above most schools in this. Where we perhaps are falling short is telling our story.”

van der Pluijm says he chose to deliver the document to campus as a Web site (see image) because it allows a more thematic look at the university that emphasizes the richness of activities, and offers broad access.

The re-accreditation process involved people across the university. van der Pluijm was named in October 2007 to lead the effort. He worked with Assistant Vice Provost Glenda Haskell and others in the provost’s office. Sullivan appointed five accreditation working groups consisting mostly of faculty — two focused on the special-emphasis study and three dedicated to HLC required areas.

Deans and department chairs were asked to explore and report on key activities related to the review. The team met with numerous groups and public meetings were held to gather input. Surveys were conducted with key constituents, and comments to the HLC were encouraged from students, alumni, parents, donors, senior staff from U-M units that provide co-curricular opportunities, school/college and department faculty administrators, and senior administrators, as well as local and state business, non-profit and government representatives.

The next step will be the site visit in March, and van der Pluijm says more communication is forthcoming about how it will take place.