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Standards for Accreditation Preamble

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., one of six regional accrediting bodies in the United States , is a voluntary, non-profit, self-governing organization having as its primary purpose the accreditation of educational institutions. Through its evaluation activities, carried out by six commissions, the Association provides public assurance about the educational quality of those schools and colleges that seek or wish to maintain membership, which is synonymous with accreditation.

Institutions of higher learning achieve accreditation from the New England Association through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education by demonstrating they meet the Commission's Standards for Accreditation and comply with its policies. The Standards for Accreditation establish criteria for institutional quality. In addition, the Commission adopts policies that elucidate the Standards and relate to their application. Moreover, the Commission expects affiliated institutions to work toward improving their quality, increasing their effectiveness, and continually striving toward excellence. Its evaluative processes are designed to encourage such improvement.

Each of the eleven Standards articulates a dimension of institutional quality. In applying the Standards, the Commission assesses and makes a determination about the effectiveness of the institution as a whole. The institution that meets the Standards:

  • has clearly defined purposes appropriate to an institution of higher learning;
  • has assembled and organized those resources necessary to achieve its purposes;
  • is achieving its purposes;
  • has the ability to continue to achieve its purposes.

The Commission recognizes that some aspects of an institution are always stronger than others. Meeting the Standards does not guarantee the quality of individual programs, courses, or graduates, but serious weaknesses in a particular area may threaten the institution's accreditation.

The Commission deals with institutional differences in ways designed to protect both educational quality and individual philosophy and practice. The Standards are essentially qualitative criteria that measure the institution's current state of educational effectiveness. They allow the Commission to appraise a wide variety of collegiate institutions, differing in purpose, size, organization, scope of program, clientele served, support, and control. By design, the Standards as explicated do not preclude perceptive and imaginative innovation aimed at increasing the effectiveness of higher education.

Institutions whose policies, practices, or resources differ significantly from those described in the Standards for Accreditation must present evidence that these are appropriate to higher education , consistent with institutional mission and purposes , and effective in meeting the intent of the Commission's Standards. The existence of collective bargaining agreements, in and of themselves, does not abrogate institutional or faculty obligations to comply with the Standards for Accreditation

Self-regulation is an essential element in the success of accreditation. Thus, t he Standards for Accreditation were developed through a lengthy participatory process involving the membership in articulating the dimensions of quality required of institutions of higher education deserving of the public trust. Indeed the public as well was invited to participate in this process in recognition of the importance of higher education to the individual and collective well being of our citizenry and for our economy. Thus, the Standards represent the accrued wisdom of over 200 colleges and universities and interested others about the essential elements of institutional quality, and they offer a perspective that stresses the public purposes of higher education. The Commission continually evaluates the effectiveness of its Standards and its processes for applying them, and makes such changes as conditions warrant.

Self-regulation obliges institutions to adhere to t he Standards as a condition of their accredited status; accredited colleges and universities demonstrate their integrity through their continued voluntary compliance to these criteria. Adherence to the Standards is periodically reviewed through peer evaluations that are preceded by self-studies directed toward demonstrating that the institution meets the Standards and that it has effective means to ensure institutional improvement. This system of accreditation is based on institutions agreeing to participate in and to accept and profit by an honest and forthright assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses.

Each of the eleven dimensions of institutional quality has a Statement of the Standard set forth in bold type. The considerations in determining the fulfillment of t he Standard are articulated in numbered paragraphs below the Statement of the Standard, including in each case a final paragraph directing the institution's attention toward institutional effectiveness; these considerations provide a basis for institutions to undertake self study as well as a basis for institutional evaluation by visiting teams and the Commission. Because t he eleven Standards represent dimensions of institutional quality, they are necessarily inter-related. Thus, considerations found in one Standard may also have application for another; for example, while there is a Standard on Integrity, considerations related to integrity may also be found in several of the other Standards.

Additional information about accreditation and the Commission may be found at its website http://www.neasc.org/cihe/cihe.htm.

January 12, 2005