BY NICK EAGLAND
Simon Fraser University just became the first Canadian research university with U.S. accreditation.
The announcement came Tuesday that SFU had in recent weeks been granted accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), which is based in Washington state. The NWCCU is an independent, non-profit agency, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees accreditation for 162 higher-education institutions.
According to SFU, the benefits of accreditation include increasing accountability through external assessments, setting clear benchmarks for assessing educational goals and students’ learning experiences, enhancing the value of an SFU degree, building relationships with U.S. institutions and fostering public confidence.
“It’s more of a question of reassuring international partners and potential international students and international alumni that you meet a widely known and accepted standard of quality assurance,” said Dr. Jonathan Driver, provost and vice-president academic at SFU. “It also will be very useful for any of our students who want to work abroad.”
SFU’s accreditation application process began in 2009 and the university underwent a stringent peer-review process in the years that followed. The university will be subject to large-scale reviews every seven years while smaller reviews of SFU’s operations will be conducted more regularly, with a one-year evaluation slated for next spring.
“Every aspect of the governance and management of the university is examined in this, so it is an institutional quality-assurance process that we are involved in,” Driver said. “This is a fairly rigorous process and we feel that given the trust that is placed in us by taxpayers and students … that we owe it to them to have a rigorous process in place that will encourage us to do better and better.”
Accreditation also allows SFU athletics to participate in the NCAA.
Driver said it was gratifying to see the accreditation process through while the university stood up to intense scrutiny by the NWCCU. It came together just in time for him to wrap-up his eight-year term as VP academic before he takes a position as a professor of archeology at the end of the summer.
In 2013, Capilano University became the first Canadian university to be accredited by the NWCCU. Canada is the only developed country without a national accreditation system for post-secondary schools.