At its February 2012 meeting, the WASC Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities approved an initiative to begin the accreditation of international institutions as a matter of policy.
The WASC Commission has been monitoring the growing globalization of higher education for several years and noting the importance of international interactions for many WASC-accredited institutions. As a consequence, several policies have already been developed to address specific concerns. However, WASC had not previously undertaken a coordinated or intentional international initiative. Four of the other regional accrediting agencies have adopted policies and practices that include accreditation of institutions outside the United States, and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has developed an international agenda, including an annual workshop on global quality assurance.
Having previously approved accreditation of two universities operating in other countries (Armenia and Kenya) as extensions of domestic institutions that subsequently became separately accredited and then acting in February to accredit a new institution as an exception to policy (Mexico), the Commission determined that the region would benefit from the addition of institutions from other parts of the world and learn from their innovations in educational practices and quality assurance measures. Accordingly, the Commission will receive applications from colleges and universities in other countries, following a carefully developed process and in limited numbers during the initial pilot phase of its international initiative. A protocol for implementation of the accreditation of international institutions will guide the first years of WASC’s expanded international work.
Further, the Commission established a fees and dues structure to ensure that the costs of international accreditation are borne by those institutions. Formal procedures were reviewed and adopted for international accreditation and incorporated into a Guide. These will be monitored, reviewed periodically, and adjusted as necessary to ensure that the fees and dues are aligned with costs. There are separate fees for each of the steps of accreditation as well as a differential annual dues structure. The Commission is mindful of the fact that these fees and dues may be difficult for some smaller institutions in emerging economies to manage, yet with careful consideration and reflection the Commission concluded that it must make its international work self-sustaining.
Reflecting its attention to the larger issues of globalization and the emerging issues related to quality assurance of international education, including a growing need to exchange information and practices with accrediting bodies and quality assurance agencies in other regions of the world, the WASC Commission decided to embed its accreditation work within a larger initiative to learn about best practices, innovations, and overall developments in such a way that insights, research findings, and experiences gained from its work and involvement with others around the world can be shared with WASC-accredited institutions. Over the next few years, WASC will develop its international activities with this larger context in mind and establish effective and cost-efficient means of gathering and sharing information that can respond to the changing ecology of higher education and reflect the increased global interactions of WASC institutions.
To coordinate this international work and to provide a point of contact for inquiring institutions, WASC has appointed a Senior Advisor for International Affairs, who reports to the President. The Commission is interested in strategically and deliberately addressing transnational issues of quality assurance as institutional operations are increasingly crossing national boundaries.
Dues and Fees Schedule
The Commission has approved a dues and fees schedule for international institutions to reflect the increased costs of working globally. Institutions considering WASC accreditation should review the Guide carefully to ensure that there is a good match of interests and values before submitting an application. WASC has established two preliminary steps before institutions may apply for eligibility and each of these steps has a fee: the Initial Application requires a $5,000 fee and the Diagnostic Visit requires a $20,000 fee plus visit expenses.
Click here to view the Dues and Fees Schedule
Senior Advisor for International Affairs
The Senior Advisor is available to discuss interests in any aspect of WASC’s international work with institutional representatives who might be considering WASC accreditation or with other persons interested in this aspect of WASC work. Due to frequent travel and time zone differences, the Senior Advisor recommends that initial contact be made through email. As appropriate, arrangements can be made for a telephone or Skype call at a scheduled time.
For more information on International Accreditation, contact Bill Plater, Senior Advisor, at wplater [at] wascsenior [dot] org.
Special Interest Group Discussion of International Affairs
At the WASC Annual Resource Conference (ARC) in April 2012, institutions were invited to be present for an announcement of WASC’s plans for international affairs and to seek the advice and interests of WASC institutions in this new initiative. Because of the Commission’s commitment to developing a capacity for gathering information about global quality assurance measures and translating its own international experiences into insights that can be used and applied within the WASC region and global membership, the first public action was to seek the counsel of institutional representatives. The suggestions and recommendations of those attending the meeting will be considered as a part of the international initiative. Future ARCs will include similar opportunities for discussing international quality assurance and issues related to the globalization of higher education.
Click here for a summary of the meeting.
Prior to beginning its international initiative in 2012, WASC developed several policies related to the evolving and expanding range of international activities of members. Many of these policies will be revised in light of both the new international initiative and the periodic accreditation redesign, which is expected to be completed with Commission actions in November 2012. In the interim, the current and most relevant applicable policies are available here (however, some institutions may find that other policies also apply to their particular situation, and they should review the full listing, available at institutional policies):
Distance Education and Technology-Mediated Instruction Policy
Dually Accredited Institutions Policy
Instruction in Languages Other than English
International Students Policy
Overseas Educational Programs for Non-US Nationals
Study Abroad Policy
As noted, many of these policies will be revised in the coming months and other policies may be created. In the interim, the Commission has recognized that some existing policies as well as Criteria for Review may not be fully applicable in an international context. Accordingly, it has approved several protocols for making adjustments to reflect adaptation to the norms found in other regions of the world. Protocols have already been established for several areas and may be found in the Guide. Other protocols will be established as necessary, based on experience. Questions, inquiries, and suggestions may be directed to the Senior Advisor for International Affairs.
As a part of its overall accreditation re-design process, WASC has drafted several new policies. Some of these may be particularly relevant, such as the Policy on Independent Governing Boards, and adaptations may be required in some circumstances in order to accommodate international institutions. However, in making adaptations, the Commission will retain its core principle and in some circumstances WASC may not be able to accept applications from institutions that cannot comply with the intent of the policy. Institutions with questions or concerns about the applicability of any current or draft policy should confer with the Senior Advisor for International Affairs.
Accredited International WASC Members
Currently, WASC has accredited three universities operating primarily outside the United States and is considering eligibility for a fourth. Several institutions are in the process of filing their initial applications. The accredited universities are:
American University of Armenia
CETYS University Mexico
United States International University Kenya
As other universities or colleges are accredited or move into candidacy, they will be listed here. The full listing of accredited institutions may be found here.
As the international initiative develops, additional resources of possible interest to both domestic members and prospective international members will be posted here, including reflective essays based on the observations and experiences of team members making site visits or serving on committees.