As the University of Michigan approaches the reaffirmation of its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission in 2020, the Office of the Provost recently redesigned the university’s accreditation website to add more context and promote transparency about the process.

“The University of Michigan values the opportunities for review, reflection, and the emergence of new ideas that the accreditation process provides,” said Martin A. Philbert, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

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“We’ve designed this website as a resource for all who work on these processes. We hope it will also be useful to others who want to learn about the scope of research and education on our campus.”

The accreditation process takes place every 10 years, and the updated website includes general information about accreditation, U-M’s institutional and specialized accreditation status and history, details regarding the next campus visit in 2020, and information about U-M’s previous reaccreditations.

Accreditation of universities in the United States is intended to ensure the quality of education provided by an institution. It assures that students are able to transfer credits between accredited schools, as some graduate schools only accept students with degrees from accredited schools. Only accredited institutions are eligible to receive and distribute federal funds for higher education, including student financial aid and research funding.

The HLC evaluates universities on five criteria:

• A clearly stated guiding mission

• Institutional integrity

• Evidence of high-quality teaching and learning

• Demonstrated regular evaluation and improvement processes for teaching and learning

• Evidence of resources and planning for institutional effectiveness

Each reaccreditation cycle culminates in a comprehensive evaluation and involves several components.

At its core, the process involves the university demonstrating that it has met the criteria for accreditation by preparing an assurance filing, which includes an assurance argument and an evidence file. A team of peer reviewers then visits campus and evaluates the university’s assurance filing. The outcome of this review is a recommendation for whether the institution meets the criteria of accreditation.

“This is a very time-intensive process that requires input from every unit on campus,” said Dilip Das, assistant vice provost and reaccreditation coordinator for the university. “We started the process early — back in 2016 — to make sure we’re able to make the strongest claims and collect the best evidence we can. Several of us on the team are also serving as peer reviewers for other institutions, so we can more deeply engage in the reaccreditation process.”

Das and a core team of university officials from the Provost’s Office and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching oversee the 2020 reaccreditation process, working closely with faculty and staff from all across the Ann Arbor campus to discover and collect evidence and write effective claims for U-M’s assurance argument. They also are currently compiling U-M’s federal compliance report and preparing for the campus visit by the peer review team.

During the winter 2019 term, the core team will engage campus to gain feedback on U-M’s assurance argument. More details will be shared in the coming months.

Das said the expanded website comes at a time when students, their families and government officials are intensely examining the quality of America’s institutions of higher education. He hopes the new site promotes transparency and gives them the information they need.

“The HLC accreditation process includes an important question on which all of our faculty, students and staff can usefully reflect: What do we want our graduates to know and be able to do, what dispositions do we want them to develop through their education at Michigan, and how do we know that the educational environments here contribute to that development in the most effective way possible?” said James Holloway, vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs.