This policy applies to accreditation and assessment of student learning activities at UW System institutions.
The purpose of accreditation is to assure all stakeholders, including students, families, government officials and others, of the quality of higher education institutions and programs. The federal government requires that higher education institutions be accredited to be eligible for federal funding and to provide students with federal financial aid. Employers look to accreditation to evaluate the credentials of job applicants, as well as for evaluating whether to provide tuition assistance to employees. The accreditation process also provides an assurance of student learning and other educational outcomes.
Each UW institution shall seek accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditor, to ensure that the institution meets threshold standards for program quality and that the institution is engaged in continuous improvement and the assessment of student learning. Title IV federal student financial aid requires regional accreditation for eligibility. UW institutions may also maintain specialized accreditation for its programs as appropriate to its educational purposes.
The Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation process evaluates each institution guided by the following values:
- Focus on student learning
- Education as a public purpose
- Education for a diverse, technological, globally connected world
- A culture of continuous improvement
- Evidence-based institutional learning and self-presentation
- Integrity, transparency, and ethical behavior or practice
- Governance for the well-being of the institution
- Planning and management of resources to ensure institutional sustainability
- Mission-centered evaluation
- Accreditation through peer review
The responsibility for ensuring the quality of academic programs and student learning rests with the institution. Institutional accreditation assesses the capacity of an institution to assure its own quality and expects the institution to produce evidence that it does so. Each institution shall assess its goals and learning outcomes guided by an assessment plan created by the faculty for both institutional and programmatic assessment.
Oversight, Roles, and Responsibilities
Each UW institution is responsible for meeting and keeping current on accreditation requirements, for preparing an accreditation report, and for accreditation visits according to the review schedules established by the Higher Learning Commission or specialized accreditation agency. The Chancellor of each institution shall serve as the contact person for Higher Learning Commission accreditation reviews.
Each institution shall also appoint an accreditation liaison officer to serve as the facilitator for this process in collaboration with university administration, faculty, and staff. For specialized accreditation, each program’s administrator will serve as the contact person.
Each institution shall also create an oversight body for program approval and review as well as a body for guiding assessment of student learning activities that align with accreditation standards. Institutions shall make public the results of assessment activities.
A representative from the UW System Board of Regents will participate in accreditation visits based on the direction of the Higher Learning Commission and the Chancellor of each UW institution. If an accreditation matter arises that falls under the administrative responsibility of a UW System Administration office, then the Chancellor of the institution may invite the System office to participate in the review.
Related Regent Policy Documents and Applicable Laws
- Regent Policy Document 1-1, “Mission Statements”
- Regent Policy Document 4-12, “Academic Program Planning, Review, and Approval in the University of Wisconsin System”
History: Res. 3734, adopted 03/06/1987, created Regent Policy Document 4-5, “Principles on Accreditation of Academic Programs.” Res. 7874, adopted 03/05/1999, amended RPD 4-5.
Res. 6215, adopted 09/11/1992, created Regent Policy Document 5-1, “Academic Quality Program Assessment.”
Res. 11381, adopted 02/07/2020, rescinded RPD 4-5 and RPD 5-1 and created a new Regent Policy Document 4-5, “Accreditation and Assessment of Student Learning.”
[UW System Administrative policies are included for reference and are separate from Regent Policy Documents adopted by the Board.]