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Inside Higher Ed: Accreditors as Referees

An excerpt of the Inside Higher Ed article, written by WSCUC President and C-RAC Chair Jamienne Studley, is below:

Accreditors are center stage in higher education, with the essential task of protecting academic freedom, responsible discourse and institutional autonomy. Our independence and defining characteristics place us in the tough and often unenviable role of referee.

Look at our responsibilities and structures. The Higher Education Act of 2008 mandates that an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas.

Accreditors—recognized by the U.S. secretary of education through a formal process as reliable authorities on academic quality—each require that institutions honor that central principle. Accreditors’ defining standards for institutional quality are broadly framed, developed with wide and public input, applicable across all types of institutions and viewpoint neutral. We do not and cannot, dictate which ideas are taught and which are not.

Who carries out this sensitive work? Accrediting commissions are nonpartisan, skill-based and not politically appointed. Decisions about colleges’ accreditation and accrediting agency policy are made by commissions composed of peers—leaders, administrators and faculty from varied kinds of colleges and universities—and public representatives, including from business, public service and law.

Read the full article here.

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