The NEASC Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) accreditation process has three distinct components:
- an institutional self-study in which the institute evaluates how and how well it meets the Commission's Standards of Accreditatioin.
- an on-site evaluation by a group of peers.
- Commission review and action.
To become accredited, and periodically thereafter, institutions are asked to engage in comprehensive and rigorous self-examination. The self-study involves measuring and verifying its achievements and identifying ways in which the fulfillment of institutional objectives can be improved, using the Standards for Accreditation as a guide. The self-study provides a narrative for each standard, supported by evidence, in the following areas:
- A description of how we function as it pertains to the standard.
- An appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses.
- A projection of our plans for the future, particularly as they address our weaknesses.
- A discussion of institutional effectiveness.
Thus, it serves the dual purposes of accreditation, i.e., quality assurance and institutional improvement.
The findings, as well as priorities and strategies for quality enhancement identified through the process, are summarized in a self-study report. This document is submitted to the Commission together with certain specified institutional materials such as the institute catalog and completed data forms provided by CIHE.
Following its completion, the self-study report serves as a basis for evaluation by an on-site team of peer evaluators, who are administrators and faculty from other accredited colleges and universities. Typically lasting three days the on-site evaluation seeks to assess the institution in light of the self-study against the Standards for Accreditation. The team summarizes it conclusions in a written report which addresses not only the institution’s success in fulfilling its purposes but also speaks to ways that success can be enhanced. It is considered advisory to the Commission.
Review and Action
The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education is comprised of up to 24 persons elected by the member colleges and universities; at least one in seven Commissioners is a representative of the public interest, with the remainder being faculty and administrators from member institutions. During its four meetings each year, the Commission reviews the self-study, the team report, and any response an institution may make to its report, from colleges or universities most recently evaluated. As a part of its review process, it also meets with the chief executive officer of the visited institution and the team chair. With this information, the Commission takes action on each institution’s accreditation status. In addition, the Commission specifies areas where an institution should endeavor to improve its effectiveness.