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Community of expertise around accreditation to build strength and ease stress

April 10, 2023 — 

A new community of expertise aims to make accreditation part of day-to-day business, not a painful rush every few years.

“Accreditation can be anxiety provoking because no academic unit wants to be in a position where its programs don’t get accredited or lose accreditation,” said Dr. Diane Hiebert-Murphy, the University of Manitoba’s provost and vice-president (academic). “It’s a lot of work and it’s not something you can start the month before.”

Benefits of continuous accreditation include improved quality and consistency of educational programs, increased accountability and transparency, enhanced institutional reputation, and better alignment with industry and professional standards. Ultimately, accreditation is the process of demonstrating a program’s quality to an accrediting body. “Think of it like a stamp of approval,” said Hiebert-Murphy.

Ricardo Soriano, director of the Integrated Accreditation Unit (IAU) in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, notes that in the past, the faculty operated in a “peak and valley system” where programs would do a lot of work in preparation for an accreditation site visit, but then slow down afterwards.

However, by implementing a continuous process of data gathering and process monitoring, accreditation can be less burdensome and more of a validation process. As Soriano explains, “it’s just showing the good work that our students, faculty and administrative staff do, showing it to external people and then validating it.”

The transition to keeping accreditation top of mind with ongoing evaluation and adjustments is becoming well-established within the Rady Faculty, but units across the university still need support.

“Rady Faculty of Health Sciences is in a somewhat enviable position of having a dedicated unit to support the ongoing work of accreditation,” said Hiebert-Murphy. “This is not the case in other faculties.”

The push for a community of expertise within the university was initiated a couple of years ago when the Faculty of Agricultural & Food Sciences sought support for their accreditation processes.

Although the Rady Faculty did not have the capacity to provide direct support, the IAU team offered advice and it was recognized that more needed to be done to support all the accredited programs at UM. There are over 40 accredited programs at Fort Garry campus, making it valuable to establish a community of expertise to ensure all programs are continually improving and meeting high standards. “While each accrediting body has its own standards, the process is similar,” said Hiebert-Murphy.

A community of expertise will enable programs to share practices and solutions to common challenges and make the process easier and more efficient.

Adds Hiebert-Murphy, “accreditation is important, but it can be a time-consuming and intensive process. Any way that we can pool our resources and expertise is welcomed.”

The new community of expertise consists of two parts. First is the “Skill Up For Accreditation” workshop, currently offered spring and fall by the IAU in collaboration with Learning & Organizational Development (LOD). The workshop aims to enhance the university’s general accreditation knowledge and capacity.

The second part is the ongoing UM accreditation community of expertise, envisioned as a permanent platform for consultations and networking opportunities across the university.

This community is open to any faculty or staff who are interested in accreditation or quality improvement in higher education.

For more information, contact the IAU at radyaccreditation [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.

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