The Commission on Accreditation of the Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools is empowered to accredit institutions providing education at both secondary and postsecondary level, including degree-awarding institutions.
Accreditation is open to Anglican theological seminaries, religious schools, and Christian schools and universities which have a significant religious ethos and programs. The majority of such institutions are privately-operated but public institutions are not excluded from the process. There is also provision for the accreditation of institutions at the high school level.
Eligibility of an institution for accreditation is not limited by denominational affiliation but is instead defined by a series of principal criteria that include theological and moral matters. These are as follows:
- The institution is:
- either under the control or sponsorship of a church whose doctrine and practice conform to the broad principles of Anglicanism (whether or not that church is a member of the Anglican Communion). This includes churches in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions from which Anglicanism descends.
- or is non-denominational but nevertheless conforms to a broadly Anglican ethos.
- The institution offers rigorous educational programs (whether or not resulting in the award of a certificate, diploma or degree) either through campus-based instruction, distance learning or in mixed delivery mode. Institutions that offer only short programs or non-academic programs that are designed for avocational or recreational purposes are not eligible.
- Among the institution’s program offerings are programs in Christian theology, divinity and/or ministry that correspond to a traditional Anglican viewpoint in moral and ethical matters. Institutions are may offer programs in areas other than religious studies where this is legally permitted.
- The institution is in compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements in its jurisdictions of establishment and operation, and in respect of any campus premises or offices.
- The institution can demonstrate stability and operational credibility.
- The institution can draw on a teaching faculty that is sufficiently qualified and experienced to deliver the advertised programs, and in the case of those faculty delivering programs in Christian theology, divinity and/or ministry are committed to maintaining a traditional Anglican viewpoint in moral and ethical matters.
- The institution has a record of student satisfaction and achieves its advertised objectives in terms of outputs.
- The institution has sufficient policies and procedures in place to ensure quality assurance objectives are met.
- The institution meets a standard of good practice in its general operations and has the capacity to achieve excellence in the fulfilment of its mission.
It is acceptable for an institution to maintain a digital library rather than a physical library facility where non-campus instruction is offered, and for administration and record-keeping to be undertaken through electronic means. It is also acceptable for an institution not to offer program candidacy to the general public but instead to maintain programs for a specific community, religious or otherwise.
The process of accreditation takes place by means of a detailed overview of the key aspects of the institution’s operation by the Commission based on the submission of a portfolio of documentary evidence, combined with a self-study by the institution in which it addresses the above eligibility criteria and is able to demonstrate compliance and commitment to ongoing quality in educational provision. The period of accreditation is of five years for institutions that are recently established (defined as having opened to the public on January 1 2011 or later) and for ten years for institutions with a longer operational history.
Accreditation by the Commission is extended to institutions based internationally including those which operate a transnational or cross-border program.
There are three stages to the accreditation process. Initial enquiry is conducted informally and establishes an institution’s suitability in principle to enter the process. Candidacy is the formal stage at which the process is carried out, and at this point the Commission will conduct a detailed review of all documentation in addition to site visits as determined. During this time an institution may not state that it is in candidacy for accreditation. At the conclusion of the process a decision is taken either to grant or not to grant accreditation. This decision is communicated to the candidate institution and is confidential in the event of a negative outcome. An unsuccessful candidate institution may reapply on one further occasion after a minimum period of three years has elapsed since its initial rejection.
A fee is normally payable by institutions entering candidacy, but this may be ameliorated or waived at the discretion of the Commission in the case of institutions with a non-profit mission and for whom the process of accreditation is unlikely to involve significant costs on the part of the Commission.
The Commission maintains a pool of educators with senior-level experience in the management of church-run educational institutions who oversee the accreditation process.
The Commission is a wholly religious body administered by the Apostolic Episcopal Church, which has since 1932 been officially recognized by the Statutes of the State of New York (art. 3-A., chap. 597 of the Laws of 1932), and stands on its own merits as an autonomous international entity in the Anglican tradition.
In the United States of America the accreditation of educational institutions is a voluntary process undertaken by non-governmental bodies. It is for accrediting institutions to choose whether or not to seek recognition from the United States Department of Education. The Commission is influenced by a range of international standards and norms on educational quality rather than being the preserve of any single national system, and maintains the traditional independence of Church and State that is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. As such, the Commission believes that the primary influence on Christian educational institutions should be the principles of the Church and not secular government. Therefore it has not and does not intend to apply for any form of government recognition.
Accreditation is fundamentally a process of peer review and is complimentary to the roles of legislation and government regulation rather than attempting to substitute for them. It is for institutions to determine whether the Commission’s accreditation, which signifies the approval of their professional peers, will meet their requirements. The end responsibility for verifying the fitness for purpose and status of any accredited institution rests wholly with any third party (not limited to potential students and employers) who should satisfy themselves on such matters before entering into any contractual or business relationship with the institution concerned.
There are several aspects that are common to private religious institutions established primarily to train individuals for Christian ministry which frequently create incompatibility with secular and government-regulated accreditation systems. These include the small size of many institutions, the individualized rather than standardized nature of some programs, the existence of equal opportunities criteria that cannot easily be reconciled with Christian moral values (for example, the requirement that a program intended for ordinands may not be restricted to men), and the high costs of such accreditation. The Commission endeavors to provide a Christian alternative from within the Anglican tradition, a tradition in which educational breadth and quality has been upheld over centuries, and to set the standard for those institutions that are in a position to benefit from its offerings. Where an institution seeks approval from an institution that is run by Christian educators according to Christian principles, the Commission may be a suitable body to approach.
The Commission does not restrict institutions from obtaining additional accreditations from other accrediting bodies, whether religious or secular, and where the processes involved are deemed to be directly comparable may permit exemption from some aspects of the Commission’s accreditation process.
The Commission and the Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools do not accept any responsibility or legal liability, whether implied or express, for any conduct, practice or business operation of any accredited or member institution. Nor does accreditation or membership of the Association indicate that an institution is necessarily compliant with laws or government regulations governing the provision of educational or related products and services in the jurisdiction where the institution is located or any jurisdiction where the institution offers services. No warranty or representation of any kind is made by the Association in respect of the fitness for purpose, accuracy, suitability, reliability or availability of products and services or the information provided by members or accredited members of the Association.