UC Berkeley moves forward with accreditation process

An external board of peer evaluators completed a holistic review of UC Berkeley on Oct. 31 as part of a process to reaffirm the campus’s academic accreditation.

The review was conducted by a team of evaluators led by University of Michigan President Mary Coleman on behalf of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a nonprofit commission that accredits academic institutions in California, Hawaii and other Pacific nations and territories.

Participating institutions request a review from WASC to reaffirm their accreditation every seven to 10 years, according to Richard Winn, executive director of WASC’s Senior College and University Commission. UC Berkeley was last accredited in 2004.

Among other commendations, UC Berkeley received recognition for efforts to increase graduation rates, mentorship and retention of new faculty despite financial limitations and the quality of a self-study report the school submitted to the team in August.

The self-study report, written by the WASC Steering Committee, a group of campus administrators, faculty members and other associates, evaluated the school’s performance in regard to education quality, student success, financial sustainability and future plans.

The evaluators had 12 weeks to read the Steering Committee’s 92-page report, Winn said. They then spent two days in discussion, assessing UC Berkeley according to WASC standards.

“UC Berkeley’s report was wonderfully thorough,” Winn said. “The evaluators were very satisfied with it.”

The review culminated with a conference call that included the evaluators; UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks; Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning and Facilities Cathy Koshland; and Dean of the Graduate Division Andrew Szeri.

During the 30-minute call, evaluators largely focused on undergraduate education and financial sustainability, said Cynthia Schrager, assistant vice provost for teaching, learning, academic planning and facilities.

Schrager said Dirks expressed particular interest in alleviating the burden of student debt.

The WASC team also outlined aspects of the campus it plans to re-examine when it visits next year for an official on-site review. Such aspects include the campus’ strategies to support equity and inclusion, reimagine the seven-course breadth requirements and update plans for the Richmond Bay Campus.

The on-site review will take place between Oct. 22 and 24 of next year, Dirks said in an email to the campus.

The time between the off-site and on-site reviews allows educational institutions to address issues raised by evaluators, Winn said. UC Berkeley was offered a choice to wait six or 12 months before the visit.

“We chose 12 months because at the time, we did not have good insight into the amount of workload that might be involved with preparing for the on-site review,” Schrager said in an email.

After the visit, the evaluators will send recommendations to WASC, which will make a formal decision about whether to reaffirm UC Berkeley’s accreditation in February 2015. The team will also recommend the next time for the accreditation process to take place.

Since its last review in 2004, Schrager said, UC Berkeley has made improvements. The campus received particular commendation for improving student success metrics, she said.

Schrager said the campus hopes to “showcase the progress that Berkeley is making,” adding, “We look forward to the opportunity to tell our story in person.”

Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @savluschei.