This paper aims to investigate the potential benefits and limitations associated with aligning accreditation and academic program reviews in post-secondary institutions, using a descriptive case study approach.
The paper describes two Canadian graduate programs that are subject to both external professional accreditation and institutional cyclical reviews, as they underwent an aligned review. The process was developed as a collaborative effort between the academic units, the professional associations and the university’s graduate-level quality assurance office. For each program, a single self-study was developed, a single review panel was constituted, and a single site visit was conducted. The merits and challenges posed by the alignment process are discussed.
Initial feedback from the academic units suggests that the alignment of accreditation and program reviews is perceived as reducing the burden on programs with regard to the time and effort invested by faculty, staff and other stakeholders, as well as in terms of financial expenses. Based on this feedback, along with input from reviewers and program evaluation committee members, 14 recommendations emerged for ways in which an aligned review process can be set up for success.
The results suggest that aligned reviews are not only resource-efficient but also allow reviewers to provide more holistic feedback that faculty may be more willing to engage with for program enhancement.
The present study contributes to the existing body of knowledge about conducting aligned reviews in response to external accreditation requirements or institutional needs. It summarizes the potential benefits and limitations and offers recommendations for potential best practices for carrying out aligned reviews for policymakers and practitioners.
The author is grateful for the collaboration of University of Ottawa colleagues in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences and the School of Social Work, in particular Paulette Guitard and Marie Drolet. Invaluable support and feedback was also provided by Jeela Jones and Michael Urgolo, Office of Quality Assurance in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and by Silvia Bonaccio, Telfer School of Management. The cooperation of the CAOT and the CASWE, as well as the members of the various review panels, is also appreciated.
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