Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University
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Accreditation FAQ

 What are the benefits of pursuing institutional accreditation with the NWCCU?

Following is a list of benefits associated with accreditation:

  • The pursuit of institutional accreditation will reinforce for TRU students and their families - past, present and future - that a TRU education is a high-quality education, based on objective, comprehensive and internationally recognized criteria
  • The accreditation process will allow TRU to receive an independent assessment of the institution as a whole, not just individual programs, disciplines or departments.
  • Regular external assessment of TRU's adherence to best-practice standards will increase our accountability to stakeholders, and will help foster public confidence in TRU's ability to fulfill its stated mission and strategic priorities.
  • Accreditation will help establish clearer benchmarks/standards for assessing learning outcomes and thus benefit students’ learning experiences.
  • Accreditation will make it easier for TRU to share best practices with other institutions worldwide.
  • Accreditation will enhance the value of a TRU degree for alumni abroad, and for international students returning home. Having a credential from an accredited institution makes it easier for students to transfer credits and have credentials recognized worldwide.
  • Reassurance that TRU meets high standards, has applicable policies and procedures, and is committed to achieving our mission.
  • Raises the profile of TRU, which may increase opportunities for our faculty members and students.
  • Enhances TRU’s ability to recruit high quality faculty members.
 How did TRU decide to seek accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)?

In 2009, TRU began exploring the benefits of institutional (university-wide) accreditation in light of the province wide interest in quality assurance for higher education institutions. In 2010, TRU prepared two reports on accreditation, including a Feasibility Study for US Accreditation. In December 2011, in the Senate Report to the Board of Governors, the Office of the Provost & Vice-President Academic presented the timeline and budget for US Accreditation. In the US, there are six regional organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to provide quality assurance and evaluate institutional effectiveness, of which the NWCCU is one. There is no equivalent body in Canada. In December 2012, a Comparative Analysis reviewing the different accreditation agency options was conducted, and the NWCCU was recommended as the most appropriate choice for TRU’s unique history and values.

 Are there any other institutes that are seeking accreditation with another body?

In Canada, to the best of our knowledge, there are only four post-secondary institutions who have sought this type of institutional accreditation – SFU, Capilano and TRU, all through the NWCCU, and Athabasca University through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

 Are all institutes measured against the same criteria?

Yes, all institutions are measured against the same Standards for accreditation (

 What is the difference between institutional accreditation and specialized accreditation?

Institutional accreditation is concerned with evaluating the institution as a whole and does not seek to deal with any particular program in great detail, although programs are reviewed as a part of the consideration of the entire institution. Specialized accrediting bodies, on the other hand, focus on specific programs to ensure that the details of that particular program meet the external accreditation standards.

 How will programs already obligated to external accrediting bodies (e.g. Nursing) align with the standards of the NWCCU?

NWCCU accredited institutions are expected to remain in good standing with other specialized accrediting bodies that have granted accreditation status to a program. The accreditation given by the NWCCU is an institutional level accreditation, and does not speak to specific program accreditation.

 What does the accreditation process look like?

Both institutional and specialized bodies conduct the accreditation process using a common pattern. The pattern requires an integral self-study of the institution or program, followed by an on-site visit by an evaluation committee, and a subsequent review and decision by a central governing group. Within this general pattern the various accrediting bodies have developed a variety of individual procedures adapted to their own circumstances. Increasingly, attention has been given to educational outcomes as a basis for evaluation.

 How long will the entire process take?

It differs depending on circumstances, but generally the whole process can take between six to ten years to reach full accreditation status. The timeline for accreditation with the NWCCU is outlined in the NWWCU Accreditation Handbook and is determined by the Commission.

 What are the financial costs?

TRU pays annual dues and fees to the NWCCU, for the 2016-17 year this represents approximately 18,000 USD. TRU also covers the costs associated with site visits. The current dues structure can be found on the NWCCU website at under “Dues and Fees”.

 What is the composition of the evaluation team?

For an onsite visit, the evaluation team is usually comprised of seven (7) members from other accredited institutions outside the institution’s state or province. The team consists of faculty and administration and are chosen based on their expertise, the team typically includes a Vice Provost, University Registrar, Director of Assessment and Planning, and Dean, just to name a few. The evaluators’ primary responsibility is to make a considered and informed judgment based on the Standards as outlined in the NWCCU handbook.

 Some faculty members feel like there was a lack of consultation in the initial stages. What efforts are being made to ensure there is appropriate faculty consultation in the future?

In the fall of 2015, the ASC membership expanded to include a representative from each Faculty/School or Division, there are now nine faculty members who sit on the committee. The committee meets on a monthly basis and oversees the process of accreditation, provides opportunities for dialogue among faculty, and establishes working groups on standards and core themes. A full list of the ASC members and sub-committees can be found on the accreditation website. Additionally, representatives from the ASC have presented to all faculty councils, LRAC, smaller departmental meetings, and other stakeholders on campus. The purpose of the presentation is to share, discuss, and bring back feedback to the larger ASC. If faculty are interested in having a voice, please contact a faculty representative or any other member of the ASC.

 What kind of extra workload will be placed on the Faculties and Departments as a result of accreditation with NWCCU?

The workload expectations related to the accreditation process for faculty are expected to be minimal. As this process refers to institutional accreditation and examines the polices, resources and planning efforts of the institution, there may be little impact to the regular operations of the university’. The Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic will make every effort to minimize additional workload on faculty/staff as a result of this initiative.

 Does the NWCCU dictate things such as the ratio of tenure track faculty to sessional; class sizes; etc.?

No, the NWCCU standards do not have any requirements nor do they set these values. It is up to each institution to define and develop these parameters. As stated in the NWCCU Handbook: “Regional accreditation evaluates the effectiveness of an institution in achieving its stated mission and core themes. Its primary concern must lie with the total institution. Whenever institutional policies and procedures are modified by collective bargaining agreements, such modification should not contravene the requirements of Commission standards for accreditation or eligibility requirements."

 Is accreditation driving the learning outcomes initiative at TRU?

No, the Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) and Ministry of Advanced Education (AVED) have identified a need for learning outcomes. The Quality Assurance Process Audit (QAPA) in BC will assess institutions and require annual reporting to show how our programs reflect the mandate, mission and values of TRU. A key component of this will be demonstrating “how learning outcomes are being achieved and how student progress is assessed and measured.” (QAPA Handbook 2016; page 8). The NWCCU shares similar sentiments regarding learning outcomes. The details are outlined under Standard 22: Student Achievement (

 What role will faculty have in decision-making surrounding the Recommendation on general education?

Faculty are integral to the decision making related to general education. TRU is making progress towards articulating General Education in its undergraduate degree programs; however, we recognize that broad consultation, inclusion, transparency and communication of the values associated with general education are paramount in the success of this process. The Academic Themes, Academic Foundations and Graduate Attributes all support the concept of General Education at TRU. Senate approved the formation of the General Education Taskforce (GET) at its November 2016 meeting. GET was formed in February 2017 and has broad university representation and is faculty lead with a faculty member majority. As part of the ongoing consultation process, GET is presenting to all faculty councils with the purpose to provide background information and seek feedback about general education.