NWCCU Standards and Processes

Accreditation of an institution of higher education by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities indicates that it meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of institutional quality evaluated through a peer review process.

An accredited college or university is one that has available the necessary resources to achieve its stated purposes through appropriate educational programs, is substantially doing so, and gives reasonable evidence that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Institutional integrity is also addressed through accreditation.

NWCCU accreditation is not partial but applies to the institution as a whole. As such, it is not a guarantee of every course or program offered, or the competence of individual graduates. Rather, it provides reasonable assurance about the quality of opportunities available to students who attend the institution.

Inquiries regarding an institution's accredited status by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities should be directed to the administrative staff of the institution. Individuals may also contact:

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
8060 165th Avenue N.E., Suite 100
Redmond, WA 98052 

(425) 558-4224

NWCCU's Process

NWCCU accreditation is a peer-evaluation process:

  • OHSU submits a self-study report that assesses its fulfillment of its mission and NWCCU standards
  • Peers from like institutions serve on the accreditation team that visits OHSU for the on-site evaluation of what was presented in the self-study report

The NWCCU evaluates universities at several points over a seven-year period.

  • Year One Report, but no visit
  • Mid-Cycle Report in year three;visit but focused on assessment piece of self-study to determine readiness for Year Seven
  • Year Seven includes OHSU doing a self-study to evaluate five accreditation standards and identifying areas of strength and weakness; includes a visit from seven to nine NWCCU evaluators

NWCCU Standards

The five Standards for Accreditation are statements that articulate the quality and effectiveness expected of accredited institutions, and collectively they provide a framework for continuous improvement within institutions. The five standards also serve as indicators by which institutions are evaluated by peers. The standards are designed to guide institutions in a process of self-reflection that blends analysis and synthesis in a holistic examination of:

  • The institution's mission and core themes
  • The translation of the mission's core themes into assessable objectives supported by programs and services
  • The appraisal of the institution's potential to fulfill the mission
  • The planning and implementation involved in achieving and assessing the desired outcomes of programs and services
  • An evaluation of the results of the institution's efforts to fulfill its mission, assess its ability to monitor its environment and adapt and sustain itself as a viable institution.                                                                                         

Standard 1: Mission, Core Themes and Expectations 

The institution articulates its purpose in a mission statemen and identifies core themes that comprise essential elements of that mission. In an examination of its purpose, characteristics and expectations, the institution defines the parameters for mission fulfillment. Guided by that definition, it identifies an acceptable threshold or extent of mission fulfillment.

For additional details, see NWCCU Standard 1A –1B

Standard 2: Resources and Capacity

By documenting the adequacy of its resources and capacity, the institution demonstrates the potential to fulfill its mission, accomplish its core theme objectives and achieve the intended outcomes of its programs and services, wherever offered and however delivered. Through its governance and decision-making structures, the institution establishes, reviews regularly, and revises, as necessary, policies and procedures that promote effective management and operation of the institution.

For additional details, see NWCCU Standard 2A –2G   

Standard 3: Planning and Implementation

The institution engages in ongoing, participatory planning that provides direction for the institution and leads to the achievement of the intended outcomes of its programs and services, accomplishment of its core themes and fulfillment of its mission. The resulting plans reflect the interdependent nature of the institution's operations, functions, and resources. The institution demonstrates that the plans are implemented and are evident in the relevant activities of its programs and services, the adequacy of its resource allocation, and the effective application of institutional capacity. In addition, the institution demonstrates that its planning and implementation processes are sufficiently flexible so that the institution is able to address unexpected circumstances that have the potential to impact the institution's ability to accomplish its core theme objectives and to fulfill its mission.

For additional details, see NWCCU Standard 3A –3B   

Standard 4: Effectiveness and Improvement

The institution regularly and systematically collects data related to clearly defined indicators of achievement, analyzes those data, and formulates evidence-based evaluations of the achievement of core theme objectives. It demonstrates clearly defined procedures for evaluating the integration and significance of institutional planning, the allocation of resources, and the application of capacity in its activities for achieving the intended outcomes of its programs and services and for achieving its core theme objectives. The institution disseminates assessment results to its constituencies and uses those results to effect improvement.

For additional details, see NWCCU Standard 4A –4B

Standard 5: Mission Fulfillment, Adaptation and Sustainability

Based on its definition of mission fulfillment and informed by the results of its analysis of accomplishment of its core theme objectives, the institution develops and publishes evidence-based evaluations regarding the extent to which it is fulfilling its mission. The institution regularly monitors its internal and external environments to determine how and to what degree changing circumstances may impact its mission and its ability to fulfill that mission. It demonstrates that it is capable of adapting, when necessary, its mission, core themes, programs, and services to accommodate changing and emerging needs, trends, and influences to ensure enduring institutional relevancy, productivity, viability and sustainability.

For additional details, see NWCCU Standard 5A –5B