x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Zayed University’s accreditation with US association under scrutiny

The Middle States Commission found 'areas of concern' as staff fear recent regime change is damaging university's status.

Zayed University must submit a monitoring report but is not in danger of losing its accreditation with the Middle States Commission. Antonie Robertson / The National
Zayed University must submit a monitoring report but is not in danger of losing its accreditation with the Middle States Commission. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Zayed University’s international accreditation with the Middle States Commission is under scrutiny after its inspectors found “several areas of concern” on their review visit, although the commission emphasises that such monitoring is “a somewhat routine occurrence”.

Last June, the US commission’s official statement ordered the university to address areas such as leadership, administration and resources for students.

Zayed University has until September 1 to return its updated self-study report, after Middle States said that further steps must be taken to “periodically assess the effectiveness of institutional leadership and governance, assure continuity and stability of institutional administration, document an organised and sustained assessment process with sufficient simplicity, practicality, detail and ownership to be sustainable and strengthen library/learning resources”.

The federal institution was first accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools on June 26, 2008, and subsequently had to submit self-studies five years later and then at 10-year intervals.

Middle States is a voluntary, non-profit association that aims to provide educational excellence and improvement through peer evaluation and accreditation.

Following the submission of the self-study after five years, a team of evaluators is sent to the institution for two and a half days to conduct interviews with students, academics, staff, administrators and trustees to verify the contents of the report.

The self-study process typically takes an institution two years to complete and is designed to verify institutional compliance with the commission’s 14 accreditation standards and to help improve the institution by identifying weaknesses and developing ways to remedy those weaknesses.

While the commission last year reaffirmed Zayed’s accreditation for a five-year period, it has stipulated that the subsequent monitoring report must be submitted.

The university has had a revolving door of leadership in recent years, from its president and vice president to its provosts. Some staff have expressed a degree of uncertainty after several members of the finance department were recently made redundant.

One teacher said: “Lots of people don’t know if they are coming or going.

“Transparency is key to good governance and a lack of transparency creates this climate of uncertainty. Autonomy should always be counterbalanced by transparency.”

A spokesman from the commission, however, said the university’s accreditation was not in jeopardy. He added: “Because Zayed University is still relatively new and has only been accredited by the commission for the past five years, the commission has requested a report on how the institution is progressing in the areas of leadership, governance, assessment and learning resources.

“These are all key areas within the commission’s 14 accreditation standards. It is important to stress that Zayed’s accreditation is not in jeopardy. The requested monitoring report is a somewhat routine occurrence within the commission’s multi-part accreditation processes.”

Another staff member at the university who had been involved in the re-accreditation process said he was unaware of the issue.

“I had no idea we were under pressure but it does not surprise me,” he said. “No one here is happy.”

He added that: “Good faculty and staff are leaving and almost everyone has multiple CVs out.

“The appointment of the new president and her visit gave us great hope but it will take a long time for her goodness and competence to trickle down to us.”

mswan@thenational.ae