Accreditation by The Commission on Accrediting of The Association of Theological Schools

What is The Commission on Accrediting?

The Commission on Accrediting is related to but separate from The Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The ATS has about 270 member schools in the U.S. and Canada. The association serves its member schools by resourcing them with program support (e.g., training for presidents, deans, and other officers). The commission accredits ATS schools and approves the schools’ degree programs.

The Commission on Accrediting is recognized by the United States Department of Education as a specialized accrediting agency. The commission is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education as a national faith-related accrediting organization.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation by The Commission on Accrediting signifies that “a theological school has resources appropriate to graduate theological education in general, that its resources are appropriate to the school’s particular mission, and that it is able to demonstrate the extent to which its educational and institutional goals are being achieved.”

The commission’s standards uphold the integrity of a theological education while supporting the central role of faculty in delivering quality programs to their students. Many denominations recommend or require that a student receive ordination from a commission-accredited school. ATS accreditation ensures that students at member schools receive a quality faith-oriented education that meets the highest secular and religious standards.

How Does It Work?

The commission’s purpose is “to enhance and improve theological education.” Accreditation includes a comprehensive institutional self-study, a review of the self-study report by representatives of peer member schools, an on-site visit, and a decision by the ATS Board of Commissioners on whether to affirm or reaffirm accreditation. The self-study involves institutional self-evaluation, institutional planning, and preparing for the external review. Reaffirmations are every 10 years.

What is the Union Presbyterian Seminary schedule?

The seminary is preparing for a decennial review. If successful, this review will reaffirm our accreditation for another ten years. UPSem’s self-study is due in January 2022 and the on-site peer review is scheduled for March 2022.

What does it cover?

The Commission on Accrediting standards are: 1) institutional, 2) educational, and 3) degree program. In total, there are over 75 standards.

The institutional standards include sections on: 1) Purpose, Planning, and Evaluation; 2) Institutional Integrity; 3) Learning, Teaching, and Research: Theological Scholarship; 4) Library and Information Resources; 5) Faculty; 6) Student Recruitment, Admission, Services, Borrowing, and Placement; 7) Authority and Governance; 8) Institutional Resources.

The educational standard covers all degree programs: 1) Nomenclature, 2) Campus-based education; 3) Extension education; 4) Distance education; 5) Faculty-directed individual instruction; 6) Assessment of student learning outcomes; 7) Academic guidelines regarding admission, transfer of credits, shared credit in degree programs, and advanced standing; and 8) nondegree instructional programs.

The degree program standards apply to each of the specific degree programs offered at UPSem: 1) Purpose, goals, learning outcomes, and educational assessment; 2) Program content; 3) Educational resources and learning strategies; and 4) Admission.



Accreditation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges


The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is recognized as a regional accreditor by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

SACSCOC accredits institutions that award associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in 11 states in the Southern United States: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation by SACSCOC signifies that an institution has “…a purpose appropriate to higher education and has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that purpose.”

Accreditation by SACSCOC allows UPSem students access to federal financial aid funds and is looked-for in their post-graduation placements, in doctoral program applications, and vocational employment applications.

How does it work?

Accreditation reviews are conducted by peers from universities in other states every 10 years, with an interim review at the fifth-year mark. A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) to improve student learning or student success is also developed, submitted, and reviewed as part of the tenth-year review. An Impact Report of the QEP is submitted as part of the interim fifth-year review.

What is the Union Presbyterian Seminary schedule?

The seminary completed its fifth-year interim review in September 2018 and is preparing for the decennial review, as a member of the Class of 2022. For the tenth-year reaffirmation of accreditation, an orientation to the reaffirmation process will be held December 2019. Instead of requiring a self- study, SACSCOC requires that schools demonstrate compliance with SACSCOC educational standards. UPSem’s compliance certification is due September 2021, and the quality enhancement plan is due in early 2022. SACSCOC will conduct an off-site peer review in fall 2021 and an on-site peer review in spring 2022.

What Does It Cover?

The tenth-year reaffirmation of accreditation will cover 73 standards in these categories:

1) Integrity, 2) Mission, 3) Basic Eligibility, 4) Governing Board, 5) Administration and Organization, 6) Faculty, 7) Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, 8) Student Achievement, 9) Educational Program Structure and Content, 10) Educational Policies, Procedures, and Practices, 11) Library and Learning / Information Resources, 12) Academic and Student Support Services, 13) Financial and Physical Resources, 14) Transparency and Institutional Representation.

Standard 7.2 requires a fully developed and resourced Quality Enhancement Plan to improve student learning or student success. Its development will benefit from the participation of our UPSem community, including students, faculty, and alumni.