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UND accreditation renewed: Higher Learning Commission says university met all criteria

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UND’s accreditation has been continued by the Higher Learning Commission following a campus visit by commissioners last year, the university said Wednesday.

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University President Robert Kelley said he was very pleased about that, but not surprised. The university had engaged in a thorough self-study before the visit to ensure it met the higher education accreditation association’s criteria.

The HLC accredits universities throughout the Midwest and some Mountain States. UND has been accredited by the association since 1913, when the association formed.

In its report, the HLC said UND met all criteria, ranging from having a clear mission that guides university operations to being committed to educational achievement.

The report praised Kelley’s strategic vision, which he calls “Exceptional UND.” Some of the results of that vision include the university’s focus on student learning and a stronger commitment to multiculturalism, the report said.

Earlier this month, UND hired an associate vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Kelley said the university is constantly looking at ways it can improve learning and provide services.

One example is classes in which students teach each other with some discussion by instructors, which have been shown to improve learning and grades.

Kelley said he saw diversity and inclusiveness as a kind of learning, too, giving students in Grand Forks exposure to peoples and cultures from different parts of the country and the world.

Improvements

But the HLC also suggested some changes UND could make.

The report said the university could compare the performance of students taking online courses with students taking the same courses on campus to ensure the outcomes are equal.

Kelley said the online and on-campus classes are very different ways to deliver knowledge and different outcomes should be expected. He said he wants to see if being able to visit with instructors online or in person makes a difference.

The HLC report also noted “a tension of competing demand of faculty effort between research and teaching” as faculty members are asked to contribute more to the university’s research mission. Commissioners said they observed that tension during their campus visit.

Faculty members complained that teaching assistants didn’t get enough support and that some saw their pay drop 75 percent during sabbaticals, which discourages faculty from taking time off for professional development.

Kelley said that research and teaching are complementary, but he is aware that there is some disparity in the sabbatical-leave policy and compensation for teaching assistants. He said the university will make adjustments.

HLC is scheduled to return for another campus visit in 2023-2024.

“We’re very pleased they’ve found so much strength here at the University of North Dakota,” Kelley said.

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