The future of the academy societal changes accreditation accountability
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The Future of the Academy– Societal Changes; Accreditation; Accountability. APLG/FSA 2008: Strategies for a Complex World Jon Wergin Antioch University I. Societal changes. Democratization of access Digital revolution Democratization of knowledge

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The Future of the Academy– Societal Changes; Accreditation; Accountability

APLG/FSA 2008:

Strategies for a Complex World

Jon Wergin

Antioch University

I. Societalchanges

  • Democratization of access

  • Digital revolution

  • Democratization of knowledge

  • Faculty demographics

How are these affecting the academy?

  • Shift in power from institutions to students

  • Generational differences

  • Challenges to “legitimate knowledge”

Accounting PhD Program Information

AAA/APLG/FSA Doctoral Education Committee

(89 schools)

5. What qualities do you look for in students applying to your school?



Specific skill sets11

Work ethic/Motivation11

Research potential10

Intellectual curiosity 9

(others less than 8%)

(average of 3 qualities per school)

“In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground overlooking a swamp. On the high ground, manageable problems lend themselves to solution through the use of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowlands, problems are messy and confusing and incapable of technical solution. The irony of this situation is that the problems of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or to society at large, however great their technical interest may be, while in the swamp lie the problems of greatest human concern…

… The practitioner is confronted with a choice. Shall he remain on the high ground where he can solve relatively unimportant problems according to his standards of rigor, or shall he descend to the swamp of important problems where he cannot be rigorous in any way he knows how to describe?”

- Donald Schon, Change Magazine, November/December 1995

II. Accountability

“The most advocated and least analyzed word in higher education.” - Joseph Burke

Six demands of accountability for public agencies

  • Serve public needs

  • Use powers properly

  • Work to achieve mission or priorities

  • Account for resources used and outcomes created

  • Report on performance publicly

  • Ensure quality of programs

“Quality… You know what it is, yet you don’t know what it is.”

- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Characteristics of a Quality Academic Program

A diverse and supportive academic community

A culture of collective responsibility

A commitment to excellence in teaching, student learning, and scholarship

A culture of critical reflection

Visionary leadership from faculty and chair

Adequate resources for students and faculty

Accountability to whom, and for what?

  • To whom: From the “common good” to individual gain

  • For what: From stewardship to learning outcomes

Accountability for results is dangerous.

III. Accreditation:higher education’s face of public accountability

Spellings Commission

  • Access

  • Cost and affordability

  • Financial aid

  • Learning

  • Transparency and accountability

  • Innovation

“We believe that improved accountability is vital to ensuring the success of all the other reforms we propose. Colleges and universities must become more transparent about cost, price, and other student success outcomes, and must willingly share this information with students and families… This information should be made available to students, and reported publicly in aggregate form to provide consumers and policymakers an accessible, understandable way to measure the relative effectiveness of different colleges and universities.”

- Spellings Commission final report, August 2006

Recent developments in accreditation

  • Federal government turning up the heat on accreditors

  • Divergent responses by higher ed associations:

    • “College Portrait” - NASULGC and AASCU - conduct and release results from standardized tests

    • “New Leadership for Student Learning and Accountability” - AAC&U and CHEA

“Quality standards must be set and met by institutions themselves and not by external agencies… [Institutions should] gather evidence about how well students in various programs are achieving learning goals across the curriculum and about the ability of graduates to succeed…”

“New Leadership for Student Learning and Accountability: A Statement of Principles, Commitments to Action,” January 2008.

Social changes + accountability + accreditation = ?

Social changes +Accountability +Accreditation =

  • Heightened demand for “access”

  • Flexibility in educational delivery

  • Intentional connection of academic programs with professional practice

  • Collective reflection about “quality”

  • Clearer definition of “learning” and universities’ responsibility for it

  • Inside-out assessment

  • Greater public transparency

How can accounting programs avoid “reform without change”?

  • Ensure that environments of quality are in place.

  • Base curricula on how people learn.

  • Avoid linear thinking.

  • Challenge existing reward systems.

  • Recognize and balance inherent tensions.

    • Responsiveness vs. responsibility

    • Individuality vs. collaboration

    • Vision vs. reality

    • Valuing the past vs. being open to the future

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