Understanding the WSCUC Standards

The WSCUC process begins by calling upon institutions to ground their activities in three Core Commitments. By affirming these Core Commitments and taking ownership of the accreditation process, institutions create learning environments that continuously strive for educational excellence and operational effectiveness in order to serve both students and the public good.

Core Commitment to Student Learning and Success

Institutions have clear educational goals and student learning outcomes. Institutions collect, analyze, and interpret valid and reliable evidence of learning as a way of assessing student achievement and success. Institutions support the success of all students and seek to understand and improve student success.

Core Commitment to Quality and Improvement

Institutions are committed to high standards of quality in all of their educational activities. They utilize appropriate evidence to improve teaching, learning, and overall institutional effectiveness. Through strategic and integrated planning, institutions demonstrate the capacity to fulfill their current commitments and future needs and opportunities.

Core Commitment to Institutional Integrity, Sustainability, and Accountability

Institutions recognize that the public has entrusted them with the critical responsibilities of upholding the values of higher education and contributing to the public good. They engage in sound business practices, demonstrate institutional integrity, operate in a transparent manner, and adapt to changing conditions.

Standards of Accreditation

The Standards of Accreditation consist of four broad, holistic statements that reflect widely accepted good practices in higher education. WSCUC institutions are diverse in terms of mission, character, and type. The Standards are broad enough to honor that diversity, respect institutional mission, and support institutional autonomy. At the same time, institutions must demonstrate that they are in substantial compliance with the four Standards and related Criteria for Review in order to become and remain accredited. The four Standards are:

Criteria for Review

Thirty-nine Criteria for Review (CFR) are distributed across the four Standards. The CFRs under each Standard provide more specific statements about the meaning of the Standard. The CFRs are grouped under headings that identify major aspects of institutional functioning. The CFRs are cited by institutions in their institutional report, by peer reviewers in evaluating institutions, and by the Commission in making decisions about institutions. Many of the CFRs are cross-referenced to allow for ease in identifying related and connected CFRs.


Where Guidelines are provided, they assist institutions in interpreting the CFRs by offering examples of how institutions can address a particular Criterion for Review. An institution is welcome to employ different practices from those described in a particular Guideline; in that case, the institution is responsible for showing that it has addressed the intent of that Criterion in an equally effective way.

Related Commission Policies and Resources

Following some CFRs are references to policies of particular relevance to those CFRs and any related Guidelines. Institutions are encouraged to become familiar with, and to review periodically, all Commission policies, which are binding on member institutions.

Following some CFRs are references to manuals and resource guides. The procedures described in WSCUC manuals, like policies, are binding. Guides, offering principles and examples of good practice, address topics such as program review, transparency, graduate education, and the use of evidence. Guides are not binding; they are merely suggestive and intended to provide helpful information. 

Current versions of WSCUC policies, manuals, and resource guides are available at www.wscuc.org/document-list.