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Monday, 10 September 2012

Calling the University of Pittsburgh a “world class research university” with an “unwavering commitment to excellence” and referring to its administrators as an "extraordinarily talented and beloved leadership team,” a newly released Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation report praised the University’s institution-wide system of assessment and reaffirmed its accreditation for a 10-year period, without qualification, the maximum permissible time for an extension of accreditation.

The accreditation also covers the university’s four regional campuses, including Bradford, which received high marks from the Middle States evaluators.

“Accreditation review team members met with administrators, faculty, staff and students during their on-site visit to Pitt-Bradford last spring,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford. “Team members made special note of our planning and evaluation processes. In my view, this is a clear reflecation of the dedication and focus of our employees in making Pitt-Bradford one of the best colleges in the Northeast.”

Accreditation from third-party agencies like the Middle States Commission is considered the gold standard for educational institutions. Accrediting agencies examine and take into account quality and continuity of leadership, facilities, finances, student services, health and safety, staffing and long-range planning.

A team of evaluators from the Middle States Commission visited the University of Pittsburgh campuses in Pittsburgh, Bradford and Greensburg this spring.

“There exists a culture of planning and accountability,” the evaluators wrote of their visit to Pitt-Bradford. “Faculty members are readily engaged in student advisement and have a strong sense of community. They are positive with regard to the administration and the transparency of academic planning processes, and faculty morale is very positive.”

The report continued, “Students express a strong sense of community to the campus, feel that the campus culture is intimate and caring, and appreciate campus facilities and infrastructure. The Team was impressed with the extremely positive leadership and energy that seems to pervade the culture of these unique campuses.”

The evaluation team also highlighted a recurring cause for concern— steep reductions in state support. “The greatest challenge to the University of Pittsburgh— no matter how talented its leadership or how robust its system of assessment—is external. … In response to [recent cuts in state support], the University already has made operational efficiency a priority; and it has undertaken budget cuts, redesign of benefits, efficiencies, productivity increases, and the imposition of University-wide salary freezes. To the outside observer, these cuts were beyond bone to marrow.”

The report further discussed the possible consequences of such cuts, not only for the University, but for the regional economy. “We would be remiss if we did not note the following: that excellence, once lost, is difficult to regain; that excellence at even a great university is fragile and sometimes evaporates quickly; that, in the decades ahead, great cities and states will depend increasingly on the existence of great universities within them (the University today is a wonderful example of that synergy); and that reducing public support for the University of Pittsburgh and institutions like it is singularly shortsighted…”

The full report may be viewed online at http://www.middlestates.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/middlestatesfinalreport1.pdf.

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