Western U. earns full accreditation

Western U. earns full accreditation

Apr 01, 2010

Pomona, Calif. — Western University's College of Veterinary Medicine — the nation's newest veterinary school — moved from limited to full accreditation.

Western University's new accreditation status was confirmed by Dr. David Granstrom, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Education and Research Division and liaison to the Council on Education (COE), which accredits colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States.

The decision was announced following COE's closed-door meetings in March, Granstrom says.

"This is an important and critical step in our college's development, one for which we have worked hard to achieve," adds Western University's Dean Phillip Nelson, in a prepared statement. "It is never easy blazing new trails and creating new models while assuring that quality standards continue to be met. The decision by COE validates this accomplishment."

Western University was established in 1998 and welcomed its first class of veterinarians in 2003 with provisional accreditation status. Limited accreditation was granted two years ago, and three areas of concern emerged from a COE site visit at that time. Noncompliance with certain aspects of the accreditation policy, based on U.S. Department of Education guidelines, only is a problem when an issue has major impact on student outcomes or student safety, Granstrom explains.

Progress was enough to move Western University from substantial to full compliance based on what was presented to COE.

Granstrom would not comment further on what changes helped the college move from limited to full accreditation, deferring questions to Western University's dean.

Faculty numbers, facility concerns and the lack of a research program were noted when the school's limited accreditation was granted, says Nelson, explaining that over the last two years, many facility improvments were made and faculty numbers were increased by 30 percent. A research program has been initiated but is still in its development stages, he adds.

These improvements may have helped Western elevate its accreditation status, but Nelson says he won't know for sure what did it until he sees the final COE report.

The COE decision follows a flurry of commentary and speculation aired recently on VIN, fueled in part by public criticism by VIN's co-founder Paul Pion that politics could be influencing COE's evaluation and accreditation process, especially for the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. COE did not rule on UNAM's bid, but Granstrom is quick to defend COE practices.

"Policy has been followed very carefully and the decision was made without influence from any outside entity whatsoever. It's just like everybody else. They were treated no different; they were given no special treatment," Granstrom says, saying he takes offense to the implications of the rumors.

COE is made up of volunteers who take their task very seriously, and Granstrom says he pities the person who tries to sway any of its members. Confusion may arise from the fluid nature of COE, which must continually change based on then needs of society, he says.

Three COE policies are reviewed each year, and there is ample opportunity for outsiders to comment and for COE members to make adjustments. Policy changes must then be approved by the AVMA executive board, he explains.

"There is lively discussion on COE and it's a well-informed, intelligent, hard-working group. It pains me to see them unfairly criticized like this. They should be applauded for their service," Granstrom says. "I'm not saying there aren't individuals with an agenda. That would be naïve. But there are enough checks and balances built in, I believe this is representational governance at its finest."