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Post-Secondary Education Profiles in the TJ

July 25, 2008

In a refreshingly even-handed manner, the TJ has profiled two very different PSE institutions over the past week: UNB Saint John (“Want to get Ahead? Take Philosophy,” 23 July 2008) and Lansbridge University (“Online universities matter, too” 25 July 2008).

As much as this even-handed reporting is appreciated, there was a missed opportunity. It would be useful to have a companion piece like the one interviewing philosophy students (“‘It Touches You at the Core’: Education Students use Philosophy as Launchpad for Careers,” 23 July 2008) to the commentary written by Lansbridge president W. Barry Miller. What do his graduates have to say about their educational experience?

May I be permitted to toot my own horn?

Given that I knew nothing about the Lansbridge piece in today’s T-J, my comments yesterday about national standards and university missions and mandates anticipated Miller’s comments on accreditation rather nicely. As he points out:

Lansbridge University is accredited by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Province of New Brunswick, delivering the Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Executive Masters in Business Administration (eMBA) and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degrees.

In addition to this regional accreditation, Lansbridge University is the only online university in Canada accredited by the Distance Education Training Council (DETC) in Washington, D.C. A university has to be operating successfully for five years prior to applying for this accreditation, and then undergo a stringent and thorough review process before being accepted.

Accreditation is not a privilege that is granted frivolously. It is a right that must be earned through constant diligence, perseverance, hard work, and attention to detail. Lansbridge University has earned this right and follows the same strict review processes as traditional universities in maintaining it.

While he is justifiably proud of the fact that Lansbridge is accredited by the DETC, it must be pointed out that Lansbridge is not a member of the AUCC. It might be tempting to jump to the conclusion that its online delivery mode is the reason for such exclusion. That would be incorrect. Athabasca University, an online, distance-ed institution located in Alberta, is a member of AUCC. Rather, we must look to the mission statement and mandate of Lansbridge University. According to the website,

“Lansbridge University has a focused mission and constituency. We provide online management education. As our size is small, we have the advantage of effective communication and timely response to needs and opportunities that arise. As we grow, we will continue to evolve our communication and implementation processes to reflect the constituencies we will be serving.”

As noted yesterday, AUCC member institutions must be dedicated to (1) teaching and research, (2) scholarship and the advancement of knowledge, and (3) service to the community. If Lansbridge is committed to these principles it is not apparent from the website — which given that it is an online university should provide a full and complete account of mission and mandate, as well as programs and fees.

Lest I be labelled elitist (the epithet de jour for academics), let me go on record as saying I have absolutely nothing against online universities, or online programs such as the MBA offered by Lansbridge. They do provide access to PSE for many students. However, in light of Erin Millar’s revelations of how students such as Dave Cryderman fared when they attempted to transfer from a non-AUCC degree-granting institution to an AUCC degree-granting institution, it seems that students need to be better informed as to how decisions on PSE might play out over the long haul.

The same might be said for our provincial government.

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6 Comments
  1. Someone permalink
    July 25, 2008 9:21 am

    You left out what is arguably the most important requirement for AUCC membership.
    They require that an institution be non-profit -something that Lansbridge isn’t- to ensure quality comes before the bottom line.

  2. July 25, 2008 10:04 am

    Just one point, registrars often have a list of schools that includes AUCC members as well as American accreditation bodies. Capilano, which was one of the schools Erin looked at in her story is in the process of being accredited by the North West Commission on Colleges and Universities.

    http://www.macleans.ca/education/universities/article.jsp?content=20071024_140857_8464

    Since their reassignment as a university, they have said that they aren’t sure if they will seek AUCC membership. However, being accredited by the NWCCU should alleviate any previous problems students might have in moving from one school to another.

    I would assume that for Lansbridge, DETC accreditation should suffice.

  3. Debra Lindsay permalink
    July 25, 2008 11:24 am

    Carson,

    You may well be correct on the affect that NWCCU membership will have on Capilano College transfer students (or the affect of DETC accreditation for Lansbridge U students). I’m no expert here–nor do I expect to become one as the accreditation/ transfer issue is complex. Apparently those institutions with DETC accreditation have not been viewed as “equals” by all U.S. “regional” schools and transfer credits are not automatic. (See http://distancelearn.about.com/od/accreditationinfo/a/DETC.htm)
    What this all means for Lansbridge U students is anyones guess. I suspect that there would be few LU students in the market for transfers, but the fact is that LU uses DETC accreditation to promote itself.
    My hunch is that there is a “story” here.

  4. Debra Lindsay permalink
    July 25, 2008 11:32 am

    Carson,

    I’m not sure I can agree with you. Even in the U.S. not all “regional” schools will accept courses from DETC accredited programs and so I’m not sure how being DETC accredited will help students wanting to transfer in Canada.
    On the other hand, it seems to me that there would be few transfer requests from students enrolled in a LU MBA and so the issue is largely theoretical for LU.
    It is not, however, a trivial issue for students now enrolled in NB’s public universities. My point is that we do not want the government tinkering with our missions and mandates so as to put us in the same position as LU and Capilano College. Proposals to align NB’s public universities with political policies such as “self-sufficiency” (or whatever new policies appear in future) is to undermine the very foundation of the university in our society.

  5. July 25, 2008 12:14 pm

    Good point, though, the Erin Millar article largely refers to not so much transfer credits, but whether or not your entire degree will be accepted, when applying for teachers college or grad school. Transferring in the middle of a degree is problematic for anyone, no matter what the school.

    My point was just that if a school isn’t a member of the AUCC, but has accreditation south of the border, the problem of having a degree recognized when applying for a second degree could be alleviated.

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