Middle States Commission reaffirms Johns Hopkins accreditation

On Nov. 20, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaffirmed Johns Hopkins University's accreditation, the culmination of a universitywide self-study process that began in 2011. The commission's decision was based largely on a glowing peer evaluation team report, which cited Johns Hopkins' excellence in combining research with education, encouraging scholars to collaborate across disciplines, and energizing its community around shared goals.

"The animating commitment to marrying research with education that characterized the founding mission of Johns Hopkins University continues unabated almost 150 years later," wrote the evaluation team in its final report, adding that "the undergraduate experience draws from this central strength of the institution."

Johns Hopkins has been continually accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1921, and goes through a comprehensive self-study once every 10 years as part of the reaccreditation process. A 25-member steering committee comprising Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students led the most recent self-study, which examined the university's educational offerings, faculty, administration, student services, and other areas, with a focus on assessments of student learning and institutional effectiveness.

In a message to the university community, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert Lieberman thanked the steering committee, chaired by former Vice Provost Jonathan Bagger and Assistant Vice Provost Philip Tang, which "shepherded thoughtful divisional self-assessments and cross-divisional reviews into a comprehensive, 229-page report that reflects the progress and the ambition of our extraordinary university over the past decade."

Middle States also commended Johns Hopkins on the quality of its self-study process and its self-study report, which served as the basis for the university's accreditation review by a 10-person peer evaluation team assembled by Middle States. Thomas Rosenbaum, president of the California Institute of Technology, chaired the visiting team, which spent four days in May visiting Johns Hopkins' campuses, meeting with students, faculty, deans, university leaders, and trustees—more than 100 members of the university community in all.

The evaluation team's final 23-page report highlighted ways the university excels in teaching, research, administration, and community engagement. For students, "the Johns Hopkins educational experience is exceptional by any standard," wrote the team.

The university's Gateway Sciences Initiative, which seeks to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the gateway sciences, was singled out as an example of the university's innovation in undergraduate education.

The Middle States evaluation team report also praised Daniels' leadership in developing the Ten by Twenty framework, which the team observed has "galvanized the Johns Hopkins community and led to articulated goals for eminence." The team also noted the university's efforts to encourage even greater collaboration among its divisions, citing the Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships in particular for offering great promise for new areas of collaborative research.

In addition, the report commended Johns Hopkins on its recommitment to civic engagement, referencing students' extensive community service activities; the new Henderson-Hopkins School operated by the School of Education; outreach programs in the schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; and economic investments in local communities.

The evaluation team offered two suggestions for Johns Hopkins to consider: to explore creative ways to bolster central resources in order to achieve the university's ambitious Ten by Twenty goals, and to strengthen the provost's role in tenure and promotion decisions across the university.

The suggestions add to several recommendations identified in the university's self-study report, including enhancing efforts to recruit scholars from underrepresented groups and to support their success, removing administrative barriers to the development of cross-divisional academic programs, and applying lessons learned from the Gateway Sciences Initiative to foster innovative teaching across all disciplines.

In their message to the university community, Daniels and Lieberman said, "As our self-study revealed and the Middle States evaluation team confirmed, the strategic changes we enacted over the last 10 years—informed by data and steered by both evidence and principle—have made us a stronger institution."

Though the process is now complete, the self-study report is intended to be a living document, says Tang. "Three years ago, President Daniels charged us with making the self-study meaningful for Johns Hopkins. The steering committee took that to heart, and has remained committed to ensuring the final report would benefit Johns Hopkins for years to come," he says. "And while the story of our great university continues to be written each day, I think we're proud and pleased to put the book down for a while."

Both the 2014 self-study report and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education evaluation team report are online at http://web.jhu.edu/administration/provost/reaccreditation.