Seark College

Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP)

Launched in July 1999 with a generous grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commission's Academic Quality Improvement Program infuses the principles and benefits of continuous improvement into the culture of colleges and universities by providing an alternative process through which an already-accredited institution can maintain its accreditation. An institution in AQIP demonstrates how it meets accreditation standards and expectations through a sequence of events that align with the ongoing activities of an institution striving to improve its performance.

The Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) provides an alternative evaluation process for organizations already accredited by the Commission. AQIP is structured around quality improvement principles and processes and involves a structured set of goal-setting, networking, and accountability activities. AQIP uses direct, cost-effective processes including AQIP’s Strategy Forums, Systems Appraisals, and various other services.

Read the Commission's Introduction to AQIP.

Institutional Experience with AQIP

AQIP institutions provide reflections on what they have learned from their AQIP experience. Visit the Reflections on Action in Continuous Improvement and the information shared by AQIP institutions on

Scheduled Quality Checkup Visits

During the 2010–2011 academic year the Commission will conduct Quality Checkup visits to ten institutions as part of their participation in the Academic Quality Improvement Program.

Read more: Scheduled Quality Checkup Visits

New Action Project Directory Update

In the years since the Action Project Directory was created, the Commission has identified many needed additions, prompting a Directory revision.

Read more... [New Action Project Directory Update]

Maintaining Accreditation through the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP)

Exploring AQIP and Quality Improvement

AQIP’s Principles of High Performance Organizations describe the characteristics participating colleges and universities strive to embed within their culture. Research and experience indicate that these principles—Focus, Involvement, Leadership, Learning, People, Collaboration, Agility, Foresight, Information, and Integrity—permeate organizations that have achieved a systematic approach to continuous quality improvement.

AQIP has identified nine categories for institutions to show evidence of continuing to meet the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation.

Two Options for AQIP Involvement

AQIP offers two different ways for organizations to become involved. One way allows institutions accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to maintain that status, formally reaffirming it periodically, while the other allows any organization to use AQIP processes to propel its continuous improvement efforts without accreditation benefits.

Continuing Improvement and Maintaining Accredited Status

When a college or university formally becomes a participant in AQIP, the date of its next reaffirmation of accreditation is set seven years from the date of the official action admitting the organization to AQIP. Reaffirmation seven years later is based on the pattern of full participation in AQIP during that period, on evidence of progress and improvement in the institution, and on evidence that the institution continues to fulfill the Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation.

Continuing Improvement Only

An institution or a major division of a large learning institution can participate in order to use AQIP’s processes for improvement and for the opportunity to network with other institutions that are using quality principles and tools. This associate participation is appropriate for institutions not located in the North Central Association region (and therefore not eligible for Higher Learning Commission accreditation) or for divisions (such as the School of Education, the College of Engineering, or the Student Affairs Division) of a large organization that is not basing accreditation on an organization-wide quality initiative. Associate participation requires the same level of involvement as using AQIP to maintain their accreditation, except that accreditation is not part of the relationship.
AQIP employs these steps to reaffirm accredited status.
  1. The institution engages in all AQIP processes, including Strategy Forums, Annual Updates, Systems Portfolio Appraisals, and visits to review U.S. Department of Education compliance issues, for a seven-year period.
  2. An AQIP Review Panel examines the collective history of the institution’s interaction with the Commission to determine whether this evidence demonstrates compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and Core Components. If evidence relating to any of the Core Components is insufficient, the Panel seeks and obtains additional information before making its recommendation.
  3. The IAC takes action on the Review Panel’s recommendation regarding reaffirmation of accreditation and continuing AQIP participation.
  4. The Board of Trustees validates the action.


To join AQIP, an institution must first formally submit an application. The application should indicate that the organization has already completed some form of quality-based preliminary self-assessment that included an outside perspective, or that it has concrete plans to do so, with a target date for completion of the self assessment.

Third-Party Comment provided information on the public’s role in accreditation.


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