The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) is the regional accreditation agency for colleges and universities in the six New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Three institutions in Greece, three in Switzerland, two in Lebanon and one in Bulgaria, Bermuda and Morocco, respectively, are also affiliated with NECHE.
The commission consists of faculty, administrators and trustees from affiliated institutions and public members. It is served by a staff led by Dr. Barbara Brittingham.
The commission is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a reliable authority on the quality of education for the institutions it accredits. The commission is also recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), affirming that its standards and processes are consistent with the quality, improvement and accountability expectations that CHEA has established.
The commission requires institutions to undergo a comprehensive evaluation at least every 10 years. The comprehensive evaluation process has three components:
- An institutional self-study, in which the institution evaluates how and how well it meets the commission's standards for accreditation.
- An on-site evaluation by a group of peers.
- A review and decision by the commission.
Self-study is at the heart of accreditation. Both a product and a process, effective self-study serves accreditation's dual purposes: quality assurance and institutional improvement. The self-study presents a concise picture of the institution as a dynamic entity with a sense of its history, an understanding of its present and a vision of its future. By clearly identifying strengths and challenges, the institution demonstrates its ability to use analysis for improvement.
Commission staff provide assistance to institutions preparing for their comprehensive evaluations through an annual fall workshop and individual campus visits. Institutions are strongly encouraged to submit a rough draft of the self-study for review by commission staff.
The on-site evaluation by a group of faculty and administrators provides the institution and the commission with a valuable external perspective. Team members are selected because of their experience at an institution comparable to the one being evaluated. They are trained by commission staff to validate the self-study in light of the institution's mission. The evaluation manual may be a helpful resource to understand the approach and perspective of the visiting team.
After the Visit
After the visit, the team chair, using material submitted by the team members, will produce a draft report, first reviewed by the team and the commission staff. The staff review is designed to help ensure that the report can stand on its own and that important areas are sufficiently addressed. Following any changes made in that initial review, the chair sends the draft report to the institution's president for purposes of making sure the factual matters in the report are correct. Having made any appropriate changes based on that review, the chair sends the final version of the team report to the institution, which sends copies to the team members and to the commission.
The institution's president is asked to respond to the team report. Responses may indicate concurrence with the team's findings, may provide a differing interpretive perspective on factual matters or may provide an update on how the institution has responded to the findings of the team.
Commission Review and Decision
Normally the commission considers comprehensive evaluations the semester following the visit. The institution's president and team chair are invited to meet with the commission for an interactive session to review the comprehensive evaluation. Included in the review are the self-study, team report, the confidential recommendation of the team chair, the institution's response, and the history of commission action with respect to the institution. In addition, in keeping with federal regulations, the commission seeks and considers public comment regarding each evaluated institution.
The range and meaning of commission actions affecting institutional status outlines the actions the commission may take with regard to an institution's accreditation status. In addition, the commission specifies areas where an institution should endeavor to improve its effectiveness. Official written notification of the commission's decision is provided to the institution shortly after the commission meeting.