On Wednesday, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), the organization that performs peer evaluation and accreditation of public and private universities and colleges in the United States, released its positive report from a multi-year study of the University of Maine System.
In its report, the Commission found the System to be in compliance with the Standards of Accreditation and commended UMS for its “thoughtful, comprehensive self-study,” the result of an inclusive, participatory, system-wide process. In its letter, NECHE praised UMS for its strong commitment internally and externally across Maine to UMS and to unified accreditation, stating the Commission is “gratified to learn that UMS is committed to using unified accreditation as a tool for maximizing collaboration and coordination in an environment of limited resources.”
The University of Maine System’s unified accreditation is a first in the nation for a higher education system, and a tool for change and innovation for our students, faculty, and staff. At its core, unified accreditation allows the University of Maine system to be evaluated by our accreditor as a unit, rather than requiring every university within the System to obtain and expend the resources required for individual accreditation. As a result, unified accreditation is the mechanism through which our universities and Law School are able to maximize resources and capitalize on opportunities for growth and collaboration.
The letter is the Commission’s culminating assessment of the University of Maine System’s comprehensive evaluation which started in January 2021 and included both the production of a system-wide Self Study in June 2022 and a NECHE-appointed evaluation team’s visits to all of the universities (based in Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Machias, Orono, Farmington, Augusta and Portland) and the University of Maine School of Law in October 2022.
“Building on the foundation of unified accreditation and guided (upon its completion) by our new UMS strategic plan, we will move forward together in serving our students and our state,” explained University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “This decision is the culmination of a 2-year process and underscores innovation and vision among all of our universities in the System.”
The Commission has additionally granted general approval to University of Maine System to offer Competency- Based Education programs through the University of Maine Presque Isle (UMPI), finding that UMPI provides appropriate support services for CBE students, assures that faculty have oversight of the curriculum and ensures “fidelity to high-quality CBE programming.” “We are gratified to have received general approval from NECHE to expand our competency-based programming,” said Carolyn Dorsey, Acting Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives at UMS. “This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff in ensuring that our students receive a high-quality education and in NECHE’s confidence in our ability to provide innovative and effective educational opportunities for our students.”
Nearly 150 faculty, staff and administrators contributed to the UMS Self Study, and more than 500 UMS community members including faculty, academic and research leaders, students, staff, Boards of Visitors members, external stakeholders and others interacted with the evaluation team in the fall of 2022. NECHE will review the UMS strategic plan, due in 2025, and a comprehensive evaluation scheduled for Fall 2032.
Contact: Tory Ryden, Strategic Advisor & Dir. External Affairs
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.