Perkins School of Theology is up for reaccreditation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in 2020. That involves an extensive two-year process of self-study and peer review that is required once each decade to maintain Perkins’ ATS accreditation.

But O. Wesley Allen, Jr., the faculty member who’s spearheading the reaccreditation process, says it’s more than just jumping through a series of institutional hoops. The process became an opportunity for all members of the Perkins community to reflect and look ahead.

While there’s no concern that Perkins won’t be re-accredited, “Everybody has taken this process very seriously,” said Allen, who is Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics.  “We have used this time for self-evaluation and looking toward the future.”

Virtually every theological school in the U.S. and Canada – including mainline Protestant, evangelical and Roman Catholic institutions – holds this accreditation and must seek reaccreditation every 10 years.

The entire process takes more than two years and culminates with a site visit to Perkins by an Accreditation Evaluation Committee from the Commission on Accrediting of the ATS on February 10-13, 2020. (The committee is made up of faculty and staff from other theological schools; members of Perkins faculty and administration have served on site committees for other schools.)

Allen has worked closely with Duane Harbin, Assistant Dean for Technology, Planning & Compliance, as well as an accreditation steering committee and several subcommittees.

The process also required extensive feedback and input – by way of interviews and focus groups — from a wide range of Perkins constituents: current students, alumni, faculty, staff and senior administrators, and the Perkins executive board.

“The ATS Commission on Accrediting’s list of standards includes general institutional, educational and degree program standards,” said Harbin. “The accreditation process involves gathering data to demonstrate the school’s financial stability, its policies and curriculum, governance, student body size and enrollment, student services, and requirements for each degree program.” “It really does ask us to evaluate the full program of Perkins,” said Allen.  “And it led us to examine, ‘Are we teaching students what we claim to be teaching?’”

Perkins’ re-accreditation process has led to the recommendation that the School conduct a comprehensive curricular review.

“We’re looking at the question of how we might best meet a new generation of students’ needs, given that more and more of our graduates are not serving in the church, but other kinds of ministries,” Allen said.  “How do we shape the program to meet their needs? Not just in terms of what courses but also the structure of the coursework.”

“The self-study for reaccreditation came at an opportune time, as it spurred us to revisit and rethink policies and curriculum in a very productive way,” said Dean Craig Hill.

The efforts are documented in a 130-page report, which will be submitted to ATS in November.

In February, members of the site committee will meet with Dean Craig Hill at the end of their visit to present their initial conclusions orally. A written report will then go the ATS board of commissioners, which will issue its accreditation decision by June 2020.

Even then, the process won’t be finished.

“It’s an ongoing process, and there will be follow-up,” Allen said. “The report is a living document. It serves as a reflection on our strategic plan and goals for our school.”

Perkins Welcomes Association of Theological Schools Comprehensive Evaluation Committee

Perkins School of Theology is hosting a comprehensive evaluation visit for reaffirmation of accreditation by the ATS Commission on Accrediting on February 10-13, 2020. The purpose of this visit is to verify that the school meets all applicable Commission Standards of Accreditation. Comments regarding how well the school meets those standards and/or generally demonstrates educational quality may be sent to the ATS Director of Commission Information Services (accrediting@ats.edu) at least two weeks before the visit. Comments may also or instead be sent in writing to Duane Harbin, Assistant Dean for Technology, Planning and Compliance (dharbin@smu.edu).  All comments will be shared with the onsite evaluation committee.

The visit of the comprehensive evaluation committee is the culmination of a two-year process of self-study and peer review that is required once each decade to maintain Perkins’ ATS accreditation.  Members of all Perkins constituencies, including current students, alumni/ae, faculty, staff, and members of the denominations and churches served by Perkins are invited to submit comments in writing as instructed above.  During the visit, there will also be opportunities for members of the constituencies to meet with the visitors. 

About the ATS’s Commission on Accrediting

The body recognized as the accrediting agency for The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (“ATS”) is the Commission on Accrediting (“Commission”) of ATS, which is related to but separate from ATS. The current Commission membership includes nearly 260 graduate theological schools in the United States and Canada who are Accredited Members or Candidates for Accredited Member status. The purpose of the Commission is “to contribute to the enhancement and improvement of theological education through accreditation . . . and to] collect data from all members . . . for use in accrediting.” The Commission is recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.