2008 EPAS Handbook - Updated

  • AuthorCSWE Commission on Accreditation
  • Title2008 EPAS Handbook
  • PublisherCouncil on Social Work Education
  • Release Date10/15/2012
  • Copyright2008, Updated 2012
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1. Overview

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1.1.  Social Work Accreditation
1.1.1.  Commission on Accreditation

In social work education, the Commission on Accreditation (COA) of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to accredit baccalaureate and master’s degree programs in the United States and its territories. Since its inception in July 1952, CSWE has accredited master’s degree programs in social work. In 1974 it began accrediting baccalaureate programs. CSWE does not accredit doctoral programs, associate arts degree programs, or minors in social work.

As explained in its Bylaws (Article IV, Section 7, 1, a) (link works) CSWE delegates autonomous authority and responsibility for all accreditation activities to the COA. This authority extends to judgments regarding the accredited status of educational programs and includes the formulation and implementation of accreditation standards and procedures. The decisions of the COA are based on the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS), written by the Commission on Educational Policy (link stays the same) and the COA.

The COA is composed of a minimum of 25 members, including a chair, appointed by the chair of CSWE Board of Directors. In making appointments, the chair considers previous site team experience, years and nature of experience in faculty and administrative positions at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, as well as the CSWE affirmative action guidelines. Members are appointed for 3-year terms and may be reappointed to second 3-year terms. Most of the commissioners hold full-time faculty or administrative appointments in accredited programs. The remaining commissioners are public members.

The COA reviews all programs in a fair and impartial manner. Material submitted to the COA relative to a program’s review is available to any commissioner, unless a conflict of interest exists. Members of the COA, site visitors, and former commissioners representing the COA treat accreditation materials as confidential in their discussions and decision-making.

Commissioners may not go on site visits or consult with social work programs on matters of accreditation during their terms on the COA. They make commissioner visits to programs that have applied for or are in candidacy.

The COA chair or the chair’s designee is solely responsible for communicating the COA’s decisions in writing to the program and institutional administrators. The COA may be required to communicate its decision to the regional accrediting agency that accredits the program’s institution. Following the COA’s decisions, the program’s accreditation status is published in CSWE Focus and posted on the CSWE Web site.

1.1.2.  2008 EPAS

CSWE uses the 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) to accredit baccalaureate- and master’s-level social work programs. EPAS supports academic excellence by establishing thresholds for professional competence. It permits programs to use traditional and emerging models of curriculum design by balancing requirements that promote comparability across programs with a level of flexibility that encourages programs to differentiate.

The educational policy and the accreditation standards are conceptually linked. The educational policy section describes each curriculum feature, and the derivative accreditation standards specify the requirements used to develop and maintain an accredited baccalaureate or master’s social work program.

EPAS describes four features of an integrated curriculum design: (1) program mission and goals; (2) explicit curriculum; (3) implicit curriculum; and (4) assessment.

  1. The program’s mission and goals address the profession’s purpose, are grounded in the profession’s values, and are informed by its context.
  2. The explicit curriculum is the program’s formal educational structure and includes its courses and curriculum design. Core competencies (which define generalist practice or are applied in advanced practice) and field education (as the signature pedagogy of social work education) are the key elements of the explicit curriculum. Competency-based education is an outcome performance approach to curriculum design. Competencies are measurable practice behaviors that are comprised of knowledge, values, and skills. The goal of the outcome approach is to demonstrate the integration and application of the competencies in practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

    The explicit curriculum at the BSW level is designed to prepare graduates for generalist practice through mastery of the core competencies. The MSW curriculum prepares graduates for advanced practice through mastery of the core competencies augmented by knowledge and practice behaviors specific to a concentration. The program’s mission and goals, as these reflect professional purpose and values and the program’s context, are consistent with the program’s competencies. The program’s competencies are operationalized in the explicit curriculum and in program assessment through measurable practice behaviors.
  3. The implicit curriculum refers to the educational environment in which the explicit curriculum is presented. It is composed of the following elements: the program’s commitment to diversity; admissions policies and procedures; advisement, retention, and termination policies; student participation in governance; faculty; administrative structure; and resources. The implicit curriculum is as important as the explicit curriculum in shaping the professional character and competence of the program’s graduates. Heightened awareness of the importance of the implicit curriculum promotes an educational culture that is congruent with the values of the profession.
  4. Assessment is an integral component of competency-based education. To evaluate the extent to which the competencies have been met, a system of assessment is central to this model of education. Data from assessment continuously inform and promote change in the explicit and implicit curriculum to enhance attainment of program competencies. (EP 4.0)
1.1.3.  Compliance, Concern, and Noncompliance Statements

The COA uses the Compliance, Concern, and Noncompliance Statements as a guide to consistent and complete review of a program for candidacy status or reaffirmation of accreditation. Statements of compliance, concern, and noncompliance are provided for each accreditation standard (AS) and related educational policy (EP).

Statements in the compliance column address the minimum requirements for completely and clearly meeting an accreditation standard and related educational policy. Statements in the concern column indicate how the narrative addressing an accreditation standard or related educational policy is unclearly and inadequately addressed. Statements in the noncompliance column note how an accreditation standard or related educational policy statement has not been met and has not been addressed.

1.1.4.  Candidacy Benchmarks

The benchmark model is a systematic, incremental approach to developing a social work program and writing a comprehensive self-study. There are three benchmarks; the first portion of each benchmark consists of specific accreditation standards that the program must be in compliance with, and the second portion consists of standards that must be addressed in draft form.

Program development is guided by four visits from the COA commissioners. During each visit the commissioner makes a recommendation about the program’s compliance with standards in the first portion of the benchmark and provides consultation on the standards in the second portion.

Programs progress through several stages of program development: applying for candidacy status, completing candidacy, and receiving initial accreditation status. There are several products, forms, and accreditation fees associated with each stage (a current list of fees is available in the candidacy section of the CSWE Web site).

1.1.5.  Reaffirmation of Accreditation

After its initial receipt, a program’s accreditation is reaffirmed every 8 years. The five steps in reaffirming a program’s accreditation are completing an eligibility application; setting up a site visit; writing and submitting the self-study; the COA letter of instructions to the site visitor(s), conducting a site visit, and responding to its report; and the COA review to determine if the program’s accreditation will be reaffirmed

1.1.6.  COA Decision Making

At each COA meeting, programs are reviewed in one of four work groups, each of which has six to eight commissioners. Each work group is chaired by a commissioner and staffed by an accreditation specialist or associate.

Prior to a COA meeting, the accreditation specialist or associate assigns two commission readers—commissioners from the work group—to read the program’s materials. After reading the program materials, the commission reader makes a recommendation regarding the program’s compliance with EPAS and submits the recommendation to the accreditation specialist or associate.

During the COA meeting, all of the commissioners in the work group review the readers’ recommendations, formulate a work group recommendation for consideration by the full COA, and draft a letter of instructions to the site visitor or a decision letter. The recommendations from each work group are discussed and ratified by the full COA at its final plenary session. The COA letters are signed by the chair of the COA.

Thirty (30) days after the conclusion of the COA meeting, official COA decision letters and letters of instruction to the site visitor(s), along with the COA decision and rationale for the decision, are mailed. Letters of instruction are addressed to the site visitor(s) with a copy to the chief administrator of the program. Decision letters are addressed to the president or chancellor, and a copy is sent to the chief administrator of the program.

1.1.7.  The COA Executive Committee

The COA has one standing committee, the Executive Committee, which serves in place of the COA between commission meetings. The committee is composed of the COA chair, the work group chairs, and the director (ex officio) of the Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA). At COA meetings the Committee’s work includes the following.

  • Monitor and make recommendations for the revision of accreditation standards.
  • Review updates from the director of OSWA.
  • Evaluate the processes and procedures of COA meetings.
  • Monitor the COA’s quality assurance.
  • Develop and consider policies for the COA and direct office staff in maintaining a record of instituted policies (including a COA Policy Manual).
  • Oversee staff training of site visitors and programs seeking candidacy, initial accreditation, or reaffirmation.
  • Oversee and review staff recommendations on waiver and postponement applications.
1.1.8.  Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA)

The staff of OSWA consists of accreditation specialists and associates, a site visit coordinator, an office manager, and a director. Accreditation specialists and associates provide technical assistance to programs in preparing their eligibility application, benchmark documents, and self-studies. They staff the COA work groups and participate in site team, candidacy, and reaffirmation trainings. The site visit coordinator works with the site visitor(s) and the program to arrange each site visit. The office manager/executive secretary supports OSWA staff in preparation for meetings and trainings, prepares minutes from COA meetings, prepares the COA meeting agenda book, and manages the daily operations of OSWA. The director staffs the executive committee, supervises the accreditation staff, coordinates trainings, and consults with individuals who wish to file complaints.

1.1.9.  Whom to Contact About What
Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA)

Contact Regarding:

Jo Ann Regan, MSW, PhD
Director, OSWA
Telephone: 703.519.2048
E-mail: jregan@cswe.org

  • Starting a new program
  • An agenda adjustment
  • Reconsideration of a COA decision
  • Consideration of a waiver
  • Filing a complaint

Monica Wylie, Accreditation Office Manager/
Assistant to the Director, OSWA
Telephone: 703.519.2073
E-mail: mwylie@cswe.org

  • Assistance in contacting Director or staff
  • Available accreditation training
  • (ReaffirmWorkshop@cswe.org)
  • Accreditation fees
  • (FeesAccred@cswe.org)

Sheila Bell, Site Visit Coordinator
Telephone: 703.519.2042
E-mail: sbell@cswe.org

  • Commissioner / Candidacy Site Visits
  • Site Visit Procedures
  • Site Visitor Training

Accreditation Specialists and Associates

Each program is assigned one of the following staff:

Megan Fujita, MSW
Telephone: 703.519.2052
E-mail: mfujita@cswe.org

Anna R. Holster, MSW, MPhil
Telephone: 703.519.2044
E-mail: aholster@cswe.org

Mary Deffley Kurfess, LCSW-C, LICSW, MSSW
Telephone: 703.519.2046
E-mail: mkurfess@cswe.org

Lynne Taylor, MSW, PhD
Telephone: 703.519.2047
E-mail: ltaylor@cswe.org



  • Guidance and interpretation of 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS)
  • Candidacy and Initial Accreditation
    • Planning
    • Timetables
    • Process
    • Guidelines for writing Benchmark documents
    • The accreditation cycle
  • Guidance regarding the policies and the role of the Commission on Accreditation (COA)
  • Understanding COA decisions
  • Program Changes
    • Addition of new campus
    • Addition of online program
    • Substantive (as defined in section 1.2.4 of the 2008 EPAS Handbook)
  • Personnel Changes
    • Program Director
    • Field Director
    • Dean
    • Chair
    • Institution’s President or Chancellor


1.1.10.  Mailing Instructions for Programs

It is important that the materials you mail to OSWA are delivered to the correct staff member.

Please find the item you are mailing on the list below and make sure the envelope or package is addressed to the attention of the corresponding staff member. Our address is:

Attention of: ____________
Council on Social Work Education
1701 Duke Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Programs Send the Following Materials:
To the Attention of:

Candidacy Review

  • Benchmark I
  • Program Response to Benchmark I Review Brief
  • Benchmark II
  • Program Response to Benchmark II Review Brief
  • Benchmark III
  • Program Response to Benchmark III Review Brief

Reaffirmation Review

  • Reaffirmation Eligibility Application
  • Self-Study
  • Program Response to the Site Visit Report
  • Postponement Request

Program or Individual Waiver Request

Progress Report

  • Progress Report and Any Supporting Materials

Restoration Report

  • Restoration Report

Notification of Program Changes

Modified Site Visit

  • Clarifying Materials

Reconsideration Hearing

  • Clarifying Materials

Your Accreditation Specialist or Associate:

Megan Fujita

Anna R. Holster

Mary Kurfess

Lynne Taylor

Site Visit Planning Form

Sheila Bell, Site Visit Coordinator

Other correspondence

  • Complaint Correspondence
  • Request for an Agenda Adjustment
  • Letter Requesting a Reconsideration Hearing
  • Letter of Institutional Intent and Candidacy Eligibility Application
  • Alternative Reaffirmation Proposal

Jo Ann Regan, OSWA Director


Programs Send the Following Fees
(With a Copy of the Invoice):

To the Attention of:

Accreditation Fees

  • Letter of Intent and Candidacy

Eligibility Fee

  • Commissioner Visit I
  • Commissioner Visit II
  • Commissioner Visit III
  • Initial Accreditation Eligibility
  • Initial Accreditation
  • Reaffirmation Eligibility
  • Reaffirmation

Finance and Administration


1.2.  COA Policies and Procedures
1.2.1.  Complaints Regarding Program Compliance

Formal complaints to the COA must pertain to matters related to program compliance with accreditation standards and educational policy. Persons, groups, or organizations related to the program are considered recognized complainants and may file a complaint.

The COA is not authorized to adjudicate, arbitrate, or mediate individual faculty or student grievances against a program. Complainants must use all appropriate institutional and professional channels of appeal before filing a formal complaint with CSWE. The institutions in which programs are housed assume responsibility for implementing and enforcing their own policies in these areas. When alleged violations cannot be resolved within the institution, appellate procedures within state systems of higher education or state judicial courts should be used to assess and enforce institutional compliance with policies.

Instructions to File a Complaint

Before filing a formal complaint, a complainant may seek informal consultation from the director of OSWA. After reviewing the complaint procedures and consulting with the director of OSWA, the complainant decides whether to file a formal complaint.

Formal complaints must be submitted in writing to the director of OSWA with evidence that the complaint meets the following criteria:

  • Filing is by a recognized complainant.
  • The complaint is accompanied by documentation showing that the complainant has exhausted all appropriate institutional and professional channels for resolution.
  • The complaint is related to a possible violation of one or more accreditation standards or educational policies.
  • The documentation submitted in the formal complaint must be connected to a possible violation of one or more accreditation standards or educational policies.
  • The complainant must provide evidence that the chief administrator of the program named in the complaint was given a copy of the complaint, including all materials submitted to the COA.

Evaluation to Determine if Criteria Have Been Met

On receipt of the formal complaint, the director of OSWA determines whether the criteria for formal complaints have been fully met and whether the complaint falls within the COA’s authority.

If the director determines the complaint meets the criteria for a formal complaint, the complainant and the program concerned are notified within 10 business days. The program has 30 calendar days from receipt of the complaint to respond. When the program response arrives, it is shared with the complainant, who is given 10 business days to respond. The director of OSWA presents the formal complaint, the program’s response, and the complainant’s response to the COA during its next regularly scheduled meeting and recommends a decision.

The COA may decide to take one of the following actions.

  • Find the program in compliance with the accreditation standard or educational policy and dismiss the complaint. If the COA dismisses the complaint, the chair notifies the complainant and the program, stipulating the reasons for the COA’s action.
  • Find the program out of compliance with one or more accreditation standards or educational policies and place it on conditional accreditation. The program is placed on conditional accredited status if the COA believes that noncompliance issue(s) can be resolved by the program within 1 year. Conditional status is an adverse decision, and programs may request reconsideration. If the program accepts the COA’s decision, it submits a restoration report.
  • Find the program out of compliance with one or more accreditation standards or educational policies and initiate withdrawal of accredited status. The COA initiates withdrawal of accredited status if it believes that the program cannot take corrective action within 1 year. The program is required to work with its accreditation specialist or associate to make arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students and determine the date the accreditation will be withdrawn. The decision to initiate withdrawal of accredited status is an adverse one, and programs may request reconsideration.
  • Defer action. If the COA finds evidence that the program has made reasonable progress in rectifying the situation, it can defer the decision to a COA meeting within the next year.
  • Appoint an investigating committee. If the COA needs more information to make a decision, it will appoint an investigating committee to conduct a confidential investigation with full knowledge and consultation of those concerned. The program pays expenses relating to the investigative visit. The investigating committee reports its findings to the full COA at its next regularly scheduled meeting, and the COA decides if the program is in compliance with the accreditation standards or educational policies in question.

If the OSWA director determines that the complaint does not meet the criteria for formal complaints or is not within the COA’s jurisdiction, the complainant is notified and given specific reasons for the refusal within 10 business days. The director of OSWA also informs the COA of the complaint and determination at the next COA meeting. The complainant may appeal the OSWA director's decision at the following COA meeting.

1.2.2.  Postponement of Reaffirmation Review

The COA recognizes the need of some programs, under special circumstances, to postpone their reaffirmation review. Examples of these special circumstances include

  • recent administrative changes in the program;
  • institutional restructuring;
  • current or anticipated addition of new faculty or loss of faculty key to developing the self-study;
  • physical relocation of the program;
  • unusual conditions requiring faculty attention;
  • natural or human-made disasters;
  • health problems of key faculty members; or
  • the program’s desire to synchronize the review dates of its baccalaureate and master’s social work programs.

The COA’s Executive Committee oversees and reviews staff recommendations on waiver and postponement applications. A staff member reviews and considers requests for postponements throughout the year.


A written request, supported by documentation, is sent to the staff member explaining why the program is seeking a postponement of its accreditation review.

Postponement Policies

The following policies guide the decision making of the staff and Executive Committee.

  • A postponement can be granted to a single program for 1 year.
  • Postponements are granted only once during each reaffirmation period. After postponement of a review, the program’s reaccreditation date is calculated from the year in which the previous accreditation expired.
  • The program remains accredited during the period of postponement.
  • An accredited program that is scheduled for its reaffirmation review for the first time after receiving initial accreditation is not eligible for postponement of its review.
  • Programs with both accredited baccalaureate and master’s programs may request that the reaffirmation reviews of their baccalaureate and master’s programs take place at the same time. A postponement may be granted for up to 2 years to establish a single review date.
  • A site visit for initial accreditation of one degree-level program cannot take place at the same time as the site visit for the reaffirmation of another degree-level program.

Postponement Actions

Prior to deliberating on a request, the program’s accreditation history is reviewed, with special attention to recent COA actions and the program’s response to any concerns. The program is notified in writing of the COA decision. One of four decisions may be reached:

  1. Approve a request and establish, for the current review only, a new schedule for submission of materials for accreditation review.
  2. Defer a decision pending the receipt of additional information.
  3. Recommend that the COA order a modified site visit to make a fully informed decision regarding postponement. The program pays the cost of the visit.
  4. Deny a request, providing in writing the reasons for denial and avenues of redress if the program disagrees.

Postponement Appeals Procedures

Programs dissatisfied with the decision may appeal, in writing, to the chair of the COA and request a review by the COA as a whole at its next scheduled meeting. The COA decision on the appeal is final, and there is no further appeal.

1.2.3.  Agenda Adjustments

The director of OSWA may approve an adjustment of a program's review date for one meeting only.

1.2.4.  Program Changes

Although ongoing change is necessary to improve the educational quality of a program, initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation covers only the components that existed and were reviewed at the time of the COA review. Changes may take place within the program prior to its next scheduled accreditation review. Some of these changes may affect the program’s compliance with EPAS and need to be reported. Some of these changes do not affect the program’s compliance with EPAS and do not need to be reported.

Changes that Affect Compliance with EPAS

A waiver request is required before the program makes a change that would place it out of compliance with EPAS. Any program proposing a substantive change that affects its compliance with EPAS must obtain the COA’s approval prior to implementing the change. The program submits a waiver request as described in the next section.

Changes that Potentially Affect Compliance with EPAS

Written notification is required when programs make changes that potentially affect compliance with EPAS, such as adding a dual-degree program; offering an off-campus program; initiating a new part-time program; starting an entire distance education or online program; revising the program’s mission and goals in a way that critically restructures the curriculum; reduction in resources; the closing of a program or off-campus site; faculty workload policy changes; and institutional shifts in admission policies and procedures. Written notification should be addressed to the program’s accreditation specialist and include a detailed description of the change and a standard-by-standard discussion of how compliance with EPAS is affected. The program’s accreditation specialist or associate reviews the notification and may, if necessary, seek clarifying information.

Changes that Do Not Affect Compliance with EPAS

Written notification is not required when programs make changes that do not affect their compliance with EPAS, such as revision of the program’s mission and goals or curriculum (syllabi, electives, course sequencing, prerequisites, definition of generalist practice, liberal arts requirements, field courses, concentrations, assessment plan, addition of off-campus courses); changes in qualified faculty or the composition of faculty, students, or both; and changes in the program’s policies and procedures relative to admission, assessment, transfer, advisement, grievance, or termination.

Changes that Affect Communication with CSWE

Change in qualified program director does not affect the program’s compliance with EPAS, but still needs to be reported to CSWE so that communication about accreditation and other vital information can be delivered to the correct person. The program should notify its accreditation specialist or associate of such changes by sending a letter on institutional letterhead along with a copy of the new program director's most recent CV.


It is the program’s responsibility to notify the COA of changes to ensure compliance with EPAS. Failure to report such changes places the program’s accredited status in jeopardy. If a program questions whether notification of a program change is required by the COA, it should discuss the change with the accreditation specialist or associate assigned to the program.

1.2.5.  Waivers to Accreditation Standards

Application letters must be in narrative form and provide full documentation of the program’s justification for its waiver request on behalf of the program or on behalf of an individual faculty member. Applications must specify the accreditation standard(s) for which a waiver is sought.

Applications for waivers must be submitted by the chief administrator of a social work education program that is fully accredited. Applications must be submitted prior to the implementation of the proposed waiver. If the waiver is being requested on behalf of the chief administrator, the request must come from the administrator to whom the chief administrator answers.

Accreditation Standards B3.4.4(a) and M3.4.4(a)

A waiver may be granted to an individual or to an institution. In either case, the institution has identified an individual to administer its accredited social work program who does not have the credentials specified in Accreditation Standards B3.4.4(a) or M3.4.4(a).

Individual Waiver

This waiver is granted to an individual appointed as chief administrator of an accredited social work program whose credentials are considered the equivalent of those required in the standard. Because the waiver is granted on the basis of equivalency, it remains in effect if the individual becomes the chief administrator of another accredited social work program.

To request an individual waiver the institution is asked to provide a curriculum vitae and information regarding the equivalent leadership qualities of the individual as demonstrated through

  • teaching social work courses;
  • conducting scholarship and research in social work;
  • developing curriculum social work;
  • administrative experience in social work;
  • presenting at professional social work meetings; and
  • other academic and professional activities in the field.
Institutional Waiver

This waiver is granted to the institution for a particular individual whose credentials are not considered equivalent to the requirements specified in the standards, but whom the institution believes best meets its current administrative needs. Because the institutional waiver is granted to the institution to meet institutional needs, the waiver expires when the individual for whom it was granted leaves the position.

To request an institutional waiver the institution is asked to provide information regarding its rationale for selecting this individual as chief administrator of the social work program.

Accreditation Standards 3.3.1 and 3.4.5(b)

The COA has established guidelines to assist programs in preparing waiver applications for accreditation standards regarding faculty or field program director credentials. The guidelines apply only to accredited programs. When a waiver is approved for an individual faculty member, approval continues to be in effect if the faculty member moves to another accredited social work program.

Request for a Waiver to the Requirement for a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

The program’s chief administrator seeks a waiver for a faculty member by presenting information that demonstrates the individual’s competence to teach in the specified area of social work practice or to coordinate field education. The application must include a curriculum vitae of the faculty member, specify the social work practice area for which the waiver is sought, and provide information on the individual’s credentials in the following areas:

  1. Demonstration of knowledge of the professional literature, theories, practice innovations, and emerging knowledge in the area of practice for which a waiver is sought.
  2. Documentation of at least 2 full-time years of practice experience in a social work setting under professional social work supervision.
  3. Documentation should include the dates of such experience, frequency of social work supervision, clientele served, intervention techniques employed, and the ways in which this experience supports the request for waiver.
  4. If a candidate holds a clinical doctorate in social work, discussion of course and practicum requirements that address the area of practice for which a waiver is sought.
  5. Evidence of active membership in and contributions to professional organizations and attendance and active involvement at professional social work meetings that relate to the practice content area for which the waiver is sought.
  6. Publication in juried social work and related journals or through monographs and edited works in the area of practice content for which the exception is sought.
Request for a Waiver to the Requirement for a Minimum of 2 Years of Post-baccalaureate or Postmaster’s Degree Practice Experience.

The minimum requirement of 2 years post-baccalaureate or postmaster’s social work practice experience is calculated in relation to the total number of hours of full-time and equivalent professional practice experience. Social work practice experience is defined as providing social work services to individuals, families, groups, organizations, or communities.

Please provide information on the following items:

  1. Documentation of hours employed under professional social work auspices, the nature of the work performed, and documentation that work was done under the supervision of professional social work supervisors.
  2. Documentation of hours of volunteer practice experience in a social service agency.
  3. Documentation of hours of paid experience as a consultant in the areas of the individual’s practice expertise.
  4. If licensed, documentation of hours required for licensure or other certification.
  5. Academy of Certified Social Workers certification.
  6. Supervision by professional social workers in a social service agency.
  7. Agency-based field instruction of social work students in their practica.
  8. Demonstration of practice-based, qualitative, or quantitative research.
  9. Empirical applied field research in teaching practice (not solely a literature review).
  10. Practice-related research or scholarly publication in social work journals.
1.2.6.  Appeals of COA Decisions

The following COA decisions are adverse actions and are eligible for appeal.

  • Deny Candidacy Status
  • Remove from Candidacy Status
  • Deny Initial Accreditation
  • Place the program on Conditional Accredited Status
  • Initiate withdrawal of Accredited Status

If a program receives an adverse decision, the COA provides two appeals procedures: reconsideration and panel review. Reconsideration must be completed before moving to the panel review.


Programs may challenge an adverse decision if, in the opinion of the program, the COA’s decision is arbitrary, capricious, or violates procedures. The program’s written request to the director of OSWA must be made within 30 days following its receipt of notice of the adverse action (all adverse decision letters are certified).

A request for reconsideration must relate to the conditions that existed in the program at the time of the COA’s adverse action and state specific reasons why the reconsideration should be granted.

When reconsideration is requested, the director of OSWA sets the date and time for the hearing and appoints a reconsideration committee of three commissioners. The program may send, at its own expense, the program’s chief administrator, program faculty members, and representatives from the institution. Legal counsel, students, or other interested parties are not permitted to attend.

The reconsideration committee reviews the documentation on which the COA based its decision and any written or verbal clarifying information the program provides. No new documentation is considered. The reconsideration committee makes one of three decisions:

  1. Uphold the original COA decision. If the reconsideration committee believes that the original COA decision was correct, it decides to uphold the original decision. The program will then respond as originally required in the original COA decision letter.
  2. Revise the decision. If the committee believes that the COA decision was in error, the committee may revise the COA decision and issue a letter with the revised decision and instructions to the program regarding the next step it should take.
  3. Uphold the original decision and revise the decision. The committee may uphold the COA decision based on the original program documentation and revise the decision as a result of the clarifying information provided by the program at the reconsideration hearing.

The COA’s decision is reported in writing to the institution’s chief executive officer and the chief administrator of the social work program. If the program accepts the decision of the committee, it is expected to follow the instructions contained in the letter informing the program of the adverse decision. If the program does not accept the decision of the reconsideration committee, it may request a panel review. An accredited program retains its accredited status until all appeals have been exhausted.

Panel Review

The final appeal for the program is a panel review, which is an independent consideration of the COA’s decision. The program’s written request for a panel review must be made within 30 days of receipt of the COA’s certified letter upholding an adverse decision. If the program fails to respond within 30 days, it waives the right to further review. The program requests a panel review if, after the reconsideration findings are presented, it believes the COA’s action was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the COA accreditation standards or procedures; or the COA action was not supported by substantial evidence in the record.

The panel will review evidence in the record, including documentation and witness statements directly related to the COA’s adverse action and the reconsideration hearing. The record includes the program’s self-study or candidacy documentation, any additional material submitted to the site team or commissioner, the report of the commissioner or site team chair, the program’s response to the commissioner or site team report, the COA decision letter detailing the adverse decision; and materials from the reconsideration hearing.

Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the panel review request, the chair of the CSWE Board of Directors appoints a chair and two or more review panel members from the list of active certified site visitors. Members of the review panel may not include current members of the COA or former commissioners serving at the time of the COA’s adverse action. The chair of the review panel specifies the time and place of the review. All costs related to the panel review are paid by the program. These include any legal expenses of the COA, travel and accommodations for the review panel and participants in the proceedings, reproduction of materials presented at the hearing, and other related expenses.

The COA submits the record to the review panel and the program’s written request, including additional evidence challenging the COA’s procedures or its facts. The chair of the review panel presides at the review hearing and rules on procedure, conducting the hearing in a manner that allows the program a fair opportunity to present its case and explain its position without resort to formal rules of evidence. The program may be represented by counsel during the hearing, and counsel may question any witnesses who speak at the hearing. Review panel members may question any witnesses or parties to the appeal.

After considering the record, the review panel may make either of the following determinations:

  1. uphold the COA action, or
  2. remand the decision back to the COA for further consideration.

The chair of the review panel reports the panel’s action in writing to the institution’s chief executive officer, the chief administrator of the social work program, the chair of COA, the president of CSWE, and the director of OSWA.

1.2.7.  Information Sharing and Release of COA Decision Letter

The COA is required by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to release the COA decisions and programs’ accreditation status to the public. The COA will use the text of its decision letters for research and evaluation purposes in aggregate. The COA’s policy is not to release the full text of letters. If an institution or program releases parts of the site visit report or the COA letter that distorts the decision, the COA reserves the right to release the full text of such reports or letters to correct the perceived distortion.

1.2.8.  Accreditation Fees and Related Policies

To maintain candidacy or accredited status, programs are expected to be members of CSWE in good standing. Good standing means that programs have paid all current membership dues and candidacy and reaffirmation accreditation fees. Programs that fail to maintain good standing are subject to having their accreditation status suspended. Direct any questions regarding program membership to the Member Services Coordinator at membership@cswe.org or 703.519.2067. Direct any questions regarding accreditation fees to feesaccred@cswe.org.

1.2.9.  Program Closure and Withdrawal of Accredited Status

If a program wishes to withdraw from accredited status, the program’s chief administrator sends a formal letter to its accreditation specialist or associate notifying the COA of its intention to close the program. The program is expected to make arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students and should work closely with its accreditation specialist during this planning process, at the conclusion of which the date of the program’s accreditation will be decided. A program is expected to remain in full compliance with all standards during the withdrawal process.

1.2.10.  Dissolution of Collaborative Programs

A collaborative program is a baccalaureate or master’s social work education program operated by two or more colleges or universities. The collaborative design recognizes the collective experience of two academic units and creates a distinctive organizational structure. Some collaborative programs have one chief administrator who is accountable to a bi-institutional board that functions as a dean or academic vice president would in a traditional program, such as making budgetary or personnel decisions regarding the hiring of the program director. Others have one chief administrator who is accountable to appropriate academic administrators at each campus. Another model may designate two persons, one from each institution, to serve alternating terms as chief administrator. The collaborative program may be located on one campus, both campuses, or separate from both institutions.

Typically, collaborative programs are formed to pool resources (faculty, library, information technology, expenses for operating costs), enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, and to increase student and faculty campus-based resources (bookstores, cafeterias, and fitness centers). Collaborative programs are generally found to enhance programs by enabling them to serve a broader pool of students. Collaborative programs offer new opportunities while also creating new demands for increased coordination and teamwork among faculty and administrators.

Accreditation is awarded to the collaborative program as a whole, not to the member institutions. If one or more of the member institutions of a collaborative program wish to separate or withdraw accredited status, the chief administrator of the collaborative program notifies the program’s accreditation specialist or associate (with a copy to the president of each member institution) of its intention in writing. This action results in the dissolution of the collaborative program and ends its accreditation status. The collaborative program’s chief administrator is expected to make arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students and should work closely with its accreditation specialist or associate during this planning process, at its conclusion the date the program’s accreditation will be decided. A program is expected to remain in full compliance with all standards during the withdrawal process.

If either member institution wants to have its own accredited program, the chief administrator of the collaborative program should consult with its accreditation specialist or associate regarding the - process.

1.2.11.  Failure to Submit Materials by the Due Date

If a program fails to submit accreditation materials by the due date, the COA may initiate withdrawal of accreditation.

1.2.12.  Programs Found Out of Compliance Between Reviews

When there is a possibility that a program may be out of compliance with one or more educational policy and accreditation standard, the matter is referred to the Executive Committee for substantiation and possible action (e.g., order a modified site visit, place on conditional accredited status, or initiate withdrawal of accredited status).

1.2.13.  Use of Consultants

CSWE does not recommend the use of external paid consultants. External consultants hired by programs to assist in their reaffirmation of accreditation or progression through candidacy status are not employees or agents of CSWE. CSWE is in no way responsible for the services provided by such consultants, and in no way does CSWE guarantee, recommend, or endorse the services of any consultant.

Document Date: October 15, 2012
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