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.
Accreditation is awarded to the collaborative program as a whole; not to the member institutions.
Pooling resources: 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.
Models of the structure: Some collaborative programs have one chief administrator who is accountable to a multi-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.
Dissolution: If one or more of the member institutions of a collaborative program wish to separate or withdraw accredited status, the members of the collaborative program are first required to come to an agreement regarding the collaborative program’s accreditation end date. The end date is defined as the agreed-upon date after the final students would graduate or transfer out of the collaborative program.
Once an end date for the collaborative program is agreed upon by the members of the collaborative, the chief administrator of the collaborative program submits a Letter of Withdrawal per policy 1.2.9 in the EPAS Handbook, notifying the program’s accreditation specialist in writing of the intention to dissolve the collaborative. Students can no longer be admitted to the collaborative after this date. The Letter of Withdrawal includes the end date of the collaborative and a narrative discussing how the program is making arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students. Copies of the letter are also to be sent to the president of each member institution. The specialist will guide the collaborative and its members through the dissolution process.
The collaborative program’s chief administrator is expected to work with the accreditation specialist and the members of the collaborative to make arrangements for the graduation or transfer of its students.
If the members of a collaborative do not agree upon an end date, the Director of Accreditation will refer the matter to the Executive Committee of the Commission on Accreditation (COA) to determine an end date that is in the best interest of the students.
Accredited status during dissolution: The collaborative remains accredited until a plan of graduation or transfer for all students is established. A collaborative program is expected to remain in full compliance with all standards during the dissolution process. The COA votes on the withdrawal of the collaborative’s accreditation at the COA meeting after the agreed upon end date, as documented in the Letter of Withdrawal.
Independent accreditation for members of the collaborative: If one or more of the member institutions chooses to establish an independent social work program following the dissolution of the collaborative, the program(s) will be in candidacy status for one year and then reviewed for initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation. The Director of Accreditation will assign each member institution seeking individual accreditation an accreditation specialist.
The accreditation specialist will provide a timetable, guidance, and information during the year of candidacy. The timetables for member programs from a dissolved collaborative may differ, depending upon the circumstances and readiness of each program to proceed toward initial accreditation.
The one-year candidacy option is only available at the time of dissolution: If an individual program chooses not to seek initial accreditation at the time the collaborative is dissolved, the program loses the option of the one-year candidacy process toward initial accreditation. If the individual program decides at a later time to seek accredited status, the program is required to enter the full three-year candidacy process to gain accreditation.
Students enrolled in programs leaving collaboratives and seeking individual accreditation: Accredited status for individual programs will be retroactive to the fall term of the academic year in which the program is granted initial accreditation. Students enrolled in programs in a dissolving collaborative are to be informed that their program will be in candidacy status for one year and that they will not be considered to have graduated from an accredited program until the program is granted initial accreditation by the COA. Programs should also ensure student transcripts reflect enrollment or transfer to the single program no earlier than the fall preceding Initial Accreditation being granted.