Unholy alliance?, the church and higher education in Canada

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Rae, Peter S.
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The purpose of this research is twofold. First, it attempts to map the landscape of Canadian church-related higher education. Second, in establishing and analysing the patterns revealed by such an exercise, it examines the ways in which different approaches to accreditation affect the Canadian church-related college's distinct character, mission, and identity. The first phase of the research, using survey data, maps the landscape of church-related higher education in Canada and examines the range of approaches to academic accreditation. The second phase, using case study techniques, considers how different approaches to accreditation affect the character and mission of three church-related institutions. The survey instrument covers seven areas of institutional life. The survey reveals that Canadian Church-related colleges have created multiple avenues to accreditation, and suggests some stark economic realities: institutions without accreditation, or with limited articulation, are small and appear to be struggling, whilst those with established accreditation arrangements report healthy growth. Three church-related institutions are the objects of the case-study research: a federated college, an independent degree-granting university college, and a transfer-credit college. The studies consider the particular accreditation arrangements established by the institution, and then scrutinise the ways in which these choices have affected the character and mission of each institution. The studies reveal that each approach is generated by and reflects a different institutional identity and a distinct relationship with a sponsoring church or faith community. Each alliance protects key elements of the institution's autonomy; each has elements within it which could be allowed to erode or undermine the essential characteristics of the church-related institution. The study recommends that legislators take account of Church-related higher education and its particular needs and strengths; that researchers include Church-related institutions in their studies; and that educational leaders at church-related institutions carefully examine the benefits and the pitfalls of different approaches to accreditation.