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Accreditation of social work programs whose Institutions are not members of Universities

August, 2019. The Board of Directors would like to inform members of a decision taken at their June meeting regarding requests for permission to apply for CASWE-ACFTS accreditation from programs that are not members of Universities Canada. There are currently two college programs currently offering BSW degrees that are non-accredited (Douglas College in BC and Booth College in Manitoba). At this time, the graduates from these two programs can register with the provincial regulatory bodies and due to mobility agreements, move and work in other provinces. There is pressure from provincial governments on the regulatory bodies to accept these programs as equivalent to CASWE-ACFTS accredited programs. In addition, some employers don’t want to hire graduates from a non-accredited program. This can create difficulty for the Regulatory bodies that end up with registered social workers from non-accredited programs. Of critical importance, the public does not generally differentiate between accredited and non-accredited programs. Based partly on the recommendations of a working group consisting of social work educators and regulatory members, the Board has passed a motion allowing social work programs that are not in institutions with membership to Universities Canada, to petition for accreditation to CASWE-ACFTS. In reaching this decision, the Board of Directors recognizes CASWE-ACFTS’ commitment to high quality of education consistent with a university level. Board members acknowledge the serious concerns about non-Universities Canada programs’ commitment to creating a university milieu: Issues related to governance, faculty qualifications, scholarship, research, unit autonomy, instructor qualifications, class sizes, the institution’s focus, and the need to ensure theoretical content reflecting a university level. However, the Board of Directors is extremely concerned that the existence of a separate group of programs that are non-accredited can undermine the need for and existence of the Commission on Accreditation (COA) and the Association. If administrators/students see that accreditation is unnecessary or there is little benefit of accreditation, then pressure to not seek accreditation is likely. Board member also noted that provincial governments may approve other institutions to grant BSW degrees and may use Colleges to provide a less expensive BSW program to the detriment of university programs. The Board of Directors emphasize that a recommendation to allow a process for accreditation of non-Universities Canada programs does not necessarily result in the accreditation of these programs. Programs would need to undergo a rigorous assessment by the COA which may result in being granted accreditation or not being granted accreditation. If at the end of the process the program does not meet the Standards, then it is harder for the governments to accept non-accredited programs, and likely harder for registration. One result of this decision is the need to establish criteria for determining eligibility for application for accreditation under exceptional circumstances. The Board recognizes that  issues such as resource needs, costs, workloads, and process must be carefully considered and addressed. The Board of Directors will constitute a working group to develop criteria to determine eligibility for application for accreditation. Recruitment of members to this group will begin this fall. If you are interested in being a member please email me directly (Stephane.Grenier@uqat.ca) or contact the Executive Director, Alexandra Wright (awright@caswe-acfts.ca). This was a difficult decision for the Board to take, however it is intended to ensure ongoing quality in Canadian social work education and the long-term vitality of the Association. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

Stéphane Grenier, President CASWE-ACFTS
Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue