Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) is an alternative process through which an organization can maintain its accredited status with The Higher Learning Commission. AQIP’s goal is to infuse the principles and benefits of continuous improvement into the culture of colleges and universities in order to assure and advance the quality of higher education. AQIP allows an organization to demonstrate that it meets The Higher Learning Commission’s Criteria for Accreditation and other expectations through processes that align with the ongoing activities that characterize organizations striving continuously to improve their performance. By sharing both its improvement activities and their results through AQIP, an organization develops the structure and systems essential to achieving the distinctive higher education mission it has set for itself — and the evidence to enable the Commission to reaffirm accreditation.
AQIP was developed and launched in 1999 with a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It has grown steadily from its original 14 institutions in 2000-2001 to over 180 in 2007. Its Web site, www.AQIP.org, lists the number and names of current participants, and provides full details about AQIP’s Strategy Forums, Systems Appraisals, and various other services. The Web site also provides links to information that supports AQIP’s network of participants.
Based upon principles common to high performance organizations, AQIP draws from a variety of initiatives and programs — Total Quality Management (TQM), continuous improvement (CI), Six Sigma, ISO 9000 registration, state and national quality awards, and others. Many of AQIP’s quality principles — focusing on key processes, basing decisions on data, decentralizing control, empowering faculty and staff to make the decisions that directly affect their work — have long been traditions in higher education, although their form and the breadth of their practice in particular institutions may vary greatly. Other components such as systems thinking and stakeholder focus appear at first to be new to academia, but turn out to be in close alignment with the values and behaviors of higher educators.
(This language was captured from the AQIP website (www.aqip.org) and modified to fit South Central College)