I.24 The comprehensive review process

From the early planning stages to consideration and a decision by the Committee on Accreditation, the comprehensive review process lasts approximately two years. This section provides an overview of the entire process. The comprehensive review includes the development of a Plan for Program Presentation, preparation of the Program Presentation document, review by an ERP, and an accreditation decision by the COA. Details regarding the development of a Program Presentation can be found in Section II. Details regarding the work of the ERP can be found in Section III.

The COA schedules the next comprehensive review as part of its accreditation decision. For continued accreditation, the next comprehensive review is normally scheduled seven (7) years after the last comprehensive review.

The Director of the Office for Accreditation serves as the primary contact for the program with regard to accreditation concerns and requirements throughout the comprehensive review period. Approximately two (2) years before review visit, the Office notifies the Dean of the scheduled review. Following this notification, the institution and school invite the COA to review the program. At this time, the Dean advises the Director of possible specific dates for the visit and of any special areas of emphasis for the comprehensive review and Program Presentation. Requests for special background characteristics and/or expertise among the panel members may be made at this time.

The COA, through the Director, proposes a Chair of the External Review Panel approximately eighteen (18) months before the visit. The proposed Chair is evaluated by the Dean and faculty and may be rejected for cause (see Conflict of Interest policy, Section I.24.1, below); an alternate Chair is then proposed. When a Chair has been approved and has agreed to serve, the Director establishes dates of the site visit and related deadlines. These dates are considered firm.

Comprehensive review visits may be conducted at the program's location(s) or via other agreed-upon alternative approaches. Programs that wish to propose an alternative approach to the visit (e.g., a virtual visit) should discuss the matter with the Director at this time. Alternative visits require a negotiated agreement between the COA, the Dean, and the Chair.

As part of the comprehensive review visit, the Dean submits the following documents:

  • A plan for Program Presentation due one (1) year before the scheduled review visit;
  • A draft Program Presentation due four (4) months before the review visit; and
  • A final Program Presentation due six (6) weeks before the review visit.

See Section II for details on developing these documents.

The Chair and the Director review both the Plan for the Program Presentation and the draft Program Presentation. The Director should be included in conversations and copied on correspondence between the Chair and the Dean on matters pertaining to the Program Presentation and the site visit.

The appointment of the other members of the ERP occurs approximately one year before the visit and follows a process similar to the appointment of the Chair. The composition of the panel reflects the emphasis in the program’s Plan for the Program Presentation and any requests for areas of special expertise. The Dean and faculty have the right to review the proposed panelists for conflicts of interest. The COA is the final authority on the size and composition of the panel. See Section III.2: Composition of the External Review Panel.

The COA invites a member of the Canadian Library Association to accompany the panel for reviews of Canadian programs. His or her role is to observe how the panel operates, not to influence its evaluation of the program.

A comprehensive review includes a visit and report by an ERP.  Panel visits occur over two (2) business days; typically, the panel arrives one or two days early to review on-site documentation and to tour facilities.

The ERP submits a draft ERP report due three (3) weeks after the visit. The final ERP report is due five (5) weeks after the visit. The ERP Chair is responsible for overseeing the development of the panel’s report and editing it for consistency. The Dean should submit factual corrections to the draft ERP report and may submit an optional response to the final ERP report. Specific details on the responsibilities of the ERP Chair and members and development of the panel’s reports are found in Section III: Guidelines for the External Review Panel.


I.24.1 Conflicts of interest

The COA seeks to avoid any and all conflicts of interest (see Section I.4.2) that may compromise the integrity of its accreditation process. To this end, ERP Chairs and members are asked to provide information regarding potential conflicts of interest. Information regarding such conflicts is also sought from the Dean and faculty of the program under review (see Section III.4).


I.24.2 Change in review dates

COA will consider requests to change a comprehensive review date: 1) in order to coordinate the ALA review with an institutional, regional, or other specialized review; or 2) in extreme circumstances.

Written requests for changes must be sent to the COA at least two (2) years before the scheduled review or as soon as possible following an emergency. The COA will consider the request at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Any COA decision to change a review date is based on the total COA workload. Deferrals must be consistent with the Committee’s obligation to assure the public and the profession that the accredited status of a program reflects current and accurate information.


I.24.3 Comprehensive review timeline

Comprehensive review timeline
Twenty-four (24) months before the visit
  • The Office sends a letter to the Dean of the school advising of the scheduled visit and requesting a letter of invitation from the CEO of the institution seeking review of the program;

  • The school provides the Office with a set of three dates of two-day duration (usually Monday-Tuesday) for a potential on-site visit by the External Review Panel;

  • The school may identify areas that will be the focus of the Program Presentation and/or ask for the specializations of the ERP members.

Eighteen (18) months before the visit
  • The COA selects the Chair of the ERP;

  • The Director informs the Dean of the selection;

  • The Dean evaluates the selected Chair with the faculty for potential conflicts of interest;

  • If no conflicts are identified the Dean approves the Chair. If a conflict is identified, the Director submits an alternate name to the Dean;

  • The Director discusses potential dates for the on-site review with the appointed Chair. Having selected dates from those put forth by the school, the Director notifies the school of the dates for the on-site review. These dates are firm;

  • The school begins development of a plan for its Program Presentation.

Twelve (12) months before the visit
  • The school submits its Plan for the Program Presentation to the Director and the Chair;

  • The Director, Chair, and Dean review the plan during a conference call. At this time the Chair helps identify additional sources of evidence beyond those put forth in the plan.

Four (4) months before the visit
  • The school submits a draft of the Program Presentation for review by the Director, Chair, and Dean;

  • The Director, Chair, and Dean review the draft through a conference call.

Six (6) weeks before the visit
  • The school submits the final Program Presentation to the External Review Panel and the Office.

Site visit
  • The on-site members of the External Review Panel visit the Program.

Three (3) weeks after the visit
  • The Chair submits a draft of the ERP report to the Dean and the Director.

Four (4) weeks after the visit
  • The school submits any corrections to facts in ERP Report to the Chair and the Director.

Five (5) weeks after the visit
  • The Chair submits copies of the final ERP report to the Director and the Dean.

Six (6) weeks after the visit
  • School may submit an optional response to the ERP report.

Next regularly scheduled COA meeting
  • The COA meets with the ERP Chair, Dean and/or other representatives of the school;

  • The COA makes an accreditation decision.

Ten (10) business days after meeting with COA
  • The Office sends the Decision Document conveying the accreditation decision to the Dean and the CEO of the institution.