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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Working Party on Accreditation



Guiding Principles for WINHEC Accreditation Authority

Adopted by WINHEC Board on Nov. 10, 2002

Following are the guiding principles to be considered in the formation of an Indigenous higher education accrediting system for implementation under the auspices of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.

  1. The WINHEC Accreditation Authority will serve as a vehicle for strengthening and validating Indigenous higher education institutions and programs based on standards and procedures developed and implemented by WINHEC member institutions.
  2. The criteria for accreditation review will be founded upon the local Indigenous language and cultural beliefs and practices that provide the epistemological and pedagogical basis for the institutions and programs under review.
  3. The primary focus of the WINHEC Accreditation Authority will be the internal congruence and cultural integrity of the institutions/programs under review, with secondary consideration given to linkages with external/mainstream institutions and accreditation systems.
  4. The WINHEC Accreditation Authority will provide a means for institution-level accreditation of Indigenous-controlled higher education institutions, as well as program-level accreditation of Indigenous-oriented programs within Indigenous and mainstream institutions (including teacher education programs).
  5. The accreditation review process will include the role of locally respected Elders and recognized cultural practitioners, and the use of the heritage language(s) as reflected in the institution/program under review.
  6. The WINHEC Accreditation Authority will promote Indigenous research that is respectful of cultural and intellectual property rights and closely integrated with the communities being served.
  7. The WINHEC Accreditation Authority self-study process will be guided by local cultural standards that are developed by the respective Indigenous community, and thus will provide international recognition and validation for educational initiatives grounded in indigenous world views, knowledge systems and ways of knowing.
  8. The WINHEC Accreditation Authority will provide accredited institutions and programs with access to the following WINHEC services:
  9. a. Each accredited institutional member shall have one vote on the WINHEC Accreditation Authority Board and shall be invited to participate in program reviews of other candidates for accreditation.


    b. Each accredited member shall be included in the planning and implementation of cooperative activities (e.g., conferences, faculty/student exchanges, shared programs/curricula, cooperative research initiatives) of WINHEC programs and institutions.


    c. Each accredited member shall have opportunities to enroll students in and contribute to the offerings associated with articulated international baccalaureate and graduate degree programs focusing on Indigenous studies, including the acceptance of approved transfer credits among all member programs and institutions.

    d. Accredited members shall have opportunities for faculty and students to form partnerships on joint research activities and to participate in faculty/student exchanges among member programs and institutions.

    e. Accredited members shall have access to a database of recognized Indigenous scholars for external review of research papers, theses, grant proposals, manuscripts, etc.

    f. Accredited members shall be invited to participate in and contribute to international seminars, conferences, policy papers and comparable initiatives that pertain to the interests of the member programs and institutions.


Process for Implementation


Candidates for accreditation shall submit an application to the WINHEC Accreditation Authority and prepare a self-study addressing the criteria for review outlined in the Guidelines for Accreditation of Indigenous Higher Education Programs and Institutions.

The WINHEC Accreditation Authority shall appoint an accreditation review team made up of representatives from at least four member institutions/programs, two of which are from the same national context as the applicant institution/program. The review team shall include a minimum of one Elder who has been associated with a member program or institution.

The review team shall prepare a report based on a review of the self-study and an on-site visit to the candidate program/institution. This report (including the self-study) shall be submitted to the WINHEC Accreditation Authority for final consideration of membership approval.


Issues for Further Consideration

In addition to the initial guidelines and implementation processes outlined above and adopted by the WINHEC Board, the Working Party on Accreditation has identified issues for further elaboration and consideration in preparation for the 2003 Board meeting in Hawaii. Following is a summary of some of those remaining issues, with others to be added as they are identified. Anyone with suggestions for additional issues to be considered is invited to submit them to Ray Barnhardt, Chair of the Working Party, at

  1. Formation of WINHEC Accreditation Authority (board composition, management structure, funding, etc.)
  2. Application procedures and institutional/program review process (administrative procedures, timelines, review team composition, reporting process, etc.)
  3. Guidelines for the development of local cultural standards and accrediting criteria, including following considerations:
    • controlling authority of program/institution closely linked to indigenous community
    • sustainable funding structure and mechanism for allocation of resources
    • appropriate processes for evaluation of success
  4. Self-study guidelines and requirements
  5. Preparation of WINHEC Accreditation Authority Handbook, including all of the above, along with a glossary to clarify different uses of related terminology:
    • accreditation/qualification/validation
    • authority/board/association/system
    • epistemology/ways of knowing/world view
    • traditions/customs/knowledge/beliefs/values
    • Elders/Kaumatua/Kahuna/culture-bearers
  6. Relationship with other accreditation agencies (institutional and professional)
  7. Relationships between institutions/programs and communities being served
  8. Involvement of Elders and youth in the accrediting process
  9. Strategies for simplicity and ease of implementation at minimal cost


This summary is derived from meetings of the WINHEC Working Party on Accreditation in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Nov. 2-3, 2002 and Otaki, Aotearoa on Nov. 7-8, 2002, followed by WINHEC Board adoption on Nov. 10, 2002.



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified August 21, 2006