University Accreditation

Overview of University Planning Degree Program Accreditation

Accredited gold certificateUniversities with planning degree programs (under-graduate or graduate) may apply to PSB to have those programs accredited.  Accreditation is for a period of up to five years, and may be conditional or unconditional. Please note that, under the standard, doctoral programs are not eligible for accreditation. The accreditation process is overseen by PSB’s Accreditation Program Committee (APC). Note:  A program, if accredited, is accredited to the end of the last indicated academic year; thus, if a program shows accreditation to 2017, it is accredited to the end of academic 2017-2018 (normally August 31, 2018).

More questions?

Contact Larissa Johnston, Executive Director (By Email: [email protected] or By Phone: 647-317-6924/1-844-202-9002)

Initial Accreditation

Upon application for accreditation, PSB will send a Site Visit Team to meet with the university and review their suitability for accreditation.  This review looks at the degree program’s curriculum to ensure it covers the identified competencies appropriately, the staffing of the university’s planning department to verify the employment of the requisite number of full (certified) members of a Provincial/Territorial Institute or Association (PTIA) of CIP and/or its Affiliate Planning Institutes at an appropriate level, and a number of other factors.  The Site Visit Team prepares a draft report, which is submitted to the degree program’s management for review and comment.  The Team makes such adjustments to the report as, in its opinion, are required and prepares its final report and recommendation. The Site Visit Team then submits its report, including the recommendation, to APC for approval, and the approved report is then sent to PSB’s Board of Directors for a final decision.  PSB recognizes that some PTIAs are legislatively mandated to accredit programs for their jurisdictions, including those located in other provinces, so additional approval process may take place at those PTIAs.

Annual Reviews

Around the anniversary of the program’s accreditation, PSB will review with the university its status to determine whether the program should continue to be accredited.  This is not an in-depth review, although a serious falling-away from the standard for accreditation may trigger such a review.  If concerns are identified, the university will be asked to take corrective action to address them.

Intensive Review

As noted above, accreditation is for a period of up to five years.  At the end of that time, an intensive review will be undertaken by PSB.  This process is very similar to the initial accreditation in scope.

Accreditation Standard

The accreditation standard applied by PSB is the standard established by the Planning for the Future Accreditation Task Force (adopted in 2010) and modified by the Accreditation Implementation Task Force (adopted 2013).  The criteria for accreditation of a university planning degree programs are:

  1. The university offering the program must be recognized by a government of a province of Canada
  2. The degree must be in the field of planning as defined by the Canadian Institute of Planners:  “the scientific, aesthetic and orderly disposition of land resources, facilities and services with a view to securing the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities.”
  3. An undergraduate degree should require the equivalent of four years of full-time study in a normal case.  A graduate degree should require the equivalent of two years of full-time study in a normal case.  Note:  doctoral degree programs are not eligible for accreditation.
  4. The word “Planning” or the French equivalent must appear in the title of the degree or parenthetically to define the discipline of planning within the designated branch of knowledge and shall not be subordinate to another discipline within the branch of knowledge.
  5. The program offering the degree shall be a recognized administrative unit (program, department, school, etc.) within the university, in the direct charge of an individual whose primary area of activity is planning and who is officially designated by the university as the responsible executive academic officer of the unit having authority on academic matters generally equivalent (subject to the constraints and limitations imposed by the university) to that of a department chair.
  6. The administrative unit must have appropriate administrative capacity and academic independence (subject to the constraints and limitations imposed by the university).
  7. The faculty shall include at least four academic members whose major appointments are in the planning program.
  8. A program must have a minimum number of certified members of a PTIA on faculty. Two or more members with part-time teaching appointments in the planning program shall be considered to be one of these full-time equivalents.
    1. For a program with 7 or fewer full-time equivalent faculty, at least three must be certified members of a PTIA;
    2. For a program with 8 or more full-time equivalent faculty, at least four must be certified members of a PTIA.
  9. Faculty members shall have educational and professional backgrounds appropriate for the program level, with a relevant mix of credentials (i.e. degrees in planning (ideally accredited), significant experience in planning, PhDs in planning, degrees and experience in related fields).
  10. The course must provide sufficient coverage of the functional and enabling competencies to allow students to enter the planning profession with a broad base of understanding of the profession and with the ability to continue to develop, gain knowledge, and specialize.

The competencies against which programs seeking accreditation are measured are:

Functional Competencies

Human Settlements History & Principles of Planning Government and Law Issues in Planning and Policy-Making Processes of Planning and Policy-Making Plan and Policy Implementation
Forms, scales and settings of human settlements History of planning in Canada and other countries Political and institutional frameworks of planning Environmental, social and economic sustainability Visioning, goal-setting and problem-framing Regulatory tools
Processes and factors of change in human settlements Planning theories, principles and practices Planning laws Equity, diversity and inclusiveness Information gathering and analysis Fiscal/financial tools
Planning ethics Public finance and economics Public consultation and deliberation Design and management of public projects
New developments in planning Land use, design and infrastructure Monitoring and evaluation

Enabling Competencies

Critical and Creative Thinking Social Interaction and Leadership Communication Professionalism
Gathering and analysing quantitative and qualitative data Mediation, facilitation, negotiation, and conflict resolution Written communication Managing complexity, uncertainty and change
Identifying patterns and trends Inclusion of diverse people and values Oral communication Learning from practice
Thinking at various geographic scales Team-work and team-building Graphic communication Handling ethical dilemmas
Designing scenarios and plans Relations to bosses, officials and the public Use of information technology

Preliminary Accreditation

The Planning for the Future report on accreditation, as drafted, provided that newly-accredited programs could date their accreditation from the beginning of the academic year in which accreditation was granted, and that only students who first began attending classes in that year could be considered to have graduated with an accredited degree.  It also provided that an application for accreditation could not be submitted until the program had graduated a cohort.  As a result of our experience, PSB identified this as a concern – a program would be evaluated in part on the work done by the first graduating cohort, but that group could not be considered to have graduated with an accredited degree.  In response to this, PSB drafted an amendment to the Planning for the Future standard that would permit preliminary accreditation of new and existing planning degree programs.  This amendment was reviewed and recommended by the Professional Standards Committee (PSC – the body within the Institute charged with reviewing and amending the various standards) and adopted by the Institute and the participating PTIAs in late 2014.  As a result, PSB is now able to offer preliminary accreditation. Under the amendment, a new planning degree program submits an application to PSB before the program’s first classes commence.  The APC appoints a Program Review Team (PRT) to consider whether, based on the application, the program appears to meet the standard.  If the PRT recommends that preliminary accreditation be granted, and that recommendation is accepted by APC and the PSB Board of Directors, the program is granted preliminary accreditation from the beginning of the academic year in which classes begin.  The program must then submit annual reports satisfactory to APC, undergo an intensive site visit resulting in a recommendation for accreditation, and that recommendation must be accepted by APC and the PSB Board.  If, as a result of this process, the program is ultimately granted accreditation, all those who enrolled in the program since the start of first classes will be considered to have graduated with an accredited degree. The process for first-time accreditation of existing planning degree programs is similar, but retroactivity cannot be granted to such programs.  All programs applying for preliminary accreditation must meet the 2010 standard as amended in 2013; the 2014 amendment regarding preliminary accreditation does not vary the 2010/2013 criteria other than to allow preliminary accreditation.

Accreditation Timelines

The process below includes indicates the maximum time allowed for an individual step.

  1. Six to 12 months ahead of scheduled site visit:  APC works with universities to set dates of upcoming accreditation visits (possibly universities will offer 3 sets of dates for APC to choose from)
  2. Three to six months ahead of scheduled site visit:  APC appoints Site Visit Team (SVT) members
  3. Six months ahead of scheduled site visit:  staff advises university of mandatory/optional parts of site visit (interviews, etc.)
  4. Two months ahead of scheduled site visit:  APC informs university of the names of SVT members; if university identifies a conflict, APC takes steps to remedy it (e.g. appoints a replacement member)
  5. Two months ahead of scheduled site visit:  APC holds meeting with each SVT to conduct orientation if necessary
  6. Six weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  application from university due
  7. Six weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  APC formally appoints SVT
  8. Six weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  application from university distributed to SVT members (large files, so it is usually necessary to distribute by DropBox)
  9. Six weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  university prepares draft site visit schedule
  10. Four weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  SVT travel and accommodation booked
  11. Two-four weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  SVT teleconference to discuss university application, set visit strategy (if any), etc.
  12. Two weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  staff prepares the “factual” part of the SVT report (name of university, degree, faculty, etc. – this information can be drawn from the application)
  13. Two weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  university prepares final site visit schedule (showing names of interview participants, etc.)
  14. Two weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  second SVT teleconference, if necessary
  15. Two weeks ahead of scheduled site visit:  confirm with SVT members they are still willing and available to conduct the site visit (maybe this should be 4 weeks out?)
  16. Site visit
  17. 60 days after site visit:  draft SVT report due.  Draft submitted to university for review
  18. 90 days after site visit:  university to submit comments on draft report.  If university disputes findings, it must submit evidence substantiating its position.  University can also make factual corrections (spellings, etc.)
  19. 105 days after site visit:  SVT prepares final report to APC
  20. 135 days after site visit:  APC makes recommendation to accept or not to accept SVT report and sends recommendation to PSB Board
  21. 165 days after site visit:  PSB Board votes to accept or not to accept APC recommendation
  22. 15 days after PSB Board vote:  university to lodge an appeal
  23. 15 days after notice of university appeal:  PSB Board to appoint an appeal panel to hear the appeal
  24. Seven days after PSB Board vote or 7 days after appeal panel presents its report:  staff notifies university, university’s “home PTIA”, other PTIAs, PSC and CIP of result of vote.  Staff updates website listing of accredited programs

5 key things to know about the work of the Accreditation Program Committee (APC): Update #1

We are learning and evolving.  The APC, through Site Visit Teams (SVTs) has carried out a number of accreditation processes using the methodology envisioned at PSB inception.  With these experiences and a desire for continuous improvement, APC is taking steps to ensure that an efficient, transparent and trust engendering accreditation process evolves.  Here’s what you can look forward to:

  1. Scheduling site visits with universities up to a year in advance, at times that are most appropriate to those universities.  Pre-visit conversations are taking place to increase preparedness of all parties.
  2. During site visits, an open meeting will take place with all interested students, in addition to the meeting with a preselected subset of the student body.  This way, we can hear the voices of many.
  3. A step-by-step process with timelines is being refined and will be circulated and posted so that process expectations are clear.
  4. A transparent and proactive process to recruit site visit team members, so that we have a roster of diverse, knowledgeable planning leaders to proactively draw from.
  5. Ongoing and regular review of issues as they arise to develop pragmatic solutions.  One example of this is giving consideration to retroactive accreditation for particular University Planning Programs.

We commit to providing regular updates.  Upcoming updates will include information about site visit team recruitment and the process they follow, together with universities.

More questions? 
Contact Kai St. Kitts, Accreditation Coordinator:   email [email protected] or telephone 647-317-6924/toll-free 1-844-202-9002.

5 key things to know about the work of the Accreditation Program Committee (APC) Update #2

It’s fitting that the Accreditation Program Committee is learning!  APC is taking steps to ensure that an efficient, transparent and trust building accreditation process continues to evolve.  Here’s an update on our activities.

  1. Site Visits Complete!  As of the end of 2015, site visit teams have carried out accreditation visits to 6 universities, resulting in some first time preliminary accreditations, one new accreditation and a number of re-accreditations.  So far in 2016, we’ve already completed one accreditation visit.
  2. Site Visits Planned! For 2016, there are two more scheduled visits in March, and another two scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.  Congratulations to the staff and students of these programs for sharing your research, structure and vision, and thanks to all our volunteer Site Visit and Program Review Team members – all of you together are making a major contribution to the profession.
  3. Proactive Timelines in Place!  Site visits with universities are now booked up to a year in advance, at times that are most appropriate to those universities.  Similarly, we aim to establish Site Visit Teams well in advance.  Pre-visit preparation is taking place to increase preparedness of all parties.   The process timeline is now posted on this page – please scroll down to “Accreditation Timelines” and click/tap the button “Expand Details”.
  4. Considering Depth and Diversity!  Volunteers are critical to the success of the accreditation program.  Recognizing that Planning is a diverse profession, and planners have many specialties and backgrounds, we are looking at ways we can achieve a diverse and deep pool for Site Visit Teams.   A review of various professional “Colleges of Reviewers” approaches will give a base on which to create a national volunteer call.  Stay tuned!
  5. Planning, planners and planning schools don’t stand still!  The Committee undertakes ongoing and regular review of issues and opportunities as they arise to develop pragmatic solutions that meet the needs of the profession and our academic partners, and help us deliver on our mandate.

We commit to providing regular updates and welcome suggestions about areas that we should cover.  Our aim is to ensure that the processes we develop and implement are robust, transparent and sustainable.

For further information on the accreditation process, please contact PSB’s Executive Director, Larissa Johnston, by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at 647-317-6924 or toll-free 1-844-202-9002. A list of accredited Canadian university planning degree programs can be found on the Accredited Planning Programs page of the website. Please note that PSB also recognizes programs accredited by the American Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) and the Planning Institute of Australia –links to those programs is provided from our Accredited Planning Programs page.