Northwestern Journalism School Joins Berkeley and Drops its Accreditor

Medill, Fisk Hall at Northwestern.

Medill, Fisk Hall at Northwestern.

Northwestern University’s highly ranked Medill School of Journalism announced it won’t renew its accreditation with the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

In a letter to alumni, Bradley J. Hamm the Dean of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, said that school officials chose not to pursue renewed accreditation because the process it’s out of date, extremely time consuming and because it limits their curriculum and restricts the ability of students to take courses in different schools. 

“As we near the 2020s, we expect far better than a 1990s-era accreditation organization that resists change, especially as education and careers in our field evolve rapidly,” Hamm wrote. “All fields benefit from a world-class review process, and unfortunately the gap between ACEJMC today and what it could, and should, be is huge.”

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Hamm said Medill is creating its own review process that will start this summer with the help of journalism experts. "I'm not saying we don't want program review or accreditation. I'm saying we want a far better one," Hamm said. "The students will be involved. Over the past year or two, I've talked to a number of groups about how we want better ways to manage ourselves."

On the other hand, the accreditation council for journalism schools responded to Medill decision to not renew accreditation. In a statement signed by ACEJMC leaders, the organization argued that the time the organization takes to review a program is necessary for a “thorough, fair and comprehensive review.” 

A continuing trend of journalism programs discontinuing their accreditation, the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, also recently opted to drop the accreditor, has started a debate on accreditation and its impact on innovation. Dean Hamm said he is hopeful that this decision will lead to significant reforms.