Theology Accreditation: RA v. ATS

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by me again, Aug 4, 2015.

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  1. me again

    me again Active Member

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    Question 1: RA and ATS: Which is better and why?

    Question 2: The Augustine Institute offers an MA in Theology that is not RA, but the institute is a candidate for ATS accreditation. Is it valid to have ATS accreditation, but not RA?

    Thoughts: Some people say that ATS accreditation is the gold standard, but if a degree is only ATS accreditated, then the graduate cannot teach at RA programs with the ATS degree. This seems like an unusual dichotomy (assuming that ATS is the theological gold standard).
     
  2. me again

    me again Active Member

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  3. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

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    ATS is professional accreditation, which is better than regional accreditation.
     
  4. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Active Member

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    Sure, you can have ATS Accreditation without regional accreditation. But it is important to note that Augustine is a candidate for ATS accreditation. So, right now, they are unaccredited. Their candidacy can fall through. They can withdraw. Candidacy is no guarantee they will actually become accredited in the future. That is more concerning, I believe, than the RA v ATS disagreement.

    There are people with ATS accredited degrees teaching at RA schools. There's no rule that says they cannot. However, it likely depends more upon theology and denominational affiliation than accreditation in this sense. Example:

    Here's a school that is only accredited by ATS. It's St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary, one of two official seminaries of the Orthodox Church in America. The other seminary is St. Vladimir's (also ATS only). Beyond accreditation, these schools have the denominational approval of the Orthodox Church in America and, by extension, the respect of other Orthodox jurisdictions in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

    So you can have an RA or ATS degree from a Baptist seminary but that doesn't mean you are going to get a job at either of these schools. Not because your degree isn't accredited but because Baptist theology isn't really what they would want taught in an Orthodox seminary (generally speaking, there are of course exceptions) and vice versa.

    But, generally speaking, there is no blanket prohibition against non-RA graduates from teaching at RA schools. At the community college level, I'm a good example of that. But it isn't terribly uncommon to find the graduate of an ABHE accredited program teaching at an RA school (or, at the very least, using an ABHE bachelors to gain admission to an RA graduate school). Heck, we've even found a number of people who graduated from unaccredited schools teaching at RA religious schools.
     
  5. Garp

    Garp New Member

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    ATS is an important accreditor for theological education. Some would consider it the most important accreditor. I believe that the majority of ATS schools are RA.

    I would advise caution about a school that is only ATS. If where you want to put the degree to use only cares about ATS then that is great. However, if you intend to use it outside of that circle, RA is probably more important. In a secular world, explaining you have an ATS accredited degree may have similar weight to saying you have a degree with recognized national or specialty accreditation. In other words, if they are looking for RA you may have explaining to do.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2015
  6. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Active Member

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    I agree with Garp. I think the key is the concept of "outside that circle."

    If a school wants to hire an expert in Orthodox theology then they are going to at least consider someone who graduated from St Vladimirs. That may very well be a Methodist seminary that intends to teach a course in Eastern Orthodoxy, however.

    Consider this, though not theological, Cornell's Weill Medical School employs a number of PhDs from Rockefeller University, which is nationally accredited (not RA at all) through the NYS Board of Regents.

    Now, Cornell had NYS Regent accreditation (in addition to RA) until the early 2000s. However I think it just proves that school reputation can far surpass the standard model of RA to RA and NA to NA. Rockefeller is a world class research school. Their graduates go on to teach at the top medical schools in the country. And the school is NA.

    Has it ever happened that an RA school turned away a graduate of Rockefeller? Maybe. But I highly doubt it.

    That doesn't mean that an ATS-only school is 100% good to go (in terms of meeting your goals). After all, that Rockefeller PhD can teach at an Ivy League medical school. That's a circle where the influence is strong. What happens when that same graduate tried to go to Canada to teach? IF the thread on WES and Candadian degree evaluations is any indicator, it doesn't go very well at all.

    That ATS degree may serve you well in any circle you intend to work in academically 99% of the time. But the 1% of the time it fails sucks if you happen into that situation. That said, there are likely many more variables at play in leading to that conclusion other than accreditation. But it's just something to be aware of.
     
  7. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

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  8. scottae316

    scottae316 New Member

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    It depends on your goals. If your desire is to serve as a church pastor then the accreditation can be important. For example, if one desires to be ordained in the United Methodist Church, you must graduate from a seminary approved by the denomination, and one requirement is ATS accreditation. So it depends on your goals. Many seminaries that are accredited by ATS are also RA accredited. It seems only smaller seminaries go for ATS only, I imagine it has to do with costs and requirements. Of the three seminaries I attended, two were ATS and RA, only the small denominational seminary was ATS only.
     

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