The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) is a membership organization of more than 250 graduate schools in the United States and Canada that conduct post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines. The Commission on Accrediting of ATS accredits institutions and approves degree programs offered by accredited schools.
The Association at a Glance
Core Areas of Work
Targeted Areas of Work 2008–2014
The mission of ATS is to promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public.
The Association seeks to fulfill this mission with commitment to four core values:
w Diversity. ATS values the different expressions of faith that are represented by member schools and seeks to respect their varying understandings of theology, polity, religious leadership, and social commitments.
w Quality and Improvement. ATS schools value quality and ongoing improvement in theological education by holding themselves accountable to common practices and standards.
w Collegiality. ATS values the mutual benefit that schools of varied theological perspective or organizational makeup can derive by cooperating on common tasks that benefit the broader community of theological schools.
w Leadership. ATS values leadership as an essential tool for schools to attain their missions and is committed to developing the skills and capacities of administrators and faculties of member schools.
There are three categories of membership in the Association: Accredited Membership, Candidate for Accredited Membership, and Associate Membership. Membership is open to schools located in the United States and Canada that offer graduate, professional theological degrees, are demonstrably engaged in educating professional leadership for communities of the Christian and Jewish faiths, and meet the standards and criteria for membership established by the Association. The current member schools, numbering more than 250, include Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox graduate schools of theology that reflect a broad spectrum of doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and theological perspectives.
Commission on Accrediting
In addition, accreditation is conducted by the Board of Commissioners on behalf of the Commission on Accrediting of The Association of Theological Schools. Accreditation is a practice of peer review and accountability to mutually agreed-upon standards of quality. It affords the public the assurance of a standard of educational and institutional quality and provides schools with a process for continual improvement. Students have the added benefit of being able to transfer credits among accredited schools and, in the United States, to receive federally guaranteed student loans. The ATS Commission on Accrediting is recognized in the United States by the U.S. Department of Education and the nongovernmental Council for Higher Education Accreditation for the accreditation of graduate theological schools. The Board of Commissioners of the Commission on Accrediting also relates to the regional accrediting agencies in the United States and the provincial entities in Canada concerned with the quality of Canadian graduate education.
Comprehensive accrediting reviews, at least every ten years, examine a school’s institutional and educational practices in light of the Commission’s Standards of Accreditation. Based on accreditation committees’ visits to the schools and subsequent reports, the Commission on Accrediting accredits institutions and approves the degree programs they offer. Scores of volunteers from among the member schools serve on accreditation committees each academic year.History
The Association began in 1918 as a conference of theological schools that met biennially to consider issues of common interest and concern. From its beginning, the Association has been representative in membership of both the United States and Canada. It became an Association in 1936, adopted standards for judging quality, and in 1938 established a list of accredited schools. In 1956 it incorporated and secured a full-time staff. The Association established its office in Pittsburgh in 1990. In 1996 the Association adopted redeveloped accrediting standards, and in 2005 it separately incorporated the Commission on Accrediting. Also in 2005, the Association moved its Ohio incorporation to Pennsylvania.