Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Standard 1. Defining Institutional Purposes and Ensuring Educational Objectives

Main content start

The institution defines its purposes and establishes educational objectives aligned with those purposes. The institution has a clear and explicit sense of its essential values and character, its distinctive elements, its place in both the higher education community and society, and its contribution to the public good. It functions with integrity, transparency, and autonomy.

1.11.2 1.3 1.4 1.51.6 1.7 1.8

1.1  The institution’s formally approved statements of purpose are appropriate for an institution of higher education and clearly define its essential values and character and ways in which it contributes to the public good.

The Stanford University Founding Grant outlines the founding principles of the university. An updated perspective on the university's mission can be found in the Stanford Bulletin

Each of Stanford's seven schools has its own mission statement and those can be found on the links below. 

In addition, many academic programs publish their mission statements in the Bulletin or on departmental websites. Below are a few examples.

Stanford has developed a new vision for the university based on recommendations that emerged from a campus-wide strategic planning process that ended in May 2019. These recommendations have been distilled and integrated into the Long-Range Vision, which will guide the university’s priorities over the coming years.

The Planning and Policy Board of the Faculty Senate is charged with articulating the academic vision and mission for the university and to opine on broad academic policy issues for consideration by the faculty. The board's charge document can be found in the Senate and Committee Handbook (p. 37).

1.2  Educational objectives are widely recognized throughout the institution, are consistent with stated purposes, and are demonstrably achieved. The institution regularly generates, evaluates, and makes public data about student achievement, including measures of retention and graduation, and evidence of student learning outcomes.

The Student Achievement page of this website is where we share public information on completion rates for undergraduate, professional and doctoral degree students. Samples of reports to assess student learning in the undergraduate majors written by faculty as well as students' self-reported learning outcomes from the senior exit survey are also published here. These are all annually updated.

The Aims of a Standard Education, from the 2012 report of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (the SUES report), is the current statement of the university's educational goals for its undergraduate students. This is also posted on the Student Achievement page here.

As part of the Long-Range Planning process, in 2018 two committees began the work of redesigning the undergraduate curriculum with the aim of renewing the goals of a liberal educational experience at Stanford. The resulting design team reports on the First Year Experience and the Future of the Major led to faculty senate legislation in 2019. The university is now piloting new first year courses and departments are implementing the new major requirements.

The Stanford Bulletin is the annual publication that outlines university policies, courses, and learning objectives and degree requirements for programs in four of our seven schools. The contents are organized by program, each of which contains a statement of the program's learning outcomes (examples below).

Degree requirements for MBA, JD and the MD program in the School of Medicine are contained in separate school handbooks.

Undergraduate and graduate student completion rates as well as doctoral time-to-degree statistics are also regularly published on the Data and Findings dashboards page of the IR&DS website. Aggregate data on Ph.D. students' self-reported skill development, part of the Ph.D. Exit Survey is also published on this page.

The Common Data Set provides information to the community about undergraduate student retention and completion.

At the course level, student feedback through the course evaluation system provide a mechanism for evaluating learning through student feedback. Questions on these evaluation forms can be customized by instructors to aligned with course learning outcomes (see CFR 2.5).

1.3  The institution publicly states its commitment to academic freedom for faculty, staff, and students, and acts accordingly. This commitment affirms that those in the academy are free to share their convictions and responsible conclusions with their colleagues and students in their teaching and in their writing.

Stanford’s current statement on academic freedom was adopted by the Faculty Senate in 1974. It begins, “Stanford University's central functions of teaching, learning, research, and scholarship depend upon an atmosphere in which freedom of inquiry, thought, expression, publication and peaceable assembly are given the fullest protection. Expression of the widest range of viewpoints should be encouraged, free from institutional orthodoxy and from internal or external coercion. Further, the holding of appointments at Stanford University should in no way affect the faculty members' rights assured by the Constitution of the United State . . ." The complete policy statement can be found in the Research Policy Handbook Statement on Academic Freedom and the Faculty Handbook Section 4.2 Statement on Academic Freedom.

The university's commitment to principles of free expression of ideas are reinforced in messages to the campus community made by the president, provost, and others in the senior leadership. Some are linked below. For instance, in a message to campus in November 2017, the president and provost, recognizing the challenges free expression of ideas can bring in a diverse community, reflect on "how we at Stanford can advance both our unwavering commitment to the free expression of ideas and our equally steadfast goal of an inclusive community."

Resources for students and staff explaining how various policies affect free speech (including around events and campus protests) are available on Stanford's Free Speech website. The Office of Community Standards publishes information with guidance and polices on student conduct as it relates to speech. In 2021, the university updated its process to respond to harmful identity-based speech. The Protected Identity Harm Report process and resources is described on the Dean of Students website.

1.4  Consistent with its purposes and character, the institution demonstrates an appropriate response to the increasing diversity in society through its policies, its educational and co-curricular programs, and its administrative and organizational practices.

The university's statement on diversity made by the provost in May 2019 continues to embody the university's commitment to advancing values of diversity. Regular updates and newsletters, such as this message in June 2020 by the president following the murder of George Floyd, express continued emphasis on diversity. Others updates can be found on the IDEAL website's news page.

A key component of Stanford's long-range vision, the IDEAL Initiative (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment) includes a wide-ranging set of institutional objectives focused on areas of recruitment, research, education and engagement. Recent accomplishments in the four areas of the initiative--the recruitment, research, engagement and education systems--as well as initiatives in the schools are updated and shared with the community on the IDEAL website. 

One major outcome of the IDEAL Research team's work is the creation of the IDEAL dashboards. Developed in 2019 to improve transparency and measure progress, the IDEAL dashboards display detailed information of the demographic composition of faculty, students and staff at Stanford. The data are scheduled to be updated every year at the end of fall quarter.

A number of programs, tools and support structures for students, departments, faculty and staff  are provided by a variety of central offices. Some of these are included below. The IDEAL website's resources page and the Diversity Works website also centrally collect many existing resources and initiatives at the university.

1.5  Even when supported by or affiliated with political, corporate, or religious organizations, the institution has education as its primary purpose and operates as an academic institution with appropriate autonomy.

Stanford University is a trust with corporate powers under the laws of the State of California. The university is a tax-exempt entity under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Under the provisions of the Founding Grant, the Board of Trustees (with a maximum membership of 38) is custodian of the endowment and all the properties of Stanford University. The board administers the invested funds, sets the annual budget and determines policies for operation and control of the university. Among the powers given to the trustees by the Founding Grant is the power to appoint a president. The board delegates broad authority to the president to operate the university and to the faculty on certain academic matters. The current membership of the board is maintained on the Board of Trustees website.

Stanford has been non-denominational from its founding as described in the  Founding Grant (p. 21). A number of policies related to political activities, conflict of interest and academic integrity are linked below.

1.6  The institution truthfully represents its academic goals, programs, services, and costs to students and to the larger public. The institution demonstrates that its academic programs can be completed in a timely fashion. The institution treats students fairly and equitably through established policies and procedures addressing student conduct, grievances, human subjects in research, disability, and financial matters, including refunds and financial aid.

The Stanford Bulletin is the most comprehensive source of information on academic programs and policies of relevance to students. Described there are the University’s Honor Code and Fundamental Standard, stating our expectations for student honesty and integrity; the grievance processes, both academic and non-academic; ADA Section 504 grievance procedures; and conditions under which students can receive full or partial refunds for tuition, housing and other fees. 

The Financial Aid Office provides tools for undergraduate students and their families to determine estimated costs and budgeting for their study. The Graduate Admissions website similarly shares estimated expenses to help graduate degree applicants and admitted students anticipate the costs of their study. (See also CFR 2.12)

Two offices are responsible for providing support and oversight of disability resources. The Office of Accessible Education is the support arm providing academic resources to students with disabilities. The Office of Diversity and Access provides non-academic services to students, faculty and staff and also manages the appeal process for students who wish to bring concerns forth under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The University’s Research Compliance Office is responsible for oversight of Human Subjects Research at Stanford. This office promulgates policy and manages the IRB process with regard to such activity. Policies related to human subjects in research are published in the Research Policy Handbook..

For a list of all policies, please see Stipulated Policies.

Information on retention, time-to-degree, and so forth, are published annually in the Common Data Set.

1.7  The institution exhibits integrity and transparency in its operations, as demonstrated by the adoption and implementation of appropriate policies and procedures, sound business practices, timely and fair responses to complaints and grievances, and regular evaluation of its performance in these areas. The institution’s finances are regularly audited by qualified independent auditors.

As noted earlier, all University administrative policies are outlined in the University’s Administrative Guide. University policies outlining grievance and appeal procedures for students are outlined in the Stanford Bulletin; policies concerning grievances and appeals for faculty are found in the Faculty Handbook; policies concerning grievances and appeals for staff are found in the Administrative Guide, as well as special policies for academic staff found in the research policy handbook and the academic staff section of the faculty handbook. The University also has an Ombudsman, whose services are available to students, faculty, and staff.

1.8  The institution is committed to honest and open communication with the Accrediting Commission, to undertaking the accreditation review process with seriousness and candor, to informing the Commission promptly of any matter that could materially affect the accreditation status of the institution, and to abiding by Commission policies and procedures, including all substantive change policies 

We routinely submit our Annual Report and comply with all WASC policies.