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Standard 1. Defining Institutional Purposes and Ensuring Educational Objectives

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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

CFR 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 (1885) outlines the founding principles of the university. (A digitized version of the original copy of the grant is available here.) The grant describes the “Nature, Object, and Purposes of the Institution” in these terms (p. 4):

Its nature, that of a university with such seminaries of learning as shall make it of the highest grade, including mechanical institutes, museums, galleries of art, laboratories, and conservatories, together with all things necessary for the study of agriculture in all its branches, and for mechanical training, and the studies and exercises directed to the cultivation and enlargement of the mind;

Its object, to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life;

And its purposes, to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization, teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Each of Stanford's seven schools has its own mission statement. 

(The Doerr School of Sustainability was founded September 1, 2022 and includes the previous School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences as well as a number of other departments and institutes.)

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 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).

CFR 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 current statement of the university’s educational goals for its undergraduate students, “The Aims of a Stanford Education”, were articulated in the 2012 SUES report (pp. 11-13). These aims draw directly upon the founders’ vision of an education “to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life.” As the SUES authors write, “Today, more than a century later, we still subscribe to that goal. But we also hope for more. We want our students not simply to succeed but to flourish; we want them to live not only usefully but also creatively, responsibly, and reflectively.”

This vision of a liberal education at Stanford was recently renewed in the form of two reforms to the First-Year Experience and the Future of the Major which emerged through extensive faculty discussion and debate in the recent Long Range Vision process. The reports of the design teams express an updated vision of the education goals of the core courses that undergird the undergraduate degree and the major where students develop disciplinary depth.

  1. “All of our graduates should be prepared to think for themselves, question and reform social conventions, and revise their own assumptions when confronted with new evidence. They should recognize that every community, from the smallest club to the largest nation, needs engaged citizens who can distinguish between self-interest and the common good. Accordingly, they need to know how to discover, and how to debate, what is in the common good. Finally, they should have enough experience and knowledge about the world to appreciate that different people live different lives, and that what is good for Palo Alto may not be good for Pittsburgh or Peshawar.” (First-Year Design Team Report, p. 7).
  2. “The major should provide students with a depth experience within some field, which supports development of a sophisticated understanding of some problems in the field together with general cognitive and practical skills suitable for work in that field… In addition, the student should develop a field-specific grasp of how to learn in the discipline, suitable to support a “growth mindset” toward the field. It is important, both for the substantive support of the student’s depth understanding and for the development of confidence and a sense of expertise, that the student attain significant mastery in some subfield(s) within the major. Finally, students should gain real experience thinking for themselves with the tools of the discipline, so as to develop independence of thought, problem solving creativity, and active mastery of technique and knowledge within the field.” (Future of the Major report, pp. 12-13)

The educational goals for each of Stanford’s doctoral degrees are available in the Stanford Bulletin. Additional goals vary according to the discipline and are set locally by faculty in departments and programs.

Public information on student achievement is posted on our accreditation website. These include completion rates for undergraduate, professional and doctoral degree students, samples of reports to assess student learning in the undergraduate majors written by faculty, and students' self-reported learning outcomes from the senior exit survey. 

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. Additionally, the Common Data Set also provides information to the community about undergraduate student retention and completion.

Faculty in departments and schools develop learning objectives for their degree programs that are shared in the Stanford Bulletin (examples below). The Bulletin also contains degree requirements for each program. Degree requirements for MBA, JD and the MD program in the School of Medicine are also contained in separate school handbooks.

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

CFR 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 is published in the Faculty Handbook and the Research Policy Handbook). 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 States….” 

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 policies on student conduct as it relates to speech. In 2021, the university updated its process to respond to harmful identity-based speech to create the Protected Identity Harm (PIH) Reporting process. The PIH Reporting process, intakes information through a reporting mechanism to 1) help students who have been affected by these incidents and 2) collect data. It is not a judicial or investigative process.

CFR 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 commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion is articulated in the provost’s diversity statement. As the provost writes, “Institutions that are truly inclusive and embrace and advance diversity everywhere – in every program, every school and every area of operation – will be the most successful.” The statement clearly articulates why these values are important to us and lays out the goals of our vision for a diverse and inclusive Stanford.

  • Diversity is critical to our research and educational missions. Our diversity ensures our strength as an intellectual community. In today’s world, diversity represents the key to excellence and achievement.
  • The future is diverse. We believe that Stanford’s future preeminence requires that we enthusiastically embrace our diverse future now..
  • Social justice. We must continue to evolve and become a better and more inclusive institution in our pursuit of the values we hold dear. 

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. Other 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. The IDEAL Initiative is the university’s institution-wide, comprehensive framework for strengthening the diversity of our campus and delivering on our commitment to enable all members of our community to thrive and be able to participate in all the educational opportunities available at Stanford. (Progress on the IDEAL Initiative is the focus of Theme 2 of our 2023 institutional report to WSCUC.) 

To improve transparency and measure progress, in 2019 the IDEAL dashboards were developed. These 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. Furthermore, in 2021, the university undertook a campus-wide survey of the community. The 2021 IDEAL DEI Survey received 14,907 responses (36% of the community) and included questions on diversity, inclusion and belonging, microaggressions and experiences with harassing and discriminatory behaviors, and their impact. The findings of the survey were shared with the community in the 2021-22 academic year. 

A number of central offices are responsible for advancing equity and inclusion on campus. 

Theme 2 of our 2023 institutional report to WSCUC discusses many DEIB efforts at length and documents initiatives throughout the campus in table 4 (pages 49-50). There are many programs and efforts to support IDEAL goals across the university. These are collected and periodically updated on the IDEAL website's resources page and the Diversity Works website, including:

CFR 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. (See also CFR 3.10.)

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.

CFR 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. The Student Services website houses all 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, as well as a myriad of other policies. 

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. Additionally, the Office of Digital Accessibility oversees compliance with the university's electronic accessibility policy for all university websites and IT systems.

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.

CFR 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 administrative policies are outlined in the university’s Administrative Guide, which includes the university's Code of Conduct

The university has grievance policies for students, staff, and faculty linked below.

The services of the Ombuds are available to all members of the Stanford community.

The Office of Ethics and Compliance (within the Office of the Chief Risk Officer) monitors a confidential hotline where any member of the community can report concerns about conflict of interest, workplace misconduct, financial irregularities, and other issues. The Office is also responsible for monitoring the university’s Code of Conduct and overseeing an institution-wide ethics and compliance program, which is designed to meet the federal government’s expectations for effective compliance programs as articulated in chapter 8 of the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The university’s finances are regularly audited by independent auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, who also serve as independent auditors for many peer institutions. The audited financial statements are submitted to WSCUC in our annual reports. Additionally, the university’s Board of Trustees has a standing committee on Audit, Compliance and Risk (ACR) whose main purpose is to assist the Board in its risk, financial, audit, compliance, and other oversight responsibilities. The ACR Committee reviews the effectiveness of:

  1. The financial reporting process and integrity of the university’s consolidated financial statements and internal controls;
  2. The reporting and qualifications, independence, and performance of the university’s independent auditors;
  3. The university’s internal audit and ethics and compliance functions; and
  4. The university’s enterprise risk management (ERM) activities.

The university’s Internal Audit Department (within the Office of the Chief Risk Officer) regularly evaluates the university’s adoption and implementation of appropriate policies and procedures, sound business practices, and timely and fair responses to complaints and grievances. 

The university’s Cabinet regularly receives and discusses information about enterprise risks. An ERM, Ethics, and Compliance Steering Committee meets quarterly to provide guidance to the programs mentioned above

CFR 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 WSCUC policies. By making publicly available this review of the standards on our website, we demonstrate our commitment to comply with the WSCUC standards and to openness and transparency in our communications with the commission.