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National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Program, Organizational Structure, Membership and Financial Support, History and Development

The National Association of Schools of Art (NASAD) is composed of schools, organizations, and individuals, representing the highest traditions and aims in the education of the artists and designers. NASAD is a voluntary, nonprofit agency with every major center of art education activity embodied in its membership. NASAD gives equal concern to each of the various visual arts. The association is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the accrediting agency for college-level programs in art and design.

The aims and objectives of the association are to do the following:

  1. Evaluate, through the processes of accreditation, schools of art and programs of studio art instruction–particularly those schools preparing students for careers in art–in terms of the quality of their instruction and the results achieved, as judged by experienced examiners.
  2. Establish a national forum to stimulate the understanding and acceptance of the educational disciplines inherent in the creative arts in U.S. higher education.
  3. Establish reasonable standards where quantitative measurements have validity, as in matters of budget, faculty qualifications, faculty–student ratios, and library and physical facilities.
  4. Encourage varied and experimental approaches to the teaching of art and design, in the knowledge that creativity implies nonconformity and that values in art can be identified only in an appropriate context.
  5. Assure students and parents that accredited art programs provide competent teachers, adequate facilities and equipment, and sound curricula and that these programs are capable of attaining their stated objectives.
  6. Counsel and assist schools in developing instruction of the highest quality and to encourage self-evaluation and continuing improvement.
  7. Invite and encourage the cooperation of professional art and design groups in the formulation of appropriate curricula and standards for the respective professions.


The major responsibility of NASAD is the accreditation of U.S. higher educational programs in art and design. NASAD also sets guidelines and standards for graduate and undergraduate degrees in art and design, as well as certificate and credentialing programs for professional artists and designers. In addition, NASAD maintains a list of artists, designers, art teachers, and arts executives and professionals who are willing to serve as consultants. NASAD consultants help institutions with such issues as applications for new accreditation and re-accreditation, curriculum and institutional development, facility and equipment review, and state reviews. Many NASAD consultants are also available for speaking engagements on topics of concern to the art and design community.

NASAD also publishes books, reports, and pamphlets that outline accreditation requirements and procedures, describe research in art and design, record and evaluate statistics, and discuss issues and policies of concern to art students and art educators. The organization's major publications include the NASAD Directory and the NASAD Handbook, both published annually.

Representatives of member schools assemble annually for a conference on problems of mutual concern regarding the education of the artist and designer, and for an exchange of ideas concerning improvements in education processes. Prominent scholars and creative artists are regularly invited to participate in the program, and meetings are also open to individuals from nonmember institutions and allied fields.

NASAD participates in the Higher Education Arts Data Services (HEADS) Project along with the National Association of Schools of Music, the National Association of Schools of Theatre, and the National Association of Schools of Dance. Begun in 1982, the HEADS Project collects, compiles, evaluates, and publishes statistics from member and non-member institutions with the goal of providing comprehensive management data on the arts in higher education. All NASAD member institutions must participation in the HEADS Project.

Organizational Structure

NASAD had 236 institutional members in 2001. The board of directors, elected by the membership, meets regularly during the year and is responsible for the proper conduct of association business. In addition to a commission on accreditation, standing committees of the board are maintained for membership, rules, program, research and development, public relations, nominations, and fellows and citations. Appointed representatives serve as liaison members with regional accrediting associations. There are no regional, state, or local units of the association.

Membership and Financial Support

The association offers both individual membership and accredited institution membership. Individual membership is available to artists, designers, and educators. Institutional membership is available to colleges, universities, and independent schools of art and design with NASAD accredited programs. These programs consist of professional schools and professionally oriented college and university art departments with programs leading to the bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of science in design, and similar professional degrees; liberal arts colleges with programs leading to the bachelor of arts degree with a major in art; and junior and community colleges and other schools offering programs of art instruction at the college level that do not lead to a bachelor's degree. Membership is also extended to appropriate professional organizations, societies, agencies, and institutions that are not functioning as schools.

To be eligible for membership, schools must be organized on a nonprofit basis, with appropriate physical facilities and resources, competent faculty and staff, and evidence of permanence and financial stability. Schools seeking fully accredited member status must be visited by an association evaluation team. All member schools and individuals are assessed annual membership dues, which constitute the main source of financial support for the association.

History and Development

In 1944 representatives of a number of art schools met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to focus attention on schools that had or could develop education programs in the new field of industrial design. The meetings continued on a conference basis until 1948. Participants then decided to establish a firm organizational structure and to use the meetings as opportunities to visit schools as well as to exchange ideas and consider issues and problems facing art and design education. The organization thus formed was called the National Association of Schools of Design. In 1960, to more accurately reflect the broad interests of an expanding organization, the name was changed to National Association of Schools of Art, and later to the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.


NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS OF ART AND DESIGN. 2002. <www.arts-accredit.org/nasad/default.htm>.


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