Leon Miles

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Majai Avoseh


Academic freedom is an important principle in higher education. This is no less true for religious higher education than public higher education. There exists, however, a tension between academic freedom and theological commitments in religious higher education. This dissertation presents findings from a comparative case study between a church body sponsored seminary and an independent seminary. The purpose of this comparative case study was to investigate the policy development and implementation of academic freedom and theological commitments for institutions of religious higher education at two religious graduate schools accredited by ATS in North America. There is an inherent dynamic tension between academic freedom and theological commitments in religious higher education. This tension, if not monitored and assessed, can result in mission drift. Policy development and implementation plays an important part in protecting against and avoiding mission drift. For this study, documents and interviews from both institutions were collected. Analysis was done using a policy development framework to examine how these seminaries use policy development and implementation to manage this dynamic tension. The two institutions in this study represent two different ways in which seminaries have successfully created institutional policy to balance this tension and protect their schools from mission drift. It was found through this study that the church body of the church body sponsored seminary works as a system level regulatory agency to assess alignment between the church body and the seminary. The independent seminary, however, does not have this type of system level regulatory agency and must assess alignment internally.

Subject Categories

Higher Education


Academic Freedom, ATS Accreditation, Mission Drift, Poliy Development, Theological Commitments, Theological Educaiton

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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