The founding Charter of the Western Orthodox University, issued on 1 August 1945, defines its authority as issuing directly from the powers inherent in the Chancellor as Catholicos of the Catholicate of the West as a fully autocephalous Orthodox and Catholic communion. These powers originate firstly in the commission to Mar Julius of Iona (Jules Raimond Ferrette) (1828-1904) on 2 June 1866 (Old Style) as Bishop of Iona and its dependencies by the Syrian Orthodox Church, and in the subsequent erection by Mar Julius of a British Patriarchate on 6 March 1874, united with the Catholicate of the West since 29 January 1945. Secondly, they originate in the acts of the Council of London of 17 October 1943, which established the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church as the continuation of the Western extensions of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Western Orthodox Catholic Church, having been formed by a Deed of Declaration on 23 March 1944, was then erected by the Patriarch of Antioch of the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church into the Catholicate of the West. The Charter of the Western Orthodox University was issued by the Catholicos of the West on 1 August 1945.
It may therefore be seen that the Western Orthodox University did not owe its foundation to any civil power or secular government, but was established purely on ecclesiastical authority. Its religious position was defined by its Founder, Mar Georgius of Glastonbury (1905-79), as follows,
“The Patriarchs and other Supreme Hierarchs of the Church of Christ possess a prescriptive right to confer academic degrees in all faculties, either personally, or through such academic institutions as they may Charter for this purpose. In the case of the Pope, he has the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Archbishop of Canterbury confers what are called “Lambeth Degrees” personally, whilst the [Catholicos of the West] confers them…through the Western Orthodox University.”
While the University has preserved its originating religious authority throughout, it first sought and obtained additional secular authority for its actions in 1950 (within five years of its foundation), and has been incorporated twice more since then. It is this secular authority in the form of its status as an incorporated body that provides the legal basis for its operation as a degree-granting institution today.
The University has obtained the status of an incorporated body three times during its history. The first such incorporation was on 20 February 1950 in India, under Act XXI of 1860 (registration no. 5/1950), and the second on 6 August 1977 in California (corporation 213240). Both corporations are now inactive. Currently the University is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Dominica. The certificate of incorporation issued by the Commonwealth of Dominica provides the University with full legal authority to function as a private international university and to accept students worldwide.
The Western Orthodox University’s corporate basis in the Commonwealth of Dominica is established under Commonwealth of Dominica Statutory Rules and Orders (SRO) no. 65 of 1996, which authorizes the International Business Companies Act 1996 (“the IBC Act”). The University is incorporated under this Act as Western Orthodox University Ltd. with corporation number 12335 and incorporation date 11 June 2007. The Commonwealth of Dominica is a member of the British Commonwealth, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and UNESCO.
Under the law of the Commonwealth of Dominica, no government approval or accreditation is necessary in order for a private university company formed under the above legislation to award its own degrees using the powers granted by its memorandum of association. This, together with common law precedents concerning university title and the conducting of university work, means that the Western Orthodox University is legally permitted to conduct all activities proper to an international, private institution of postsecondary education, including the conferral of degrees up to the doctoral level, in any jurisdiction that permits this activity. The Western Orthodox University maintains its registered office in Roseau Valley, Commonwealth of Dominica. The responsibility for the operations of the Western Orthodox University Ltd. is entrusted to the President of its Board of Directors, currently Mr Alex James, who in turn appoints the Chancellor (the Supreme Head) of the University and other officers.
The Western Orthodox University is a private international university incorporated in the Commonwealth of Dominica under the IBC Act. As such, it is not a part of the Dominican or any other state education system, is not a government-accredited university, and does not award state degrees. Moreover, it accepts no state funding in connection with any of its activities. Indeed, the University does not offer educational activities within Dominica itself, instead being specifically authorized to operate internationally and outside Dominican territory under its statute. The activities of Dominica-licensed private universities operating wholly outside that country are subject to statutory exemption and are the responsibility of the Registrar of Companies rather than the Ministry of Education and the National Accreditation Board, which are concerned solely with institutions that operate on Dominican territory. Further information concerning the University’s legal status is available on this page.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Western Orthodox University is not a United Kingdom, European Union, or United States university.
Status of the Apostolic Episcopal Church
The Apostolic Episcopal Church, with which the Western Orthodox University and the Catholicate of the West have been united since 1977, was granted the power to award degrees in sacred theology in its own right or through any seminary it may authorize for the purpose, by the State of New York, USA, under the Religious Corporations Law, article 3-A, section 50, in 1933.
There is no compulsory or government-sponsored system of accreditation that applies to private international universities, nor are such organizations generally listed in directories of state-recognized universities. However, voluntary accreditation systems exist and the University has opted to become part of those listed below.
Pontificia Accademia Tiberina
The University has a full reciprocal relationship of partnership, recognition and accreditation with the Pontificia Accademia Tiberina, Rome, Italy. The Accademia Tiberina was founded in 1813 and received official recognition from the Sacred Congregation of Studies under Pope Leo XII in 1825. Already in 1816, the Papal States had granted the Accademia the right in perpetuity to display on its door the coat of arms of the Senate and the Roman people. In 1878 the Accademia was given permanent hospitality in the palazzo of the Cancelleria Apostolica by Pope Leo XIII. The Accademia counts five popes among its distinguished past membership: Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius XII, and numerous Cardinals of the Catholic Church. Among its many other distinguished members are the composers Liszt, Bellini, Rossini and Respighi, the inventor Marconi and the chemist Marie Curie.
Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools
The Western Orthodox University is an accredited member of the Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of the Anglican Association of Colleges and Schools serves as a means of peer recognition among institutions providing Christian education within the United States and abroad, and confirms that an institution has met the Commission’s standards for effective operation.
Other accreditation and validation arrangements
The University has also concluded a full reciprocal relationship of partnership, recognition and accreditation with the Accademia Progetto Uomo, which is based in Rome, Italy, and Wyoming, USA.
University validation and reciprocal credit arrangements
Two government-accredited universities in Asia and Central America have entered into validation agreements with the Western Orthodox University. Under the terms of the agreements, they have agreed to accept credits and degrees from the University for the purposes of further study or the award of a reciprocal degree. An additional fee is payable for the reciprocal degree. While the majority of the University’s programmes are eligible for this scheme, some (particularly certificates, diplomas and Associate’s degrees) are excluded. Details of the validating universities are as follows:
The Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica (UNEM). The Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica has been accredited by the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada (CONESUP) of the Ministry of Education, Costa Rica, since 5 November 1997, and is listed in the International Association of Universities International Handbook of Universities.
City University, Cambodia, was founded in 2005. It is accredited by the Sub-Decree of the Royal Government of Cambodia of 1 November 2006 and supervised by the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia under the regulations of the Ministry of Education. It is listed in the International Association of Universities International Handbook of Universities.
The University makes no representations as to the transfer of credit from its programmes except where a specific agreement exists. In respect of credit transfer where there is no such agreement, it is important to note that the transfer of credit from one institution to another is always at the discretion of the receiving school, generally depends on comparability of curricula, and may depend on comparability of accreditation. Applicants who wish to seek transfer credit must establish through prior inquiry with the school(s) concerned that they will accept transfer credit from the Western Orthodox University.
The majority of the University’s graduates are senior or mid-career professionals seeking educational solutions tailored to the needs of the twenty-first century. Our alumni include royalty, senior government officials, church and business leaders from around the world. As befits the history of private university education, they are a select group who prefer the bespoke nature of the programmes offered by the University to those offered in the mass education sector. University alumni can be found in a wide range of corporate settings from multinationals to social enterprises. Others include successful entrepreneurs and respected consultants.
Western Orthodox University graduates are also members of a wide range of professional associations. Recognition by such associations typically depends not only on educational background but on the applicant’s professional experience. For some associations, ordinary membership is accessible to any person with relevant interests without requirement of prerequisites, while others admit to graded levels of membership depending on the level of prior qualifications and experience of the applicant. In each case, membership offers opportunities for personal and professional development within the area(s) concerned.
The University has specific recognition agreements with several professional associations, which have agreed to accept its degrees as fulfilling academic entry requirements for designated graduate and postgraduate-level awards. A current list of these bodies is available from the University.
As the Western Orthodox University is primarily an institution serving experienced adults, most of our students are already licensed professionals at the time of their enrolment. Our programmes are designed for a world-wide audience, and therefore are not written to meet any specific licensing requirements in any particular state or country. It would be impossible for any university to offer courses which meet all licensing requirements for every state, every province, and every nation. Those considering a degree for licensing purposes are directed to carry out local inquiries in their own country concerning such matters by contacting whichever local bodies the applicant deems relevant to his or her purpose. The University cannot undertake to do so on the applicant’s behalf.
What does all this mean for your situation?
All issues of accreditation are specific to your current and anticipated future needs and intentions as far as using your degree is concerned. It is common for recognition policies to depend on a school holding accreditation, and while a particular form of accreditation may be acceptable in some circumstances, in others it may not. Except where a given institution publishes rules as to its policy on this area, it is not possible to issue general guidelines, still less guidelines that are applicable in every circumstance and to every country.
It is therefore necessary that, before enrolment, you check carefully with present and potential employers and any other authority whose approval is important to you that the accreditation status of the University will be appropriate for your needs. The University cannot undertake to make these enquiries for you and makes no representation as to the acceptance of its degrees by third parties except where a formal written agreement between the University and the third party in question is in force.