Academic Program Review

Process Overview

Academic program review at the University of Minnesota is one component of a broader academic quality assessment cycle, with primary outcomes including:

  • an objective assessment of the health and vitality of our academic programs;
  • recommendations that lead to programmatic improvement, from maintaining strengths to remedying weaknesses;
  • alignment with institutional priorities and values.

To achieve these outcomes, we have developed a collaborative and comprehensive academic program review process that provides an opportunity for program faculty to consider their academic goals and create a plan for reaching them.

Background

Historically, program reviews were coordinated by the Graduate School and typically focused only on graduate programs. As part of the graduate education restructuring process begun in 2009, responsibility for program reviews was delegated to the colleges with an expectation that reviews could be conducted more holistically and include all of a unit’s academic programs—both undergraduate and graduate or professional.

Since then, collegiate administrators have noted that an increased sense of ownership over the process has led to more faculty engagement in program review. However, an expressed a desire for more central support and guidance led to an effort to create this hybrid approach, which has been developed based on these guiding principles.

Key Points

Ownership

  • Program reviews are conducted through a partnership between the Provost’s Office and the colleges.
  • A program review is typically initiated by a collegiate dean, but could also be requested by a departmental chair or the Provost. Each review is administered by departmental faculty and staff in concert with the collegiate administration.
  • Provost’s Office staff provide process oversight and consultation; collegiate and/or departmental staff coordinate the review and manage logistics.
  • Central funds will be available to support 50% of the direct cost of reviews. Programs under review or their respective colleges are expected to match these funds.

Scope

  • In many cases, the review is of a single department and includes all of the unit’s academic programs, whether undergraduate, graduate, and/or professional.
  • Colleges are encouraged to consider clustering program reviews around particular disciplines or themes, especially if there is potential for innovative program collaborations, or shared challenges that could lead to shared solutions.
  • Reviews will consider all aspects of the unit that contribute to or have an impact on its academic programs, including organizational structure, budget, facilities, and research activities (including affiliated centers or institutes).

Timing

  • For planning purposes, we are aiming for a ten-year interval between program reviews. However, given the large number of programs and complexity of setting each year's schedule of reviews, this should be considered a guideline only.
  • Provost’s Office staff will work with collegiate administration to determine an initial schedule for program reviews and make adjustments as needed in the future.

Coordination with other Review Activities

Sources

These guidelines were developed by the Office of the Provost in consultation with the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, the Academic Health Center's Associate Vice President for Education, and collegiate deans and other academic administrators.

Our work has been informed by the past experience of the Graduate School—including "Notes Toward Improving Program Reviews," a 2000 report by Edward Schiappa—and the Duluth campus, who revised their process approximately five years ago.

In addition, many universities across the country have recently revised or are in the process of revising their academic program review processes, with specific lessons and best practices outlined in "Improving Academic Program Review," a January 6, 2012 custom research brief by the Education Advisory Board. We have also examined and learned from the program review materials at Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, the University of California–Berkeley, the University of Illinois, and the University of Washington.

More Information

Questions? Please contact Marlo Welshons at welsh066@umn.edu or 612-625-0563.