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Academic Program Review: Traditional Department/Program

Academic Program Review Should:

  • Provide a concise, candid and thorough assessment of the program’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Be forward looking and specific in its recommendations
  • Be evaluative, not just descriptive with regard to the quality of faculty, students, curriculum, resources, teaching, scholarship and outreach
  • Be data-driven and outcome-based
  • Provide accountability to internal and external constituencies

Review Cycle and Schedule
Programs will be reviewed every six to eight years. Programs will be notified by the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (EVCAA) one year before the external review team visit. It is expected that all members of the program will be involved in the review. Departments that have both undergraduate and graduate degrees will have both programs reviewed at the same time. Exceptions may be allowed by the EVCAA due to requirements of accrediting bodies. The principles that will inform whether an exception is made include reduction of duplication of effort, the need to conduct reviews of programs accredited by the same accrediting body at the same time, maintenance of a regular cycle of review, and optimum resource management.

Self Study
The program/department will prepare a Self-Study Report in advance of the visit of the external reviewers. This report should describe the current state and future plans of the program, and identify challenges the program faces. Reports should always include how the program has responded to the previous program review. The Self-Study, guided by the outline below, should use student learning outcomes assessment and historical data to review performance and quality, but at the same time should be written with a forward-looking approach. Over the next five to eight years, to what does the program aspire and how is it positioned to realize those goals? How are assessment and historical data being used as a basis for strategic changes?

The narrative of the report should be 25-30 pages; data can be embedded or included as tables in appendices. The Self-Study may be slightly longer for those departments offering several programs being reviewed in the same year. The document should be submitted to the Dean in electronic format (email attachment), but it should be formatted for printing if reviewers request a printed copy. Faculty vitae and course syllabi should be included as appendices. After reviewing the report, the Dean will submit the document to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education (AVCUE) who will in turn submit it to the EVCAA. If the Self-Study references a graduate program, the Dean should submit the report to both the AVCUE and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education and Research (AVCGER).

When program review is coordinated with accreditation, the content and format of the program accreditation report may be mandated by the accrediting agency. In this case, departments must provide a guide to where each of the following items is located in the Self-Study document as the department must respond to each of the items in the Self-Study even if the accreditation report does not require a particular item.

Self-Study Outline

  • Very brief overview of UMD
  • Mission and Goals of the department and programs
  • Previous Review
    • Overview of how the department has responded to previous review
  • Faculty
    • Academic and experiential background
    • Rationale for the size and composition of the program faculty
    • Quantity and quality of the faculty to meet program objectives
    • Extent of faculty turnover and changes anticipated for the future
    • How the faculty composition reflects the diversity goals of the institution and what efforts are being made to recruit faculty from underrepresented populations
  • Curriculum
    • 1. Undergraduate Program
      • Curriculum including program outcomes and objectives
      • Assessment including student learning outcomes and measurement and resulting programmatic changes
      • Relationship to other programs including Liberal Education
      • Advisement including advising model, load and assessment of advisement
      • Program viability including current and projected enrollments, recruitment and retention, profile of student quality and diversity
    • 2. Graduate Program
      • Admissions, including recruiting efforts, quality of applicants, and success in enrolling top applicants
      • Curriculum including learning outcomes and objectives, strengths and weaknesses
      • Assessment including outcome measurement and resulting programmatic changes
      • Advisement program
      • Program viability including current and projected enrollments, recruitment and retention, profile of student quality and diversity
  • Scholarship and Creative Activities
    • Summarize the scholarly work of the faculty. Comment on how this work interfaces with the graduate and/or undergraduate programs and on future efforts to strengthen scholarship and creative activities.
    • Summarize the history of sponsored funds or other external support for the program. Comment on the role that such funding plays in the graduate and/or undergraduate program and on future efforts to strengthen scholarship and creative activities.
  • Outreach
    • Community Engagement including student involvement
    • Relationship with local and regional organizations
  • Alumni Relations
    • Placement of graduates
    • Communication with alumni
    • Development efforts
  • Resources including current status and adequacy
    • Space
    • Support staff
    • Facilities and equipment
    • Scholarships
  • Program administration
    • Governance and committee structure including student involvement
    • Effectiveness
    • Relationship to collegiate and campus administration
  • Strategic Planning
    • Summary of planning discussions, future directions
  • Questions
    • Self-study should conclude with specific questions from the department and administration to help the reviewers focus their visit and frame their report.


  • Faculty C.V.s; 3-4 pages per current faculty member
  • Course Syllabi; one representative syllabus per course title
  • Assessment plan including student learning outcomes
  • Historical data (to be provided by the Office of Institutional Research*)
  • External Review Report from previous review
  • Other

Academic Program Review Timeline
The Program Review Schedule assigns to each program a specific fall semester during which the visit by external reviewers will occur. The EVCAA will initiate the program review one year prior to this visit. The Administration Team (AT) is defined according to the level of program under review.

  • Undergraduate program review: EVCAA, AVCUE, and Dean
  • Undergraduate and graduate program review: EVCAA, AVCUE, AVCGER, and Dean
  • Graduate program review: EVCAA, AVCGER, AVCUE, and Dean.








EVCAA initiates program review

One year prior to visit


External reviewers are selected and confirmed by the Dean**

Four months prior to visit


Program completes Self-Study and sends it to the Dean, who reviews and sends it to the AT members. AT members may request that specific questions be inserted into the Self-Study. The Dean may ask the department for additional information and/or revisions.

Seven weeks prior to visit


Dean sends Self-Study, questions and draft itinerary to external reviewers

Four-five weeks prior to visit


Department sends final review visit itinerary to external reviewers after approval by the Dean

One week prior to visit


External reviewers visit campus***



External reviewers send Report to the AVCUE

Four weeks after visit


AVCUE distributes Report to other AT members for review prior to forwarding the Report to the department

One week after receipt of Report


Dean thanks external reviewers and completes reimbursement process



Department drafts response to the external report and presents this response orally to the Dean and AT at a department meeting

Four weeks after department receives Report


Dean  provides an Administrative Summary to department

Four weeks after meeting

*Data to be provided by Institutional Research for Program Evaluation

I. Time Span and Date Break Down

Most recent 5 years’ data will be provided (date will be generated following federal government definitions and time point, mostly second week of each fall semester). The data will be broken down by gender and students of color (SOC).

II. Faculty Data

The data will be broken down by gender and faculty of color for each academic rank:

Tenure track
Term faculty
Without faculty status

In addition, faculty retention data and data on sabbatical leaves will be provided.

III. Student Data

  • Undergraduate (Broken down by gender and race/ethnicity)
  • Number of majors
  • Number of minors
  • Number of graduates
  • Graduate (Broken down by gender and race/ethnicity)
  • Number of applicants
  • Number of acceptances
  • Number of enrollees (new students)
  • Number of total enrollees
  • Number of graduates

2** External Review Team Composition and Selection: The external review team will typically consist of two members and, to the extent possible, be representative of program sub-disciplines, gender, ethnicity, and institution type. One of the two will serve as the chair of the review team. The chair will receive a stipend of $900, while the second member will receive a stipend of $800. The department will send a list of at least five individuals to the Dean along with their C.V.s and rationale for their selection. External reviewers should be from outside the University of Minnesota system, should not have a collaborative relationship with a current member of the program under review, and should not have served previously as a UMD academic program reviewer. The program must inform the Dean of potential conflicts of interest and seek an exemption in compelling cases. Selection of the external review team will be determined by the Dean.

When the external reviewers have been constituted with one member chairing the team, the Dean’s Office will work with them on potential dates for the on-campus visit. Prior to finalizing the dates of the external visit, the Dean’s office will check with the AT members to make sure they are also available. Then the Dean will extend a formal invitation to each external reviewer to come to campus to review the program. The Dean’s Office is responsible for making hotel arrangements, coordinating travel schedules, and handling reimbursements. External review team members should be informed that the following expenses will not be reimbursed: long distance phone charges, alcoholic drinks and airline fees for changing air travel schedules.

7*** External Reviewers’ Visit: The Department is responsible for arranging the daily itinerary for each team member and meeting their transportation needs. The review team should expect to arrive in Duluth in time for dinner on Day #1 and leave early afternoon on Day #3 depending on the actual schedule of meetings. The Department will forward the draft itinerary to the Dean for approval prior to sending it to the external reviewers. The draft itinerary should be sent to the reviewers prior to the purchase of airline tickets so that they can make travel arrangements compatible with the itinerary.

Typical External Review Visit Itinerary
Day #1: Arrival in Duluth
Dinner with Administrative Team members (required)
External reviewers meet as time permits
Day #2 and the morning of Day #3
Meeting with Dean
Meetings, individually or in groups, with the department head, faculty and students (undergraduate, graduate)
Meetings with appropriate individuals in related programs
Tour of department and related facilities
Dinner on Day #2 and the rest of the evening are set aside for the review team to work on draft report and exit meeting on Day #3.
Day #3 Complete meetings from Day #2
Exit meeting for external reviewers to present oral summary of findings to Administrative Team members (required)
Depart Duluth


The Office of the EVCAA is responsible for honoraria, travel, lodging, and meal expenses for review team members. The department and/or collegiate unit are responsible for meal expenses for department members. Expenses associated with preparing and distributing the Self-Study are borne by the department.


Please contact the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education or the Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education and Research.

Updated October 10, 2012

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