Academic Program Review

Academic program review provides a valuable and periodic opportunity to assess each academic program’s quality and effectiveness, stimulate planning and continuous improvement, and encourage strategic development. It also provides the opportunity to examine program strengths, deficiencies, relevance, and goals. Program review fulfills accreditation and state requirements and assures institutional quality to students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders. It is essential that the university, schools and colleges, departments, and programs make appropriate use of the results.

Both the UW System Board of Regents and the Higher Learning Commission (the university’s accrediting body) require a regular practice of program review and reporting. This policy establishes the structure and procedures for academic program review within an established timetable and states the requirement for annual reports to the University Academic Planning Council and the UW System Board of Regents.

All academic programs, including degree/majors (i.e., academic plans), named options (i.e., academic subplans), certificate programs (i.e., undergraduate, graduate/professional, and capstone), and minors must be reviewed at least once every ten years.

The first review for new academic programs (i.e., degrees/majors, named options, certificates, and minors) is required five years after implementation. The date for the five-year review is set at the time of initial program approval and implementation. After the initial five-year review, continuing academic programs must complete a program review at least once every ten years.

The Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) also requires a Three-Year Check-In report three years after implementation of graduate-level programs (i.e., degree/majors, named options, certificates, and minors).

Refer to the Policy on Academic Program Review for full policy details.

The academic program review procedures apply to all academic units and programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Degree/major programs (i.e., academic plans), named options (i.e., academic subplans), certificate programs (i.e., undergraduate, graduate/professional, capstone), and minors are subject to the program review policy and procedures.

Review Cycle and Timeline

The first review for new academic programs (i.e., degrees/majors, named options, certificates, and minors) is required five years after implementation. The date for the five-year review is set at the time of initial program approval and implementation. After the initial five-year review, continuing academic programs must complete a program review at least once every ten years. (Note: After the initial five-year review, named options are reviewed with their corresponding degree/major on the ten-year cycle.)

Refer to the Timeline tab for more details.

Review Process

Academic program review is a five-step process at UW-Madison, for both five- and ten-year reviews.

Step 1: Initiation of Program Review

When a program review is pending, the dean of the school/college of the program due for review will issue a program review charge memo to the lead member of the program faculty, usually the department chair or program director.

The program review charge memo (template available) should include the following elements:

  • A list of the academic program(s) (degrees/majors, named options, certificates, and/or minors) to be reviewed,
  • A request that the self-study be written,
  • The link to the APIR Program Review website for tools, templates, and resources,
  • A description of specific items or issues to be addressed (if applicable),
  • The due date for completion and submission of the self-study report to the dean’s office, and
  • Documents from the most recent program review, including the self-study report, review committee report, and dean’s final summary of the review (if applicable, for continuing programs with a prior review).

Step 2: Self-Study Report

The program faculty prepare a self-study report according to the instructions in the charge memo. A self-study report should be in the range of 10–20 pages, not including appendices. Certificate program self-study reports are typically shorter, more in the 10-15 page range.

Schools and colleges are strongly encouraged to use the university’s self-study report template. This template has eight sections: Overview, Response to Previous Academic Program Review, Student Learning and Assessment, Student Profile and Trends, Student Support Services, Community and Climate, Resources, and Overall Analysis. Schools/colleges may utilize an alternative template/structure, but at a minimum, the eight sections on this template must be represented in the final self-study report.

Following are some tips for writing the self-study report:

  • The report template has eight required sections, with guiding bulleted prompts presented for each section. The final report should reflect the sentiment of the prompts, but it does not need to address each bullet and it should not be structured as a Q&A.
  • Use a combination of analysis and data that support that analysis. Refer to APIR’s Data Resources for Self-Study Reports webpage for links to useful data.
  • Feel free to use bullets instead of narrative whenever possible or mix the two as appropriate.
  • Use hyperlinks whenever possible throughout the report to refer to supplemental material.
  • Create an appendix for documents, including the assessment plan, assessment reports, the 131-Program Model Budget Spreadsheet (if applicable), etc.

When the self-study is complete, the program faculty formally endorse the report and submit the self-study to the dean.

(Note: In rare circumstances, program faculty may decide that the program should not be continued either before preparing the self‐study, or in the process of conducting it; in such cases faculty may submit a request to the dean to discontinue the program.)

Step 3: Review Committee

Upon receipt of the self-study report, the review committee is appointed and convened by the dean. The review committee is typically comprised of three or more faculty members or experts. Members should be external to the academic program being reviewed. This means they are not in the same department that houses the academic program and are not actively involved (e.g., teaching, executive committee, advising) in the academic program. A majority of the review committee should be tenure-track faculty. Academic and University Staff may be members of a review committee but should not comprise the majority of a review committee. The dean selects the chair of the committee from among the appointed members. A member of the program faculty may serve as a consultant. For graduate programs, a member of the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) must be requested from the Graduate School to serve as a member of the review committee. The GFEC member cannot serve as chair.

The review committee charge memo (template available) should include the following elements

  • The names of the committee chair and all members, including the GFEC representative,
  • A list of the academic program(s) (degrees/majors, named options, certificates, and/or minors) to be reviewed,
  • A request for a formal, written review committee report,
  • The link to the APIR Program Review website for tools, templates, and resources,
  • The due date for completion and submission of the review committee report to the dean’s office, and
  • Relevant documents including the self-study report and any other documents the dean’s office feels are relevant (e.g., original program proposal, updated revenue/131-program model budget spreadsheet [if applicable], etc.).

The chair of the committee is responsible for scheduling and convening the meetings, setting the meeting agendas, making any specific assignments to review committee members, overseeing the process, producing the report, getting feedback from the committee, and submitting the final report to the dean. Committees are asked to provide an honest appraisal of the program’s strengths and weaknesses in all aspects of its activities, including faculty, students, curriculum, student learning and assessment, resources, community and climate, and future opportunities. Beyond these broad areas, committees are asked to be attentive to efforts to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion; and for graduate-level programs, the assess the quality of student funding packages and professional development opportunities.

Committees are asked to use the review committee report template. Most review committee reports are brief, no more than 10 pages. Ultimately the review committee report must be written and include a summary of the committee’s activities, along with its findings and recommendations.

The review committee report is submitted to the dean. The dean sends the report to the program faculty to consider the findings, offer perspective in response, and address any major issues identified.

Step 4: School/College Discussion and Dean’s Final Summary

The dean discusses the program review documents (i.e., self-study report, review committee report, and any program response) with program faculty and leads a discussion at the school/college academic planning council about the program review.

The dean then prepares a final summary of the review. In the summary (template available), the dean provides an overview of the review process and findings, details the recommendations made over the course of the review, and lists specific action items to be taken by the program, department, and/or school/college with an eye toward improvement, development, or change.

The dean sends the final summary of the review, the self-study report, the review committee’s report, and the program’s response (if any), to the Office of the Provost and, for graduate program reviews, the dean of the Graduate School.

Step 5: Completion of the Review

For all programs (graduate and undergraduate), Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR), acting for the Office of the Provost, reviews the dean’s final summary and accompanying documents. If questions or concerns arise, or if additional information is needed, APIR and/or the Provost will contact the dean. Once the Office of the Provost is satisfied with the review, a formal memorandum will be sent to the dean stating that the review has been completed from the perspective of the university.

For graduate programs, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) conducts a discussion of the program review, and the dean of the Graduate School provides written memo back to the program faculty and the school/college dean. This may include the request for a response from the program to the topics raised by GFEC.

Note: While academic program review formally concludes with the memorandum from the Office of the Provost, to satisfy the full process, graduate programs must respond to the formal memo from the Graduate School and any request therein for a response and/or action.

Annual Reporting Process and Timeline

On an annual basis, the Office of the Provost will submit an Academic Program Review Annual Report to the University Academic Planning Council. The report will include a list of the prior year’s and upcoming reviews, as well as a status report on the review of any programs that were identified as low-award producing in the prior year. A similar annual report will be provided to the UW System Office of Academic Programs and Faculty Advancement (APFA) to satisfy the UW System Board of Regents mandate and to meet the requirement for institutional accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. Content for these reports is compiled from Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) records, as well as annual (May) and mid-year (January) program review update requests submitted to dean’s offices from APIR.

The amount of time program review takes, from start to finish, can vary by program and/or school/college. The entire review process should be concluded by May of the year it is due.

It is advised that two academic years be allocated to the review, both for five- and ten-year reviews. The first year is for the preparation of the self-study. The second year is for the review committee work in the fall semester and routing of the full review through school/college and campus governance for approval and completion in spring.

Refer to the university’s Program Review Status Tracker to determine the timeline to charge and complete the review; it is due to be completed by May of the year shown in the “Review Year” column.

If, for example, the Review Year is 2028, meaning the entire review is to be completed by May 2028:

  • The program review and self-study should be charged in September 2026 and the self-study report should be due to the dean in May 2027.
  • The review committee should be charged in/by September 2027 and its report should be due in January 2028.
  • During the spring 2028 term:
    • The dean will evaluate the self-study report and the review committee report. The dean will also invite the program faculty to consider the findings, offer perspective in response, and address any major issues identified. Finally the dean will lead a discussion at the school/college academic planning council about the program review and submit a final summary of the review to the Office of the Provost and, for graduate program reviews, the dean of the Graduate School.
    • Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR), acting for the Office of the Provost, reviews the dean’s final summary and accompanying documents. If questions or concerns arise, or if additional information is needed, APIR and/or the Provost will contact the dean. Once the Office of the Provost is satisfied with the review, a formal memorandum will be sent to the dean stating that the review has been completed from the perspective of the university.
    • For graduate programs, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) conducts a discussion of the program review, and the dean of the Graduate School provides a formal memo back to the program faculty and the school/college dean. This may include the request for a response from the program to the topics raised by GFEC. Note: While academic program review formally concludes with the memorandum from the Office of the Provost, to satisfy the full process, graduate programs must respond to the formal memo from the Graduate School and any request therein for a response and/or action.

Program Review Status Tracker

The university’s Program Review Status Tracker helps schools/colleges stay current on the status of program review within their programs and departments. By accessing the Status tab of the Google Sheet, it is possible to search by school/college, department, program, and/or review status and see the status of any/all program reviews taking place. This includes not only the university’s mandated five- and ten-year reviews, but also the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) Three-Year Check-In and accreditation reviews (as applicable).

Templates

Several templates for memos and reports are available. Schools and colleges may create their own templates or guidelines for what to include in various correspondence and reports, but these documents must include the points/information indicated in the templates.

The available templates include:

  1. Program Review Charge Memo
  2. Self-Study Report
  3. Review Committee Charge Memo
  4. Review Committee Report
  5. Final Summary of Review

Data Resources for Self-Study Reports

A successful self-study report will includes a combination of analysis and data that support and inform that analysis. The university has broad data resources to inform the self-study report. Please refer to the Data Resources for Self-Study Reports webpage for details and links.

Resources for Review Committees

Review committees are charged with conducting a comprehensive review of each program under review and preparing a report that is submitted to the dean and ultimately shared with program faculty, the Graduate School (for graduate-level programs), and the Office of the Provost. The Resources for Review Committees webpage includes useful information for committee chairs and members, including tips to plan the review, sample agendas, and a link to the review committee report template.

Program Review and Assessment Workshop

The university hosts periodic workshops to provide programs with an overview of the program review process, as well as data resources and support opportunities. These program review workshops often also feature information on student learning assessment.

The most recent workshop, presented via WebEx, was held on 29 September 2021 and was titled, “Program Review: A Workshop for Departments and Programs.” A recording of the workshop/webinar, as well as the slides from the session, are available to all members of the campus community.

Specialized accreditation reviews are conducted by professional organizations and typically require a self-study and an outside evaluation team. For programs with specialized accreditation (e.g., business, engineering, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law, and veterinary medicine), the accreditation review meets the university’s requirement for academic program review.

In such cases, the dean should complete Step 4 of the Procedures (i.e., write the dean’s final summary) to satisfy the university’s academic program review requirements. The dean’s final summary should be accompanied by the self-study report as submitted to the accrediting body, the accrediting body’s review committee report/findings, and any response submitted by the school/college/program. The documents should be sent to the Office of the Provost (copy to the director of Academic Planning and Institutional Research) and, for graduate program reviews, the dean of the Graduate School.

Because accreditation review does not address all the issues of interest to the Graduate School, graduate-level programs with specialized accreditation must also complete the Graduate School’s Supplementary Graduate Program Review Process.

Submitting Other Accreditation Documents and Correspondence

Beyond requirements for academic program reviews, programs/departments/schools/colleges should share key correspondence regarding specialized accreditation reviews with the Office of the Provost via APIR. This is because the university’s institutional accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission requires the institution to track and disclose the accreditation status of programs eligible for specialized accreditation. Accreditation information including status, visit information, self-study reports, review committee reports/findings, responses from programs, etc., should be submitted to apir@provost.wisc.edu

For assistance and support with program review, programs should work with their own leadership in the departments and school/college dean’s offices. Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) also supports program review, as does the Graduate School for graduate programs.

Academic Planning and Institutional Research

APIR is responsible for coordinating campus-wide academic program review acting for the Office of the Provost. Karen can help with general questions, timelines, tools and templates, questions regarding specialized accreditation reviews, annual reporting, etc.

Karen Mittelstadt Institutional Academic Planner mittelstadt@wisc.edu
608-265-5079

Schools and Colleges

While each school/college may designate program review support leads differently, the following list of key academic planning or dean’s office staff provide a place to start for assistance during program review:

Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Karen Wassarman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs karen.wassarman@wisc.edu
Business, School of Joann Peck, Associate Dean of Teaching Innovation and Assessment joann.peck@wisc.edu
Continuing Studies, Division of Alissa Oleck, Project Manager alissa.oleck@wisc.edu
Education, School of Adam Nelson, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs adam.nelson@wisc.edu
Engineering, College of David Noyce, Executive Associate Dean
Kathy Prem, Assistant Dean for Graduate Affairs
danoyce@wisc.edu
kprem@wisc.edu
Human Ecology, School of Annette McDaniel, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education amcdaniel@wisc.edu
Law School Kevin Kelly, Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs kevinkelly@wisc.edu
Letters & Science, College of Elaine Klein, Associate Dean for Academic Planning elaine.klein@wisc.edu
Medicine and Public Health, School of Andrea Poehling, Policy and Planning Analyst andrea.poehling@wisc.edu
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Anna Gade, Associate Dean for Research and Education amgade@wisc.edu
Nursing, School of Lisa Bratzke, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs bratzke@wisc.edu
Pharmacy, School of Melgardt de Villiers, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs melgardt.devilliers@wisc.edu
Veterinary Medicine, School of Peggy Schmidt, Associate Dean for Professional Programs peggy.schmidt@wisc.edu

Graduate School

The Graduate School contacts below provide oversight and coordination of program reviews for graduate programs and certificates. They can provide overall guidance on Graduate School program review requirements and the GFEC Three-Year Check-In, facilitate the naming of a GFEC representative to review committees for graduate programs, and provide additional data support for graduate program reviews.

Parmesh Ramanathan Associate Dean parmesh.ramanathan@wisc.edu
608-262-2142
Jenna Alsteen Assistant Dean for Academic Analysis, Planning, and Assessment jenna.alsteen@wisc.edu
608-890-2291