Academic Program Review Guidelines and Resources

APIR has collected a full series of program review related KnowledgeBase (KB) documents into the Program Review KB Topic Library. Please refer to this library for an overview of program review, the step-by-step process for five- and ten-year reviews, program review templates (e.g., committee charge memo, self-study report, review committee report, etc.), select resources to support program review, and school/college and university program review contacts.


Context for Program Review

Program review provides a time for program faculty to analyze the quality of their academic programs as a whole, to affirm ways that the program is working well, and to implement improvements. Program reviews must be completed at least once every ten years under UW-Madison faculty policy.

The University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) is the governance body with responsibility for program review policy. Program review oversight is coordinated by the director of Academic Planning and Institutional Research, on behalf of the provost.

The deans hold primary responsibly for initiating program review and for seeing that program review is carried out. The program faculty have responsibility for the self-study and for assuring the quality of the student experience.

The director of APIR asks deans to provide an annual update on program review activity in their school/college. This information is used for reports to the UAPC, to the UW System Board of Regents, and to meet a requirement for institutional accreditation.

UAPC has endorsed expectations that academic units advancing proposals for new academic programs or academic program changes must be up-to-date on program review for all of their programs as an indication of capacity for regular attention to program quality. (See Provost Mangelsdorf memo of March 2015.)

Types of Program Review

Five-Year Reviews: All new academic programs (degree/majors, options, certificates) undergo a first review approximately five years after implementation. (Guidelines for Conducting Five-Year Reviews of New Programs [KB])

Ten-Year Reviews: Academic programs (degree/majors, certificates) and/or departments undergo a review initiated by the dean on a regular cycle, required at least once every 10 years. At times, reviews may be requested for special circumstances. (Guidelines for Conducting Ten-Year Reviews of Continuing Programs [KB])

Low-Award Producing Programs: When an academic program is low-producing, as defined by the university’s policy, the director of APIR will notify the relevant deans office. The notification will include a request to conduct an immediate review and report back on the status of the program in a specified time period using the Low-Producing Academic Programs Reporting Form. In general, either a compelling case will be made for continuation or the low-producing programs will be discontinued or reorganized. See the Policy on Low-Producing Academic Programs (KB) and the List of Current Low-Award Programs for details.

Suspended Admissions: Programs may suspend admissions for no more than three years with UAPC approval. Within the three-year window, the program faculty must decide to close the program or reopen it, and send a proposal to the Office of the Provost for UAPC consideration. The requirement for a three-year report is in the program review schedule. Consult the relevant guidelines for more detail (degrees/majors, certificates).

Specialized Accreditation: Specialized accreditation reviews are conducted by professional organizations and typically require a self-study and an outside evaluation team. For undergraduate and professional programs, the accreditation review meets the requirement for program review. However, for graduate programs, accreditation reviews are often not sufficient to meet program review standards. Programs that have specialized accreditation include Business (BBA and MBA), Engineering, Medicine (MD), Nursing, Pharmacy (PharmD), Law, and Veterinary Medicine (DVM). For a full listing of UW-Madison accredited programs, see the Data Digest.

Program Review Reports

Annually, deans’ offices provide an update on the program review activity in their school/college. This report is provided in response to a request for information from the Office of the Provost (APIR) and is a reminder of what programs are due or over-due for review. The information is compiled into a mandated annual report to UW System Administration for the Board of Regents. An annual report on program review to the UAPC focuses on any patterns that are evident from the deans’ reports and points out programs that have not been reviewed in ten years and low-enrollment programs.

Summary Program Review Schedule and Report: This report lists all UW-Madison academic programs and the most recent review date for each program (degree/majors and certificates), by school/college. A check box indicates if programs have been reviewed on-schedule. Low-award programs and programs that require a report for other reasons are also noted on this report. The report is updated annually in August, and current and past reports are available here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

UW-Madison Reports to UW System Administration (UWSA): These reports are created in response to a request from UWSA in order to meet Board of Regent policy. These reports are completed annually, and current and past reports are available here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

UAPC Report on Program Review: This report is created annually in keeping with the UAPC’s role in policy oversight. Current and past reports are available here: 2019-20 (September 2020), 2018-19 (September 2019), 2017-18 (September 2018), 2016-17 (September 2017), 2015-16 (September 2016), 2014-15 (September 2015), 2013-14 (September 2014), 2012-13 (September 2013), 2011-12 (September 2012), 2010-11 (September 2011), 2009-10 (April 2011), 2008-09 (January 2010)