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Academic Structure - Overview

Policy regarding the university's academic structure, including a visual overview and link to the Tableau visualization


This is a summary of the university's policy regarding the academic structure. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.


The academic structure and its elements are the building blocks for an academic institution, from the institution itself down to degrees. Components of the structure include such things as academic careers, academic departments, plans and subplans, subjects, etc.

The academic structure is a representation of academic actions approved through governance and should be used as the single source of truth for approved governance actions. Each component of the academic structure has a foundation in policies from the UW System Board of Regents, UW-Madison Faculty Policy and Procedures, and accreditation bodies. The official academic structure is maintained in the Student Information System (SIS) and is accessed electronically through the data extracts from the InfoAccess data warehouse.

Responsibility for maintaining the academic structure in the single source of truth is shared by Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) and the Office of the Registrar.

Having a single, codified source for information about the academic structure:

  • Makes it clear how schools and colleges are related to departments, how departments are related to academic plans and subplans, and how departments are related to curricular subjects.
  • Defines how elements of the academic structure are related to budgetary units.
  • Enables the electronic connection between data systems that consume the academic structure and saves the time and resources that would be needed to maintain separate systems.
  • Ensures consistency in reporting about the academic structure by maintaining a single source of attributes of departments, plans, subplans, and curricular subjects.

Following are policy considerations related to the academic structure:

  • All entries in the academic structure must be approved through faculty governance steps (department/academic unit; school/college; campus level Graduate Faculty Executive Committee and University Academic Planning Council; Board of Regents or subsequent steps if required).
  • The provost or provost’s designee (currently the vice provost/director of Academic Planning and Institutional Research [APIR]) is the sole authority to communicate the completed governance actions to the Registrar’s Office for entry into the specified SIS tables/fields. Currently that communication is via formal memo; the when fully implemented the digital curriculum/program management system will become the vehicle for communication.
  • The Student Information System (SIS) is the system of record for the academic structure data, and any information technology or data system that requires this information for operation will consume it from SIS, or from an immediately downstream source---either CAOS or InfoAccess.
  • The academic structure defines the official linkage between academic programs (degrees, enrollments) and courses (course enrollments, student credit hours) and academic units (“responsible adult”/chair, faculty, instructors, staff, budgets, expenditures).
  • Any system or record that requires a list of any of the components of the academic structure, or a link between programs and units is required to use the academic structure as the sole, official record.  

Following is a visual overview of the university's academic structure:

Visual Overview of UW-Madison's Academic Structure

Tableau Visualization of the Academic Structure

UW-Madison's academic structure is captured and detailed in a Tableau visualization titled UW-Madison's Academic Structure. This visualization includes curricular subjects and academic plans and subplans with information about the school/college and departments that are responsible for them. It can be filtered to the school/college and department levels.




Keywords:structure   Doc ID:108336
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
Created:2021-01-13 14:53 CDTUpdated:2021-01-13 14:55 CDT
Sites:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
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