Program Review - Guidelines for Conducting Five- and Ten-Year Reviews
Complete guidelines for conducting five- and ten-year reviews of academic programs, including the step-by-step process
This is a summary of the Guidelines for Conducting Five- and Ten-Year Program Reviews. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.
At UW-Madison, faculty policy sets the requirements for program review, including frequency, which apply to all types of academic programs---degrees/majors, named options, and certificates. The first program review for new programs is required five years after implementation. Subsequent reviews are completed at least once every 10 years. In addition, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) requires a Three-Year Check-In for new graduate-level degrees/majors, named options, and certificates. (Specific to named options, after the initial five-year review, named options are reviewed with their corresponding degree/major on the ten-year cycle.) Program review is coordinated by the office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR), acting for the Office of the Provost.
Dean's office and program faculty and staff can use the Program Review Status Tracker to monitor the status of program review within programs, departments, and schools/colleges. 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/ten-year reviews, but also the GFEC Three-Year Check-In and accreditation reviews (as applicable).
Program review is a five-step process at UW-Madison, for both five- and ten-year reviews, as follows:
Step 1: Initiation of Program Review
Each year, in late spring (i.e., May/June), APIR asks the dean’s offices to provide an update on program review activity in their schools/colleges. The information provided in this response is used to compile annual reports to the University Academic Planning Council and the UW System Board of Regents, and to meet requirements for institutional accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
When a program review is pending (usually at the start of the fourth year for five-year reviews and the start of the eighth year for ten-year reviews; please see section on Duration below for more details), the dean will issue a program review charge memo to the lead member of the program faculty, usually the department chair. Schools and colleges may create their own charge memos or use the Program Review / Self-Study Charge Memo Template. To use the template, fill in [bracketed] information, save the text on school/college letterhead, and send it to the lead member of the program faculty and the copy list indicated on the template. Whether using the template or not, the dean’s charge memo must include the following elements:
- A request that the self-study be written,
- A list of the academic program(s) (degrees/majors, certificates, and/or named options) to be reviewed (remember to include PhD minors, if relevant),
- A link to the guidelines for structuring the self-study report (either university or school/college guidelines)
- Information on additional resources to guide and inform the review, including data resources (link to resources),
- A description of specific items or issues to be addressed,
- The due date for completion and submission of the self-study, and
- A copy of the dean’s final summary from the most recent review of the academic program
Note: Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) should receive a copy of the charge memo.
Step 2: Self-Study Report
The program faculty prepare a self-study report according to the instructions in the charge memo. Two versions of a self-study template are available: the Certificate Self-Study Template and the Degree/Major/Option Self-Study Template. To use the template, respond to the italicized directions at the beginning of each section giving careful attention to the bulleted questions below. Informational links are provided as track-change comments and should be deleted on completion of the self-study.
A self-study report should be in the range of 15–25 pages for degrees/majors, not including appendices. (Note: Certificate program self-study reports are typically 10–15 pages.) Guiding principles for the self-study report include:
- Focusing on the recent past and key points over the past decade as context for present and future improvements,
- Concentrating on the academic program and student experience,
- Reviewing program learning goals and assessment of learning,
- Understanding the current student experience about academics, advising, climate, and career development,
- Identifying program strengths and recommendations for improvements
Program review is conducted using institutional data whenever available and follows curricula approved at the school/college level. Refer to the Select Resources to Support Program Review KnowledgeBase (KB) page and/or the sidebars included in the self-study template for information on data resources that can be utilized and incorporated. Program faculty and administrators are encouraged to consult with APIR, the Graduate School (as appropriate), and other relevant units for information and support in gathering information. Programs with low levels of enrollment or degree/certificate award production must be specifically addressed in the review. When the self-study is complete, the program faculty formally endorse the report and submit the self-study to the dean or to the university official who requested that it be prepared.
(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 they may submit a request to the dean to discontinue the program.)
Step 3: Review Committee
The review committee is appointed and convened by the dean or the university official who requested the review. 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. For small schools and colleges, review committee members should be from outside the school or college. A majority of the review committee should be tenure-track faculty. Academic staff, including CHS and clinical faculty, may be members of a review committee, but should not comprise the majority of a review committee. The dean or university official convening the committee typically 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 will not serve as chair.
Schools and colleges may create their own committee charge memos or use the Review Committee Charge Memo Template. To use the template, fill in [bracketed] information, save the text on school/college letterhead, and send it to the appointed review committee and the copy list indicated on the template. Whether using the template or not, the review committee charge memo should include the following elements:
- A request for a formal, written review committee report,
- A list of the academic program(s) (degrees/majors, certificates, and/or named options) to be reviewed,
- The self-study report,
- The Revenue/131-Program Model Budget Spreadsheet (if applicable),
- The original program proposal,
- The name of the chair of the committee,
- The due date for submitting the review committee report to the dean's office,
- A link to the Advice for Program Review Committee Chairs KB document
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 or the university official who requested the review. Detailed advice and instructions for the chair of the review committee is provided within the Advice for Review Committee Chairs KB document.
Committees are asked to use the Review Committee Report Template (updated August 2021). To use the template, respond to the italicized directions in each section. As noted on the template, most review committee reports are brief, 2-10 pages. Ultimately the review committee report must be written and include the following:
- A summary of the activities of the review committee and materials reviewed,
- An evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the program,
- Advice to the program, dean, and/or provost for improving the program,
- Recommendations for future directions, and
- Specifications for any necessary follow-up action
The review committee report is submitted to the dean or the university official who requested the review. The dean or university official sends the report to the program faculty to review for any errors of fact and may request a response to any major issues.
Step 4: School/College Discussion and Dean’s Final Summary of Review
The dean or dean’s designee 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 or dean’s designee then prepares a final summary of the review. This summary identifies program strengths and recommendations for improvement or any requirements for follow-up reports that the dean may choose to make to the program. Schools and colleges may create their own Final Summary of Review memos or they may use the Final Summary of Review Template. To use the template, fill in [bracketed] information, save the text on school/college letterhead, and send it to the provost and the copy list indicated on the template. Whether using the template or not, the dean’s final summary must include the following elements:
- A list of the academic program(s) (i.e., degree/major, certificate, named option) reviewed,
- A summary of the review committee’s findings, including an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses for the/each program,
- Recommendations for future directions
This final summary document becomes a public summary of the review and is a very useful document for reference over the time period between reviews and at the point of initiating the next program review in the ten-year cycle. 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 (copy to the director of Academic Planning and Institutional Research) and, for graduate program reviews, the dean of the Graduate School.
Step 5: Completing the Review
For graduate programs, the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee conducts a discussion of the program review and the dean of the Graduate School provides written comment back to the program faculty and the school/college dean. For all programs (graduate and undergraduate), the director of APIR provides a response to the program director and faculty that the review has been completed.
Planning for the Duration of a Review
The amount of time program review takes, from start to finish, can vary by program and/or school/college. Typically, for a five-year review, the charge memo should go out in the fall of the program's fourth year. This gives the program three full years of data and student experience to reflect upon during the review. Based on this timeline, the program uses the fourth year to write the self-study leaving the fifth year for the review committee's work and completion of the review. For ten-year reviews, the charge memo typically goes out in the fall of the eighth year, giving the program the eighth year to write the self-study, the ninth year for the review committee work, and the tenth year for any required response(s) and/or as a cushion if the timeline shifts during the prior two years.
Note for Programs with 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 the five-year review for most new programs and the ten-year review for most continuing programs. However, for graduate programs, accreditation reviews are often not sufficient to meet program review standards, specifically the additional requirements of the Graduate School (refer to the Supplementary Graduate Program Review Guidelines for more details). Examples of programs that have specialized accreditation include Business (BBA and MBA), Engineering, Medicine (MD), Nursing (BSN and DNP), Pharmacy (PharmD), Law, and Veterinary Medicine (DVM). For a full listing of UW-Madison accredited programs, refer to the Data Digest. Programs that have an accreditation review scheduled on a timeline the aligns with the university's slated ten-year review (i.e., within 1-2 years of the ten-year review) should consult with the director of Academic Planning and Institutional Research to confirm the accreditation review will meet the requirements for university program review. In most cases it will, in which case the school/college would then complete Step 4 above (i.e., Dean's Final Summary of Review memo) to satisfy the university's ten-year program review requirements.
- Program Review - Overview of Process (Purpose, Governance, Cycle, Reports, & Tracking)
- Program Review - School/College and University Contacts
- Program Review - Advice for Review Committee Chairs
- Program Review - Annual Program Review and Assessment Workshop Materials
- Program Review - Data/Resources to Support Program Review