Program Review - Guidelines for Conducting Five-Year Reviews of New Programs

Complete guidelines for conducting five-year reviews of academic programs, including the step-by-step process

The first review for new academic programs (i.e., degrees/majors, certificates, and named options) is required approximately five years after implementation. The date for the five-year review is set at the time of initial program approval and implementation. The Office of the Provost will prompt the dean to conduct five-year reviews of new degrees/majors, certificates, and named options.

Step 1: Initiation of Program Review

Annually, the Provost’s Office will notify the dean’s offices about which programs are coming due for program review. The program review is then initiated by a charge memo from the dean to the lead member of the program faculty, usually a department chair or the chair of the program’s executive committee.

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, including the need for an updated 131-Program Model Budget Spreadsheet if the program is a 131/revenue program
  • 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: The 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 five years 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 for information on data resources that can be utilized and incorporated. Program faculty and administrators are encouraged to consult with Academic Planning and Institutional Research (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. In addition, 131/revenue programs must complete an updated 131-Program Model Budget Spreadsheet and submit it along with the self-study, to demonstrate that the program is generating an investment income. 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: Charging the 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 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, and
  • A link to the Advice for Program Review Committee Chairs KB document

Step 4: Review Committee Work and Report

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. 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 5: 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 [FPP Ch 3.08]) 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, to the dean of the Graduate School.

Step 6: 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 Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) provides a response to the program director and faculty that the review has been completed. The program then enters the regular ten‐year cycle for program review unless there are recommendations for an intermediate review in a shorter time frame.


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 five-year review (i.e., within 1-2 years of the five-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 5 above (i.e., Dean's Final Summary of Review memo) to satisfy the university's five-year program review requirements.

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Keywords:Program review 5 year self-study charge memo template   Doc ID:97507
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
Created:2020-01-30 15:14 CSTUpdated:2020-09-23 10:24 CST
Sites:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
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