Academic program review is a process for evaluating program quality and impact through internal analysis, self-assessment, and external review. Program review serves several important purposes. Specifically, it: 

  • encourages continuous improvement so that all academic programs serve students and the institution as effectively as possible; 

  • facilitates communication, cooperation, and strategic planning both within and among programs, faculty committees, and university administration;

  • informs resource allocation decisions on the program and university level; and

  • supports the university’s accreditation. 

Academic program reviews are typically conducted at the department or interdisciplinary program level, although Academic Affairs, the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP), the Academic Planning and Allocation Committee (APAC), and/or academic programs themselves may recommend or request the review of academic units that comprise parts of departments or programs (e.g., specific disciplines or majors). Ultimate responsibility for determining the appropriate scope of a review rests with Academic Affairs.

Types of Reviews

There are three types of academic program reviews: external reviews, internal reviews, and micro-reviews. External reviews culminate in a program improvement plan informed by feedback from experts in a field. Internal reviews report on a program’s progress in implementing this improvement plan. Micro-reviews are a more targeted form of external review designed to provide feedback on specific programmatic decisions, questions, or challenges. 

Review Cycle

External reviews are conducted every ten years and internal reviews are conducted at the five-year mark between external reviews. Micro-reviews may be conducted at any time, either in addition to an external or internal review or as a replacement for one at the discretion of the Provost. 

The initial review of an academic program is required at least five years after implementation, although the date for this review may be moved up if deemed advisable. The date for this initial review is set at the time of program approval, and the type of review to be conducted (internal, external, microreview) is determined in advance of the review year. If the program is retained, then it enters the 10-year review cycle upon completion of this initial review.

If an academic program has been in existence for more than five years and has not yet been reviewed, then it should be reviewed at the earliest convenience in accordance with institutional and curricular priorities. This review is typically an external review, although an internal review or micro-review may be recommended instead depending on program size or need. Regardless of the review type, upon completion of this initial review the program also enters the 10-year cycle.

Information about the timing of reviews may be found on the Program Review Schedule.


Regardless of the review type, the centerpiece of the academic program review process is the Academic Unit Self-Study. Academic programs respond to a series of prompts under the headings of Academic Unit Profile, Mission Alignment, Program Quality, Market, Cost-Effectiveness, and Future Vision. The Self-Study serves several purposes:

  • It helps faculty to reflect upon strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges for their programs, as well as identify specific issues they would like feedback on.

  • It furnishes reviewers with the information they need to provide quality feedback. 

  • It serves as an important reference document about academic programs for internal constituencies (e.g., CAP when evaluating curricular proposals, APAC when evaluating position requests, the Pipeline Team when considering curricular investments, or the university administration when considering budget requests). 

Programs should therefore endeavor to keep their Self-Studies up to date.

Improvement Plan

After updating their self-study, academic programs receive feedback from external reviewers or the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP), depending upon whether the review is external or internal. Programs may also receive feedback from Academic Affairs.  

Regardless of the review type, programs should submit a response to the feedback report along with an Improvement Plan. The response should note where the faculty agree with the report and where they disagree and why, and the Improvement Plan should detail the actions the program plans to take over the next five years to address areas of concern or opportunity identified through the program review process. These action plans will then become part of the review file for the program’s next external or internal review. 

Program Review Archive

Once completed, academic program reviews are stored in the Program Review Archive, where they are available to faculty committees, administration, and members of other academic programs for context and comparison.