University-Wide Policy on Review of Academic Programs

Academic program review is designed to further the University of Iowa’s mission by enhancing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The primary purpose of academic program review is to assess student learning outcomes and identify strengths and weaknesses of the reviewed program, as well as its centrality to the university’s mission. Programs will generally be reviewed as part of a review of a college or a department. Programs may be reviewed at the same time as accreditation proceedings so long as the accreditation review is not used as a substitute for an independent academic program review instituted by the university or the college.


Periodic program reviews will focus, at a minimum, on the criteria identified in this policy. Assessment of student learning outcomes will be a significant part of each program review. Identification of desired outcomes and the means for providing instruction that will help students accomplish the outcomes are to be identified by each program. Program reviews will occur at least every seven years.


All program reviews must conform to this University-wide policy. More specific program review policies and procedures may be developed at the collegiate level, provided they conform to the terms of this policy. Collegiate procedures or policies that differ from the requirements of this policy will be permitted, however, for good cause, provided the deviations are approved by the Provost.


Criteria for Evaluation of Academic Programs.

Whether a program is reviewed at the Collegiate level by a review committee appointed by the Provost or at the Departmental level by a review committee appointed by the Dean, the review will focus, at a minimum, on the following criteria:

·        Faculty quality, including publications, teaching evaluations, awards, etc

·        Student quality, including scores on standardized tests such as the ACT, GRE, LSAT, entering GPA or class rank, current GPA, and graduation rate.

·        Diversity of students and faculty participating in the program.

·        Financial resources committed to the program in the form of overall budget, dollars per student credit hour, faculty/student ratio, and amount of space committed to key functions of the unit (teaching, research, space for graduate assistants)

·        Program quality, as indicated by national rankings or comparisons to peers

·        National or competitive benchmark data where available for any of these criteria

·        Student outcomes, as defined for each program.

·        Centrality of the program to the University’s mission, including the following:

o       How the program contributes to the University’s strategic plan

o       Demand for the program as evidenced by number of majors and enrollment over a three year period.

o       Number of degrees granted over a three year period

o       How the program serves other parts of the university (e.g., number of non-majors taking courses in the program, number of joint degrees)

·        Strengths of the program

·        Weaknesses of the program

·        Suggestions for improvement


Student Outcomes

Each program must identify the desired student outcomes for that program, These outcomes are to be assessed on an ongoing basis to determine whether the program is adequately preparing its students. Periodic program reviews provide an opportunity to focus more closely on the success of the students in accomplishing the program’s intended outcomes and to determine whether additional improvements are desirable.


Each review team should be provided with sufficient information about student learning outcomes to be able to determine whether past program improvements have been successful and whether additional programmatic changes are desirable. At a minimum, the self-study report should address the following questions:

·        What are the learning objectives of this program?

·        How is the current curriculum designed to help students accomplish these objectives?

·        What changes have been made in the program since the last review to improve student accomplishment of the intended outcomes and how successful have those changes been?

·        By what method are you assessing the accomplishment of these objectives?

·        Based on recent assessments, what program changes do you recommend for the future?


Program Review at the Collegiate Level:

·        Whenever the Provost initiates a collegiate review in accordance with Part II, Chapter 28 of The University of Iowa Operations Manual, the Provost will identify the programs to be evaluated in depth as part of the collegiate review. For those programs, the self-study committee and the review committee will be instructed to address the criteria for evaluation of academic program outlined in this policy. As a general rule, in-depth evaluations of programs will occur for those programs that are not reviewed as part of a departmental review.


·        In-depth program reviews at the collegiate level will include an independent review by at least two external reviewers, typically deans from a peer institution. The external reviewers will either prepare a separate report or will participate actively in the report submitted by the full review committee.


Program Review at the Departmental Level:

The following procedures apply to all program reviews that are instituted by a dean as part of a departmental or other academic unit review:


·        Reviews occur every seven years, unless the dean and provost agree to a different cycle, e.g., in order to coordinate program review with reviews by accrediting agencies.

·        The provost maintains the review schedule and submits it to deans annually.

·        Before formal initiation of a review, the dean meets with the Provost to discuss upcoming reviews and to determine whether there are specific issues of concern that the self-study committee should address.

·        The dean initiates a review by notifying the DEO (or unit head) in writing.  When possible, the notification should occur in the semester prior to when the self study is scheduled to begin. 

·        The dean communicates the following to the DEO (or unit head):

o       dates and deadlines for the review;

o       the need to appoint a committee within the unit to prepare a self-study;

§         The self-study committee will include faculty and, when appropriate, unit staff. 

§         Participation by students is encouraged but not required.

o       the self study should address and the review committee will examine;

§         the unit’s performance in relation to all appropriate major areas of the University strategic plan (undergraduate education, graduate and professional education and research, diversity, vitality and engagement). 

§         information on the unit’s progress in meeting its specific strategic planning goals.

§         the academic programs that have been identified by the provost and the dean in the master calendar of reviews (criteria for review as stated above).

§         any special focus of the review or additional questions to be answered.

·        The DEO/unit head appoints the self-study committee and conveys their charge, based on the information received from the dean.

·        The DEO/unit head submits the self study to the dean, who forwards copies to the provost and, when relevant, to the dean of the Graduate College.

·        The dean appoints and charges a review committee in accord with collegiate policies. Collegiate procedures regarding review may differ, but the following principles apply to all colleges:

o       Committee members may not be members of reviewed unit.

o       There will be at least two reviewers external to the university, unless the provost approves a smaller number for good cause, such as the size of the unit reviewed.

o       External reviewers will participate either as active members of a single review committee or by submitting their own separate written report.

o       Procedures for selecting review committees and the description of the role of external reviewers must be approved by the provost.

·        The dean announces the formation of the review committee to all unit faculty and staff and provides information on how faculty or staff members may contact the committee.

·        The dean arranges for the non-University of Iowa reviewers to be on campus for a sufficient amount of time to conduct necessary interviews and meet with university representatives.

·        The dean will provide to review committee members, in a timely fashion, sufficient background materials, including copies of the applicable sections of Part II, Chapter 28 of the Operations Manual, the charge to the self-study committee and the unit’s self study.

·        The review committee conducts its interviews, including an interview with the dean and with the provost or his or her designate.  All unit faculty and staff should have the opportunity to meet with the review committee during the review period. If the college procedure provides for a separate review by the non-university external reviewers, all unit faculty and staff should have the opportunity to meet with the external reviewers.

·        The review committee submits its report to the Dean, who forwards a copy to the Provost and to the DEO. If there is a separate report by the non-university external reviewers, the dean may convey the substance of that report to the DEO rather than providing the DEO with a full copy of the report. 

·        The DEO consults with unit faculty and staff and prepares a response from the unit to the review committee’s report.

·        The dean, in consultation with the provost and with the dean of the Graduate College when the unit offers a graduate degree, prepares a final letter summarizing findings of the review, considering the unit’s response to the review report and setting out recommendations and required remedial actions.

·        The dean communicates the final letter to the DEO and the unit’s faculty. 

·        The recommendations or requirements in the final letter become an ongoing item in the dean’s regular planning and performance reviews of the DEO. 

·        The recommendations or requirements shall be reported by the dean to the provost in the form of an action plan that identifies the nature of the actions to be taken and provides a timeline for completion. It is anticipated that the action plan will specifically address programmatic changes as well as other items identified in the unit review.

·        The provost will ask for a progress report on the action plan after one year and again after three years. The action plan and progress reports will be reviewed at the time of the next review of the unit.

·        A summary of the review and the one year progress on the action plan will be provided to the Board of Regents in the annual Academic Program Review Report.



The Vice Provost will be responsible for oversight of Program Reviews and will appoint a Program Review Committee to advise the office on the efficiency of these procedures and make recommendations for change.


Once this policy has been approved by the Deans and the Faculty Senate, it will be added to Part II, Chapter 28 of the Operations Manual and the rest of Chapter 28 will be revised to provide consistency.