ACADEMIC PROGRAM REVIEW AT VIRGINIA TECH
Context for Academic Program Review
Increasing demands for greater accountability within higher education have prompted institutions to more closely examine their academic programs and practices to assess their quality, efficiency and impact on student learning outcomes. Efforts at the federal level along with standards set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS‐COC), State Council for Higher Education (SCHEV) and various other accreditation and coordinating agencies challenge institutions to provide evidence of a continuous, systematic evaluation process for reviewing academic programs, and an assurance that results are being used toward program improvement.
Academic program review (APR) is an on‐going, comprehensive process that enables academic units to engage in a thorough evaluation of the status, strengths and weaknesses of their degree programs; determine the extent to which departmental and institutional goals and objectives are aligned; and, make credible claims regarding educational outcomes. Through careful evaluation and feedback from faculty and other stakeholders, as well as in‐depth analysis of quantitative and qualitative indicators of quality, institutions are able to gather essential information that can be used to inform the decision‐making process and make modifications and improvements as necessary.
Virginia Tech is committed to educational excellence and the enhancement of its academic programs. As such, the university has developed and will implement an ongoing academic program review process whereby all formally authorized undergraduate and graduate programs will undergo a comprehensive review at least once every 7 years.
Purpose of Academic Program Review
The primary purpose of APR is to promote and maintain high quality undergraduate and graduate programs that are effective, efficient and consistent with the mission and resources of the department and university. APR requires a thorough, reflective examination of the departments’ degree programs and educational practices to assess their status and progress and identify future directions, needs and priorities. Consequently, the review process is inextricably linked to strategic planning, as well as resource allocation and other decision‐making at the program, department, college and university levels. Implementation of a systematic process ensures a mechanism for continuous evaluation, provides evidence that a functional process is in place and demonstrates how results will be used to improve programs.
It is understood that many programs regularly undergo accreditation or other external reviews as required by their accrediting and professional organizations; and the university review is not intended to burden departments with an additional review process. However, while issues addressed by external assessment measures are often
relevant for program review, the purposes, processes and outcomes are not always identical and additional measures may be necessary. To the extent possible, attempts will be made to coordinate the APR so that it occurs at a time most convenient to the accreditation cycle, as requested by the department. In addition, to minimize the duplication of effort and maximize the value of all review process(es), documentation prepared within the last three (3) years as part of the department/programs accreditation and/or external review processes may be submitted or included in the materials submitted for APR. These reports will be reviewed for completeness and alignment with the university’s APR guidelines. Requests for additional information will be made if necessary.
Academic Program Review Process
APR is intended to go beyond simple data gathering and analysis to a point of expecting departments and colleges to make informed judgments about program quality and effectiveness and demonstrate how the findings will be used to improve undergraduate and graduate programs. The process is designed to provide a uniform method for gathering essential input, process and output data on all academic programs, and to do so in a manner that is both efficient and effective. The final result of each review will be a comprehensive portfolio that provides descriptive and evaluative information about the program, faculty and students; identifies strengths and weaknesses, significant accomplishments and challenges; and suggests areas and plans for improvement.
The Dean of each College will assume responsibility for data gathering and related outcomes of the process for programs under review within the College. At the University level, responsibility lies with the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education (for undergraduate programs) and the Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education (for graduate programs).
The following is a brief overview of the APR process. A more detailed description of each stage is provided in the section titled, Guidelines for Academic Program Review.
All undergraduate and graduate degree programs will be reviewed on a 7‐year cycle. (Review Schedule and Notification)
Once notified of a forthcoming APR, the department must prepare and submit a portfolio consisting of a detailed program self‐study and an action plan for program modification and/or improvement(s). (Portfolio Components and Guidelines)
The Director of Academic Program Review will review submitted materials to assess the completeness and quality of the APR portfolio and/or external report submitted. An Internal Review Team (IRT) consisting of 2‐3 university faculty members may be selected by the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate 2
The Vice President, College Dean and department head/program chair will meet to discuss the IRT report and draft preliminary recommendations and program modification and/or improvement plans. The Vice President will prepare and submit the final report to the Provost. (Draft of Recommendations, Improvement Plans and Final Report)
The Director for Academic Program Review will maintain a list and summary of all completed academic program reviews and reports. (APR Data Management and Dissemination)
Coordination with Other Accreditation and External Review Processes
It is understood that many programs regularly undergo accreditation or other external reviews as required by their accrediting and professional organizations; and the university review is not intended to burden departments with an additional review process. Therefore, in an attempt to minimize the duplication of effort and maximize the value of all review process(es), documentation prepared within the last three (3) years as part of the department/programs accreditation and/or external review processes may be submitted as or included in the materials submitted for APR. These reports will be reviewed for completeness and alignment with the universityʹs APR guidelines. Requests for additional information will be made if necessary.
Timeline for Academic Program Review
1. Academic program reviews will be scheduled on a 7‐year rotation unless otherwise notified. The full schedule will be updated annually and posted to the APR website.
2. Deans/departments will be notified of a pending review at least 2 months in advance.
3. The review process will typically follow a 12‐month* timeline from preparation of the portfolio through the completion and submission of the final report to the Provost as indicated below (*The estimated 12 month period may be longer in some cases due to unforeseen circumstances or if an external review is conducted):
a. Portfolio preparation (8 months)
b. IRT review and report (2 months)
c. Draft recommendations and final report (2 months)
Use of Results
Results of the academic program review will provide evidence of the quality and strength of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs and allow for decisions to be made regarding program development, enhancement and continuation. Findings will also contribute to the following efforts:
Planning: To ensure program quality and provide a foundation for sound planning and budgeting decisions to be made.
Quality Assessment and Assurance: As a mechanism for identifying and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of an academic program and establishing agreement on programmatic goals, academic priorities and consistent quality measures.
Academic Profile and Data Synthesis: To maintain an accurate and consistent academic profile for each degree program and allow for the identification and analysis of relevant trends in undergraduate and graduate programs.
External Evaluation: To meet regional and state requirements for a continuous, systematic evaluation process to assess the strength of our academic programs and use results to foster program improvement.
Accountability: To provide data that is clear, relevant and easily accessible to students, faculty, parents, alumni and other stakeholders.