Program Review Criteria
Program review at the University of Maine is part of the ongoing process of accountability and improvement of the academic enterprise. It is governed by both University of Maine System (UMS) and national accreditation standards. All academic programs will be reviewed at least every 7, preferably every five, years. Newly formed academic programs will have an abbreviated review after 2 years. This document describes the context and procedures of program review through the following sections:
- UMS and National Accreditation Standards
- General Guiding Principles
- Overview of the Process
- The Self Study
- The External Review
Two sets of standards guide the University of Maine academic review policy: the policies and procedures of the University of Maine System and the standards of the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
The University of Maine System (UMS) Academic Program Review Policy and Procedures can be found at this link which falls under Section 305.1 – Program Approval, Review, & Elimination. All reviews must conform to those policies.
The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) standards can be found on the NECHE website. All reviews must conform to these standards as well as to the UMS standards. This document was designed to address both sets of standards.
The NECHE Standards govern all aspects of the university. We recommend that programs review them at the beginning of the process and take this opportunity to plan improvements to bring the program into full compliance with the standards. The following standards relate directly to academic program review and student learning outcomes assessment, a required element.
2.5 The institution has a system of periodic review of academic and other programs that includes the use of external perspectives.
2.6 Evaluation enables the institution to demonstrate through verifiable means its attainment of purposes and objectives both inside and outside the classroom. The results of evaluation are used systematically for improvement and to inform institutional planning, especially as it relates to student achievement and resource allocation.
4.2 Through its system of academic administration and faculty participation, the institution demonstrates an effective system of academic oversight, assuring the quality of the academic program wherever and however it is offered.
4.4 The institution publishes the learning goals and requirements for each program. Such goals include the knowledge, intellectual and academic skills, and methods of inquiry to be acquired. In addition, if relevant to the program, goals include creative abilities and values to be developed and specific career-preparation practices to be mastered.
4.8 The institution develops, approves, administers, and on a regular cycle reviews its degree programs under effective institutional policies that are implemented by designated bodies with established channels of communication and control. Faculty have a substantive voice in these matters.
Following are some general guiding principles for the review process.
- Both the self study and the external review should consider the program as it currently stands and with its current budget. Considering the economic challenges of the state and campus, reviews should not be used primarily as ways to request more resources. Rather, they should illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of the program in its current state. It is understood, however, that such critical examination may suggest the need for new resources.
- The self study should be candid and critical. It should feature reflection on and analysis of the program. It should also highlight now the accomplishments of the program contribute to the strategic plan of the campus.
- The external visit should be used strategically to gain constructive criticism for program improvement.
- In some cases, the standards of national accrediting bodies may stipulate different processes. In those cases, deans will review the differences in standards and processes with the provost and agree on a hybrid review process. It is expected, however, that Part A of the self study as described in this document will be accomplished for all reviews.
The review process involves five stages: the self study, the external review, the unit response to the external review, the dean’s evaluative report to the provost, and the institutional report of the review.
Detailed information and instructions for the self-study are available here.
The self-study process will usually take between one semester and one year. It should have some form of steering committee, which includes critical stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and students. In addition, it should involve campus constituents external to the unit, and, where relevant, community stakeholders.
The self-study process is as much about internal evaluation and reflection as it is about the product. Ideally, insights gained in this process will facilitate unit improvement plans.
When the self study is complete, it will be submitted by the chair to the dean who will review it for adequacy. The chair will also submit to the dean a list of five potential external reviewers with a rationale for each. In conjunction with the chair, the dean will choose two external reviewers.
The chair will invite team members, send the team members with a copy of the self-study at least one week in advance of their visit, and schedule the review visit. The visit should include a tour of the unit’s facilities and meetings with faculty members, students, relevant campus stakeholders, the dean, and a joint meeting with the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development, the Associate Provost for Student Success and Strategic Initiatives, and the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.
The review team will then send their draft report to the unit chair for an accuracy review. After the accuracy is assured, the review team will be asked to send the review to the dean.
Unit’s Response to the Review
After the final report is received by the dean, it will be transmitted to the unit chair. The unit will then have 30 days to submit a response to the review to the dean, if they so desire.
Dean’s Evaluative Report to the Provost
The dean will then write a brief evaluative report of the unit to accompany transmittal of the self-study, the external review, and the unit response. Deans and department chairs/unit directors are reminded that reviews must be budget neutral. That is, they must evaluate the unit under its current budget conditions and not be used to advocate for additional resources. Resource allocation, when possible, will be an independent decision that will take into consideration program quality as illustrated by the review and other indicators.
Institutional Report of the Review
After receiving the full review package from the dean, the Provost will write a brief summary of the review for approval by the President. This summary will also be transmitted to the University System.