Program Review Criteria

Program Review Approximate Timeline | Program Review Process Overview

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:

University of Maine System and National Accreditation Standards

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.

General Guiding Principles

Following are some general guiding principles for the review process.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The external visit should be used strategically to gain constructive criticism for program improvement.
  4. 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.

Overview of the Process

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.

Self Study

The self-study should include the following sections.

A. Program Information, including the following

  • Overview of the unit
  • Goals and student learning outcomes for all degree programs in the unit
  • For each degree program, (a) the assessment plan for student learning outcomes, (b) the results of assessments, (c) evidence of review of assessment results by the unit, and (d) evidence of the use of assessment results for program improvement
  • Evidence that curricula are periodically reviewed and revised as needed to maintain currency in the discipline and program quality
  • All course syllabi (Note that syllabi should explicitly list the student learning outcomes associated with the course.)
  • A matrix for each degree program showing the relationship of courses in the program to the program’s student learning outcomes and, if applicable, to general education student learning outcomes.
  • The two year schedule of course offerings
  • Study plans for each degree program (i.e., four-year plan of courses a student would take to complete the degree on schedule)

B.  Data Trends, including the following, which will be obtained from the Office of Institutional Studies

  • Degree and credit production trends, total and per tenure stream FTE. (Trend analysis should cover the most recent five years; credits should be reported as undergraduate, graduate, and total; and, degrees should be broken down by type (e.g., BA vs BS.) and level (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral) with totals also reported.
  • Course sections and enrollments for the past five years
  • Retention and graduation rates, including year-to-year retention, four, five, and six year graduation rates, within department and within campus
  • External research dollar production, total and per tenure-stream FTE
  • Departmental expenditure totals for the most recent 5 years broken down by fund source (e.g., education and general [E&G, state], Maine Economic Investment Fund [MEIF, state], Maine Agriculture and Experiment Station [MAFES, federal], and other external sources).
  • Entering SAT and GPA for undergraduate students and GPA, GRE, or MAT for graduate students

C.  Faculty and Staff

  • A roster of faculty and staff for the past five years, including any faculty members who have left with the reported reasons for their departure.
  • Full curriculum vitae for all current faculty members.
  • A summary of the department’s post tenure review process and schedule of reviews.
  • Departmental peer committee guidelines for tenure and promotion.
  • A summary of faculty productivity and recognition for the past 5 years, total and per tenure stream FTE, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Creative and scholarly productivity
    • National and international recognition

D.  Students and Graduates

  • Surveys of current students to address perception of advising and program quality
  • Survey of graduates regarding current employment and the quality of the program
  • Listing of all master’s theses for the last five years
  • For doctoral departments, listing of all doctoral dissertations for the last five years (Dissertations and theses should be available for review by the visiting team.)

E.   Service to the State and Beyond

  • Summary of major service activities of the unit. (This may include service at the local, state, national, and international level. It may also include co-curricular service learning.  Service learning connected directly to the curriculum should be described with Program Information in Section A).

F.   Summary and Analysis

  • Discussion of the recommendations of the last program review and changes that have been made since that time
  • Analysis of the unit’s current strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities
  • Summary of the unit’s contributions to the campus mission and strategic plan
  • Additional specific questions to be posted to the external reviewers

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.

The External Review

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.