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Academic Program Reviews

Academic Program Reviews

Academic program reviews help in long-range planning and in setting both university and program priorities. Program reviews are conducted on a 7-year cycle, and cover a unit’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

The entire review process is completed within one to one and a half years. During the first semester, the unit completes a self-study. Following the self-study, the unit is reviewed by a committee comprised of two to three experts in the discipline (external reviewers) and two KSU faculty members. External reviewers, selected for their prominence in the field, have the responsibility of evaluating the quality of disciplinary standards and practices.  KSU faculty have the responsibility of helping external reviewers understand the context in which the disciplinary unit functions (e.g., university culture, policies and practices).  Following the committee's review, the unit develops strategic goals for the next two to five years. 

Why Conduct Program Reviews?

The overall purpose of program reviews is to be informed about each unit’s strengths and weaknesses, faculty resources, student market, and equipment and space needs, as well as to stimulate program planning and improvement, and to encourage the unit’s development in strategic directions that reflect the University’s priorities.   

Program reviews are admittedly time-consuming for units, for faculty, and for administrators. Done properly, however, they provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Opportunity for self-assessment.  Program reviews ensure that each unit systematically takes time to step back from everyday challenges to evaluate its strengths, weaknesses, and progress, and this process lays the foundation for the development of plans and priorities for the unit.
  • Vehicle to inform University-wide and area planning.  Recommendations derived from program reviews are systematically integrated into the plans and budget requests for the various schools and administrative areas.
  • Communication.  Program reviews foster communication within units, between chairs/directors and college deans, and with the central administration. The process also provides an opportunity for each member of a unit to be heard.
  • Increased external visibility.  The program review process itself attracts attention resulting from frequent visitors to campus.  External reviewers often note the unanticipated strengths they observe, or comment on the deepening of their respect for the institution as a result of their visit.

Ohio Board of Regents Guidelines

Kent State University is mandated by the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR) to conduct periodic reviews of all its graduate programs.  According to OBR, program reviews must be conducted every five to ten years according to a published timetable; evaluative and forward looking; fair and transparent as well as distinct from other reviews; and must result in action. In addition, the following "key elements" should be present in all graduate program reviews:

  • developing and disseminating clear and consistent guidelines;
  • obtaining adequate staffing and administrative support;
  • conducting a candid program self-study;
  • incorporating appropriate surveys and questionnaires;
  • including graduate students in the review;
  • using both internal and external reviewers;
  • obtaining a response from program faculty;
  • delivering a final report with recommendations;
  • implementing the recommendations; and
  • following up over time.

Quality Standards for Graduate Programs

As established by the Regents' Advisory Committee on Graduate Study, the program review process is expected to include assessment of the following quality standards:

1.  Program Faculty.   A level of faculty productivity and commitment shall be required commensurate with expectations of graduate program faculty as indicated by the following:

  • The number and qualifications of graduate faculty members are judged to be adequate for offering the graduate degrees in the specified areas,and faculty supervise an appropriate number of students.
  • The preparation and experience of the faculty are appropriate for offering the graduate degree in an intellectually challenging academic environment as demonstrated by active scholarship and creative activity judged by accepted national standards for the discipline.

2.  Program Graduates Since the Most Recent Review. A level of student satisfaction, student accomplishment, and graduate accomplishment exists as evidenced by the following:

  • Students express satisfaction with advisement, teaching, and program support services.
  •  The structure and conduct of the program lead to an appropriate degree
  • completion rate and time-to-degree.
  • The predominant employment of graduates within three to five years after graduation is in fields consistent with the mission of the program. Graduates demonstrate preparation for career-long learning and success as indicated by periodic surveys of career changes, job satisfaction, and relevance of doctoral training to various career opportunities.
  •  Accomplishment and potential of program graduates to generate new knowledge or new initiatives in teaching, public service, and/or other practice.

3. Program Vitality.   A vital graduate program is dynamic and should possess the following indicators:

  • The environment of the doctoral program promotes a high level of intellectual interaction among students, graduate faculty, and the larger academic community;
  •  The curriculum has been updated during the period under review with disciplinary developments;
  •  Essential resources are provided (e.g., library materials, computer support, laboratory facilities and equipment, student financial support,etc.); and
  •  Requirements for completion of the degree are deemed appropriate to the degree.
4. Program Demand.   A graduate program should be able to demonstrate that there is demand on the part of prospective students and that it is fulfilling a clear need through
the following: 
  • Student demand/enrollment during the period under review: application ratio, student GPA and GRE scores, or other indicators as appropriate;and
  •  The extent to which the program meets community, region and state needs and occupational societal demands.

5. Program Interactions.  Graduate programs do not exist in isolation but rather in relation to and in comparison to similar programs in the discipline at other institutions and to cognate areas in the same institution. Information regarding appropriate interactions should include:

  • Centrality of the program to advanced study in the specific discipline(s) regionally or nationally;
  • The ability of the faculty and students to make a particular contribution in this field;
  •  Interactions, including interdisciplinary, among graduate, undergraduate, and professional programs, as appropriate;
  •  Interactions with and in collaboration with similar programs at other universities and organizations; and
  • Programmatic access to special leveraging assets such as unique facilities, non-university experts in the discipline, industrial support, endowments, as well as special funding opportunities.

6.  Program Access.  There should be evidence that the program has established or seeks to establish an appropriate level of diversity among its faculty and its graduate student body, as evidenced by:

  • Trends and expectations in student demographics; and
  • Proven efforts to sustain and enhance diversity of faculty and students.
7. Assessment Mechanisms Used in Program Review.   Since quality indicators are increasingly becoming an integral part of  ongoing program review, an enhanced recognition of the uses of outcomes assessment in the review process provides a useful tool for program improvement, as demonstrated by:
  • A summary of the appropriate outcome measures used to assess program quality; and
  •  Procedures must be in place to ensure the use of assessment data for continuous quality improvement of the program.
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