Elements of the Program Review

The Self Study

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How well do you do it?
  • What difference does it make whether you do it or not?
  • How well does what you do relate to why you say you do it?

Academic Review of Graduate Programs, p. 17

A complete description of the suggested substance of a program’s self-study comprises Part II of this document, “Instructions for Implementing a Self-Study.” The self-study process usually takes approximately a year to complete, and involves a significant amount of planning, meeting, data collecting, discussing, writing, reviewing, and editing. It is strongly suggested that a schedule for various components of the review be developed early in the process in order to facilitate accountability and avoid placing an inordinate amount of the work for the self-study on any one person or administrative office. Optimal implementation of the process is genuinely collegial, embracing all actors and perspectives.

Eight copies of the self-study are to be delivered to the Graduate School no later than one month prior to the scheduled start of the on-campus visit of the Program Review Team. At that time, The Graduate School will FedEx the self-study to all reviewers and deliver them to UNC administrative officials involved in the review. These copies should be complete, including all appendices. The self-study should be bound or in ring binders, with a table of contents, and tabbed (or otherwise easily identifiable) sections. Many programs also choose to include an electronic copy of their self-study materials for ease in traveling and accessing material on a laptop computer. It is appropriate for appendices to be provided only on a flash drive. Programs are welcome to prepare and submit an electronic-only self-study assuming it is easily accessible, organized, and readable, such as on a flash drive or interactive CD or website.

The On-Campus Visit

Selecting the Team

The Program Review Team comprises two highly qualified individuals, external to the campus. An additional member from the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty is appointed to participate and is drawn from a discipline complementary to the program undergoing review. Criteria for selecting team members include a history of involvement and success in scholarship or research, and experience in both graduate and undergraduate teaching.

The program submits a prioritized list of proposed reviewers to The Graduate School, taking care to cover the different areas of expertise necessary to provide a complete and knowledgeable assessment of the program. Usually, these are faculty members from other academic institutions, who are well respected in the field, but without direct connection to the program. Program alumni, former faculty, and research collaborators are not appropriate choices. Occasionally, in fields in which certain kinds of technical expertise are critical, an industry or practitioner representative may be included.

The Graduate School reviews the proposed names, together with the program dean's office, and an agreement is reached on a priority list for extending invitations. Attention is given to selecting individuals from public institutions, where possible, and for maintaining diversity of reviewers and perspectives. The Graduate School takes responsibility for inviting individuals to participate and for appointing them to the team.

A team member is selected to serve as chair of the team and to act as a liaison between the team and the University. The team chair provides input into the development of the on-campus visit schedule (when necessary), coordinates the preparation of the team’s report, and is responsible for submitting the final report to The Graduate School.

The Graduate School pays travel expenses (i.e., budget roundtrip ticket to/from home location and hotel in Chapel Hill) and a modest honorarium for the two external team members. Unless flight times do not allow a return late-afternoon or evening on the final day of the review, The Graduate School cannot pay for additional hotel stays. If the program wishes to invite an additional reviewer, the invitation process remains as above, but the program assumes all of the costs of the extra team member. Exceptions to this policy can be requested for valid academic reasons (e.g., an attempt to cover all specializations in a large program) but are dependent on funds available in a given academic year.

Elements of the Review and Preparation of the Schedule

After reviewing the self-study, the external team of reviewers visits the Chapel Hill campus to assess the program. This assessment is based in part on the self-study, with particular attention given to the strength of the instructional and research programs, and the resources available to the program. In programs where there is an undergraduate program, it is expected that the undergraduate, and graduate program where applicable, will each be evaluated on its own merits before an assessment of the program of a whole is made.

The on-campus visit opens with a working dinner where the team meets with the program chair and other program faculty members. The next day, there is a breakfast meeting with the review team, along with representatives of the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s office of the respective school, and The Graduate School. Representatives from the program being reviewed are not present at the breakfast. The visit closes with an exit interview with the team and this same group. The program chair, in consultation with the chair of the review team and The Graduate School, plans the remainder of the visit.

During their visit, the team typically interviews program faculty and students, and often alumni, as well as meeting with key external constituents or internal working groups. Unless there are specific requests by the team, it is at the program’s discretion to determine how to select and group individuals for these meetings. These participants may include directors of program degree programs (e.g., undergraduate, master’s, doctoral), research groups, key committees, and/or representatives of other units or groups that play a critical role in the program's work. Depending on the size of the Program, it is advisable to build in opportunities for certain groups to meet with the Review Team alone (e.g., assistant professors, associate professors, and graduate students).Program leadership should not be present at every session during the site visit.(See attached sample schedules.)

In some cases, it is appropriate for the team to visit off-campus facilities, e.g., the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City (Department of Marine Sciences), Art Lab Facility and Hanes Art Center (Department of Art). The team may ask to examine sample student files, or dissertations and theses, or to review other additional material/data.

Social events should not be scheduled, as the team typically uses evenings to work, in order to produce the beginnings of a draft of its report by the end of the on-campus visit.

Other Logistics of the On-Campus Visit

Reviewers are asked to arrive on campus in time for a dinner the night before the start of the review. The on-campus visits usually last one full day, and most of a second day (depending on the size and complexity of the program being reviewed). Reviewers are usually able to depart from campus in early evening on the final day.

The unit being reviewed is expected to arrange to have the external team members met at the airport and taken to the airport for their return, and to handle all other transporting or escorting of team members to meetings, on-campus and off.

The Graduate School will pay for the welcoming dinner for the review team and up to three additional program representatives. The Graduate School will also pay for the breakfast meeting on the first day, dinner on the first full day for the review team only, and the breakfast on the second day for the review team only. The program will assume the costs of other events (e.g., lunches, self-study preparation). Note: The Graduate School is unable to pay for alcoholic beverages.

A memo detailing the logistics and finances will be provided to each program as their review date nears.

The Program Review Team’s Report

On the second day of the on-campus visit, the Program Review Team participates in an exit interview, making an oral report to representatives of the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s office of the respective school, and The Graduate School. The team is requested to have a written report to The Graduate School, detailing their findings and recommendations, within a month of their on-campus visit. The report should reflect an assessment of mission, curriculum, faculty, students, leadership, support and resources, and strategy for the future, and typically is ten to fifteen pages long. Most teams try to have a plan for drafting of the report before they leave campus. If a team does not have its own computer, The Graduate School or the program can make one available upon request, as this usually facilitates production of the draft.

Once received by The Graduate School, copies of the report are forwarded to the program chair and to representatives of the Provost's Office and the Dean's office of the respective school. It is expected that the program chair will share the report with program faculty.

The Program Response

The program chair facilitates the preparation of a written response to the Program Review Team’s report, reflecting the deliberations of the faculty in response to the report, which is subsequently sent to The Graduate School. This step normally occurs 6-9 months after the site visit to allow time for program deliberation and to put recommendations in place. Once reviewed by The Graduate School, copies of the response are forwarded to the Provost’s Office and the Dean's office of the respective school.

The Closure Meeting And Memo

After receiving the program's response to the Program Review team’s report, The Graduate School schedules a closure meeting. Attending are the program chair (and others whom s/he may wish to involve), and representatives of the Provost’s Office, the Dean’s office of the respective school, and The Graduate School. The purpose of the meeting is for the program to discuss the report of the Program Review Team and the program’s response, to provide an update on changes since the report and the response were written, to respond to questions, and to develop a shared understanding of the steps needed to address any concerns raised by the review, including improvement of the educational program. This meeting is the time when an agenda and action plan for the future are established.

The discussion at the closure meeting is captured by The Graduate School, who circulates a draft memo among all participants at the meeting. Once finalized, the memo is distributed to the Office of the Provost, the Dean of the respective school, and the program chair; they are also placed in the program file at The Graduate School, so that they may serve as a reference for subsequent program reviews, and for any interim deliberations regarding program expansion or new initiatives.

The Midpoint Review

Approximately four years after the closure meeting is held, The Graduate School will conduct a midpoint review with the program by requesting an update on the action steps identified. This step ensures continuous assessment and improvement of our academic units. The Graduate School will contact the program chair with additional information when it is time for the midpoint review.

Next: Instructions for Implementing the Self-Study