At their November 1980 meeting, the Regents of the University of Colorado called for the regular review of colleges, schools, and academic units. Since 1981, CU Boulder has employed procedures to identify academic program strengths and weaknesses, and to provide constructive options for program development and modification.
The ultimate goal of academic program review is to promote and maintain high-quality academic programs that are administered efficiently, consistent with the institution’s role and mission.
For more information regarding academic program review, see:
At CU Boulder, academic program review processes are administered by the Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee (ARPAC), and supported by the Program Review team of the Office of Faculty Affairs.
The Program Review Process
At CU Boulder, some 70+ academic units undergo review over a seven-year period, called a review cycle.
To begin, units undergoing a program review complete a self-study report. The self-study addresses a series of planning queries designed to solicit strategic information and to document the unit's organizational qualifications. Topics include the unit’s role and mission, centrality, research interests, strategic plan, faculty development plan, student outcomes plan, and inclusive excellence goals. A separate, standardized unit data profile, completed by the Office of Data Analytics, complements the self-study. Click here for more information regarding the process at the Office of Data Analytics
In lieu of the former internal review process, ARPAC has instituted a new discovery process, which was introduced during the 2022 academic review. The discovery process aims to serve as a check on the accuracy and completeness of the self-study report. ARPAC members are assigned as liaisons for specific units and are tasked with examining the unit’s self-study closely and documenting a summary of their findings from the discovery process. Units will then have the opportunity to respond to the discovery summary report and revise the self-study as needed. Like the former internal reviewers, the assigned ARPAC unit liaison(s) must come from outside the unit under review and must indicate if they have a conflict of interest with the unit. Those with a conflict of interest may not serve as the assigned unit liaison.
Third, the provost convenes an external review committee (ERC) composed of outside experts to visit the CU Boulder campus to address such matters as the unit’s scope, orientation, and standing. The external reviewers are expected to provide a broad and comparative perspective. As area experts, external reviewers are uniquely qualified to apply a specific academic discipline’s perspective to strategic questions and to appraise the unit’s relative standing in the field as well as the currency of its research trajectories.
The Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee (ARPAC) works on behalf of the provost to make recommendations for unit improvement. ARPAC members are appointed by the provost with the concurrence of the Boulder Faculty Assembly; the committee is composed of tenured faculty members representing multiple CU Boulder colleges and schools. In making its recommendations, ARPAC builds on the analysis and evaluation framework established by the self-study and discovery summary and external review reports. ARPAC also addresses and critiques follow-ups submitted by the units and deans after their reviews. When called on, the group convenes as the Academic Program Discontinuance Committee.
In the years following a review, unit leads and deans submit progress reports to the office of the ARPAC chair. Two follow-ups are required. The reports describe work completed to implement review recommendations, and also serve as an opportunity for respondents to explain challenges that impede further progress. ARPAC replies to the reports, including to ask for clarifications.
How is ARPAC formed? Who serves on ARPAC?
ARPAC is composed of tenured faculty members representing the range of CU Boulder colleges and schools. ARPAC members serve three-year terms and the size of the committee varies depending upon the number of units undergoing review. The senior vice provost for academic planning and assessment co-chairs ARPAC with the vice provost and associate vice chancellor for faculty affairs as non-voting members; the executive vice provost for academic resource management and the vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and community engagement also serve as standing, non-voting members. By tradition, the co-chairs recruit ARPAC members in collaboration with the provost; nominees are then forwarded to the Boulder Faculty Assembly Executive Committee for approval.
ARPAC and external review committees are administratively supported and correspond with the campus out of the Office of Faculty Affairs.
As described by campus policy, the provost convenes ARPAC as the program discontinuance committee when required. The group’s expected role and required work as it relates to program discontinuance can be found on the 2005 campus policy for academic program discontinuance.
How are units/programs categorized into their review groups? Which units will undergo review this year?
As much as possible, program reviews are grouped around shared strategic interests and concerns. CU Boulder academic units are grouped into seven major aggregations:
- Arts and Humanities
- Physical Sciences and Mathematics
- Engineering and Applied Science
- Biological and Environmental Sciences
- Social Sciences
- Professional Schools
- Academic Affairs