Approved in Deans Council February 20, 2018 (14-0)

Part A - Policy Purpose

As of January 1, 2018, responsibility for defining the organization and scope of academic program reviews resides with each CU campus. This policy describes requirements for the review of units reporting within the Division of Academic Affairs at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Part B - Program Review Process Overview

B.1.a Process Scope

Formal and regular academic program reviews began on the Boulder campus in 1981. Reviews address units reporting to the provost. As of the date of this policy, the academic program review scope includes 57 degree-granting units, nine research institutes, three centers, and thirteen academic support offices, a total of 82 units.

B1.b Process Purpose

Review work is a key instance of shared governance. CU Boulder faculty members serving on the campus program review committee assist the provost in carrying out academic planning obligations. Committee members make recommendations that prioritize needs and opportunities and advance campus strategic goals.

B1.b Process Organization

The program review committee’s work builds on prior reporting.  The process begins with the review unit’s completing a self-study. The study addresses the unit’s interests and its compliance with campus expectations for inclusiveness, faculty mentoring, student outcomes, etc. CU Boulder faculty serving as internal reviewers evaluate the study and provide a peer perspective on the function of the unit and its relation to broader campus circumstances. As a complement to this local take, the provost also invites experts from outside of CU to participate in the process to evaluate the unit, applying a specific academic discipline's perspective. Together, the self-study and the internal and external reviews help to define a review unit’s standing and establish an analysis and evaluation framework.

Part C - Review Report Types: Scope, Purpose, and Logistics

C.1 Self-Study

C.1.a Self-Study Scope

The unit self-study addresses a series of planning questions. Prior to a review, the campus program review committee is asked to offer question suggestions. The provost approves the final list. Questions include mandatory and optional prompts that relate to campus planning goals and accountability requirements. The same questions are given to all units undergoing review in a particular year. 

C.1.b Self-Study Purpose

The self-study provides the review unit an opportunity to explain its work. In completing a self-study, the unit is asked to describe its circumstances, including successes and challenges, and to detail what it hopes to accomplish moving forward. The self-study also describes the unit's central contributions to the university mission. All subsequent review steps respond to the self-study, beginning with the internal review.

C.1.c Self-Study Committee

The review unit is expected to convene a self-study committee with members representative of the unit, including tenured and untenured faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students (as applicable).

C.1.d Self-Study Approval

Upon completion of the self-study, approval of the unit faculty should be sought.

C.1.e Self-Study Timing

Once every seven years as described in the review schedule.

C.1.f Self-Study Availability

The self-study is available to university community members.

C.2 Internal Review Committee Report

C.2.a Internal Review Report Scope

The internal review committee certifies a unit's self-study as accurate and complete, or describes where additional information might prove useful.  The committee’s report includes a process description and editorial suggestions as needed.

C.2.b Internal Review Report Purpose

Internal reviewers check the self-study and call out inaccuracies or suggest where the study can be made clearer or answered more fully.  This work involves opening a window on the review unit’s culture and organization by interviewing faculty, students, and staff and comparing self-study answers with what people say. The internal reviewers are expected to take the time, and to offer the anonymity necessary, to hear people’s expectations and concerns. The group invites members of the review unit to discuss matters addressed in the self-study, especially those that might be difficult or sensitive to navigate. Such matters are important to the internal review as they typically fall outside the work of both the external reviewers and the campus review committee. 

C.2.c Internal Reviewer Selection

The campus program review committee chair requests internal reviewer nominees from the unit undergoing review. Tenured CU Boulder faculty who have no association with the review unit are eligible to serve. The review committee chair ranks the unit's nominees to assure balance. The purpose is to impanel an unbiased committee that unit members can trust to act fairly.

C.2.d Internal Review Committee Size

The committee has a minimum contingent of two reviewers.

C.2.e Internal Review Report Timing

Once every seven years as described in the review schedule.

C.2.f Internal Review Report Availability

The report is a confidential, open only to members of the unit, unless released by the unit lead or the provost.

C.3 External Review Committee Report

C.3.a External Review Report Scope

The external review report provides an objective analysis of the review unit’s strengths and weaknesses.  The report focuses on circumstances in the review unit's discipline and recommends ways to enhance the unit's scholarly reputation and/or organization.

C.3.b External Review Report Purpose

External reviewers are nationally recognized experts who analyze the quality of the review unit’s work relative to its peers, pointing out strengths, challenges, and opportunities to move forward. Recommendations made by the external reviewers address not only needed changes within a unit but also changes at the campus level that might aid unit success.

C.3.c Differences with Reaccreditation Reviews

External reviews and reaccreditation reviews are broadly distinguishable and not substitutable for one another. The review process will try to use accreditation work when possible; for example, recent accreditation reporting might help to answer a self-study question about graduate education.

C.2.d External Reviewer Selection

The campus program review committee chair asks the review unit to name experts outside of CU qualified to nominate external reviewers. The review committee chair addresses a request to the nominators asking for names, including in specializations identified by the review unit. Specializations typically address areas of unit emphasis (for example, English might request scholars either specializing in creative writing or literature). The review committee chair gathers received names and returns the list to the unit for ranking. After checking the unit’s ranking to assure a representative balance among nominees, the campus program review committee chair sends invitations to external reviewers.

C.2.e External Review Committee Size

External reviews require a minimum of one reviewer, but two reviewers is the norm, and more may be engaged with a cost-sharing model between the unit and the program review committee chair's office.

C.3.f External Review Report Timing

Once every seven years as described in the review schedule.

C.3.g External Review Report Availability

The report is confidential, open only to members of the unit, unless released by the unit lead or the provost.

C.4 Campus Program Review Committee Final Report

C.4.a Final Report Scope

The final review report includes analysis and programmatic recommendations addressed to the review unit, the deans, and other Division of Academic Affairs administrators, including the provost. The report describes the review unit’s strengths and weaknesses and provides constructive options for development and modification.

C.4.b Final Review Report Purpose

The final report takes a position on the standing of the review unit with an eye to helping the unit improve. In reaching a conclusion, campus program review committee members jointly read and analyze the unit self-study, internal and external review reports, and other supporting documents. The group synthesizes earlier findings, for example, by addressing contradictory or conflicting information.

C.4.c Campus Program Review Committee Membership and Service Terms

The provost selects voting members from among the tenured faculty in consultation with the Boulder Faculty Assembly’s executive committee.  Members serve for three years, with some terms extended as needed. The membership count must total at least half of the total of units under review in a given year and must at a minimum include representatives from a college, a school, a research institute, and the University Libraries.

The review committee has non-voting members. Division of Academic Affairs administrators may participate in this capacity. One of the non-voting members serves as the permanent chair.

The review committee’s proceedings are confidential.

Voting and non-voting members must recuse themselves from proceedings involving a unit they are affiliated with, or where a partner or family member has an affiliation.

C.4.d Final Review Report Timing

Once every seven years per review unit as described in the review schedule.

C.4.e Final Review Report Restrictions

The review committee’s report is presented to the provost for approval and upon approval is made public.

C.5 Review Follow-Up Reporting

C.5.a Follow-Up Reporting Scope

Follow-up reporting in the three years following a program review describes circumstances in the review unit. A unit’s follow-up report is addressed to the campus program review committee and provides responses to the list of the final review report recommendations. The committee also requests follow-up information from the deans and other leads, including from the provost.

C.5.b Follow-Up Reporting Purpose

A follow-up is an opportunity for the unit or the review committee to call attention to unresolved matters.

C.5.c Follow-Up Reporting Timing

Annually from the review unit on April 1 for three years following the year that the review committee final report is transmitted to the review unit lead. 

C.5.d Follow-Up Reporting Restrictions

Follow-up reports and review committee replies are available to university community members.

Part D -  Additional Review Aspects

D.1 Review Aggregations -  Reporting and Organization

D.1.a Aggregation Report Scope

The aggregation report describes circumstances shared among review units and makes programmatic recommendations addressed to campus leaders. Aggregation report recommendations might suggest simple changes such as opening a dialogue across units or might tackle matters that have no straightforward solution and that require problem-solving among multiple parties, such as space or resource reallocations. 

D.1.b Aggregation Report Purpose

The report serves as an opportunity for the campus program review committee to reflect on planning themes identified in unit self-studies, by external reviewers, and by others. In preparing its report, the committee pays attention both to impediments that multiple units might face together (for example, problems with graduate student support) and to collective opportunities (for example, an interdisciplinary research direction).

D.1.c Aggregation Organization Scope

Review aggregations comprise groups of units that share disciplinary and/or organizational interests. The process establishes seven such groups, and they undergo review, one aggregation per year, on a repeating cycle that began in 2009: the art and humanities, the physical sciences and mathematics, engineering, the life and environmental sciences, the social sciences, professional schools, and academic affairs support offices.

D.1.d Aggregation Organization Purpose

When units with linked or parallel interests undergo review at the same time, an opportunity arises to identify shared interests and concerns. The review process also recognizes that units typically have many links outside of an aggregation; the aggregation assignment implies no narrowing of such associations.

D.1.e Aggregation Report Timing

Once every seven years per aggregation as described in the review schedule.

D.1.f Aggregation Report Restrictions

The review committee’s report is presented to the provost for approval and upon approval is made public.

D.2 Coordination with the Academic Affairs Budget Committee

The campus academic review and academic budgeting committees historically have shared analysis and have jointly contributed to planning work. Notable instances include academic prioritization, an exercise that draws together academic program review assessments and budget committee scorings to generate contextualized academic unit rankings.

The Division of Academic Affairs administrator with budget oversight responsibilities traditionally serves in a non-voting capacity on the academic program review committee and provides guidance to the group on matters concerning resource allocations, including those impacting facilities planning.

D.3 Review Participation and Timing

D.3.a Permission to Delay or End Review Obligations

Other than in instances of program discontinuance, a unit's program review obligations are not suspended or ended. It is understood that units sometimes face competing commitments during, or adjacent to, a review year such as accreditation work or leadership vacancies and changes. In such cases, the campus program review committee chair will engage the unit lead to identify necessary adjustments such as delegating self-study preparation responsibilities or scaling back the self-study. In such cases, other review steps occur on schedule and within the normal review timeframe.

D.3.b Permission to Undergo Review

Non-degree-granting Academic Affairs units that wish to undergo review should apply to their dean or supervisor with information, including their preferred aggregation, at least two years prior to a possible review. The dean can decide to pass the request on to the provost for approval.

Newly established degree-granting units should confer with their dean regarding a place in the review schedule. The dean should confer with the provost on the timing of the first review.

D.3.c Extra Reviews or Special Reviews

The provost may order a review at any time for any unit reporting within the Division of Academic Affairs, including those that recently completed a review in the regular order. Additionally, the provost might convene reviews with a specific focus that fall outside the regular order or that involve units not ordinarily reviewed. The arrangements for such reviews do not necessarily resemble those for regular reviews and may exclude self-study, internal, or external review work.

D.4 Unit Data Profile

D.4.a Unit Data Profile Scope

The profile describes quantitative unit information. The profile also shows a review unit's standing relative to other campus units on a series of measures including student credit hours and publications.

D.4.b Unit Data Profile Purpose

The profile provides a neutral baseline for understanding a unit's quantitative standing.  As most Academic Affairs units are scored, the resulting information can aid reviewers in understanding the circumstances of a unit or a group of units. Campus review committee members routinely employ the profiles to supplement qualitative considerations.

D.4.c Institutional Research Contribution

The Office of Institutional Research collects and organizes unit profile data.

D.4.d Unit Data Profile Timing

Annually, following the campus census.

D.5 Reporting to the University System Office

D.5.a University System Office Report Timing

Annually, as required by APS 1019:

Part E -  Program Discontinuance

E.1 Program Discontinuance Policy Overview

Program discontinuance is addressed by campus policy (

Part E.2 – Campus Program Review Committee Program Discontinuance Role

As described by campus policy, the provost convenes the program review committee as the program discontinuance committee when required. Campus policy describes the group’s expected role and required work.