Message about Academic Program Review sent to faculty

The
University of
Akron

August, 30, 2017

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you again to all who participated in the numerous Week of Welcome activities for our new and returning students. The start of the fall semester is always an invigorating time. I know you share our dedication to helping our students achieve success both inside and outside of the classroom.

This academic year presents an important opportunity for The University of Akron as we undertake a comprehensive review of our academic programs. As you know from past conversations and communications, we have planned to conduct such a review for some time. This point was highlighted in the recent accreditation report from the Higher Learning Commission. Specifically, the report stated: “Future commission review should include a substantive review of UA's program review documents to ensure that all programs and all modalities of delivery are reviewed and that action plans are developed for program improvement. An interim report demonstrating the program review of undergraduate programs without specialized accreditation is required (by December 31, 2018)." In addition, the Chancellor of Higher Education’s Council on Graduate Studies requires that we conduct a similar review for graduate programs.

In addition, it should be emphasized that such a review needs to function as an integral part of our strategic planning. This process can help determine the best direction and path to distinction for our University in the years ahead.

What the review entails

This Academic Program Review for undergraduate and graduate programs will primarily involve faculty, and will utilize both a quantitative and qualitative approach to gather relevant input from throughout the University. We want to collectively understand our programs of distinction and determine where we should make strategic investments and/or reallocate resources. This includes focusing on measurable outcomes — current strength in terms of majors and degrees awarded at the undergraduate and graduate levels, revenues and expenditures, research and creative activity, and market demand. From a qualitative standpoint, we will ask faculty to assess the distinctiveness of programs, identify areas of concern, and analyze strategic growth opportunities using current resources.

Over the course of the last several months, much work has been done to compile the data that will be needed to advance this initiative. Those data are being provided to the deans for distribution to the chairs, school directors, and the faculty. We have assembled a Program Review Executive/Advisory Committee that includes represent­ation from the Office of Academic Affairs, Faculty Senate, the Akron Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and the Graduate School, along with our chief diversity officer and our leader of learning assessment. In addition, we will finalize a 24-member Program Review Committee – composed primarily of faculty — by mid-September. That committee will include representation from all colleges.

The review of the programs will be completed by faculty, chairs/directors within departments, Deans at the college level, and the Program Review Committee at the University level. These reports will be sent to the Faculty Senate Academic Policies Committee of Faculty Senate, which will then review and report to the full Senate.

The process and timeline that have been developed are accelerated, but we believe such a schedule is vital as we collectively prepare to make critical decisions. Much of the data that are going to be used in the review will be provided to the units. The following is the target schedule:

  • August 31, 2017 – Provost Ramsier meets with Program Review Executive/Advisory Committee
  • September 8, 2017 – Deans' offices receive data to conduct a self-study and develop program ranking recommendations
  • October 15, 2017 – Department faculty provide self-study and program ranking recommendations to chairs and school directors
  • November 15, 2017 – Deans and chairs rank programs at the college level (no ties) and forward to full Program Review Committee and the Academic Policies Committee.
  • January 22, 2018 – Program Review Committee recommends University-level ranking of programs to the Faculty Senate Academic Policy Committee.
  • March 8, 2018 – Faculty Senate Academic Policies Committee reports to full Faculty Senate
  • April/May 2018 – Considering the recommendations of Faculty Senate and in consultation with the deans, President Wilson and Provost Ramsier make program decisions and develop implementation plans

While this review process is not a budget-driven exercise, it does need to be conducted on a parallel track with the development of the Fiscal Year 2018 – 2019 budget. Typically, that budget is approved by the Board of Trustees in June, so maintaining the schedule is critical.

This process is designed to engage the faculty at all levels to ensure that relevant data is used and analyzed carefully. There is an urgency to the program review process that is necessary. We encourage your thoughtful participation so that we will be best positioned to move forward.

Thank you in advance for your insights and perspectives.

 

Matthew J. Wilson
President
Rex D. Ramsier
Senior Vice President and Provost