Academic Unit Reviews

Category: Operations
Number: OPS-130-005
Audience: All University Employees
Issued: June 28, 2000
Revised: October 26, 2016
Owner(s): Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
Approved by: President and Vice-Chancellor
Contact: Provost and Vice-President (Academic) - 306-585-4384

Introduction

The fundamental purpose of academic unit reviews is to provide information, both qualitative and quantitative, and recommendations that can serve as a basis for innovation and improvement.  Reviews should identify strengths and weaknesses, stimulating program development and revision.  In a broad sense, the reviews will lead to more focused planning to address teaching and supervision, research opportunities, and unit infrastructure and administration.

Academic unit reviews may be at the departmental level, at the Faculty level for non-departmentalized faculties, or across departments and Faculties for programs that are interdisciplinary in character.  As key academic units, the Library and the Centre for Continuing Education will also undergo academic unit reviews. 

These reviews will focus on the following areas:

  • the priorities and aspirations of each unit and the extent to which they are being realized
  • the challenges and opportunities faced by the unit
  • the structure and quality of undergraduate and graduate programs and instruction
  • the contribution of each program to related disciplines and fields of study
  • the scope and significance of research being pursued
  • the degree to which academic programs meet students’ learning needs and goals
  • the characteristics of staffing complements
  • the degree to which the unit is meeting its internal and external service responsibilities
  • the role the unit plays in meeting the University’s vision, mission, goals and priorities
  • the financial resources of the unit

Policy

Regular academic unit reviews are required of all academic units to ensure that effectiveness and efficiency are maintained in the context of the University's strategic plan.

Review Coordination

The coordination of all unit reviews is the responsibility of the Provost's Office working in partnership with the Council Committee on Academic Mission (CCAM), the Dean of the Faculty, and the unit under review. The recommendations of the Committee on the basis of the review process are advisory.  Specifically, the Provost's Office and CCAM will:

  • In consultation with Deans’ Council, develop a schedule for reviews
  • Receive, review and comment on the self-study report
  • Appoint the review team
  • Develop terms of reference for the review team
  • Receive and transmit the report of the review team
  • Meet with the Dean and unit head to discuss the report and the unit’s response
  • Receive the unit’s implementation plan
  • Report regularly to Executive of Council on the status of reviews
  • Identify issues of university-wide concern and make recommendations concerning them to appropriate bodies or individuals

Consequences for Noncompliance

Academic units that do not engage in the cycle of Academic Unit Review will not contribute to the University’s continued pursuit of improvement in programming. Ongoing disregard of the need for program review will impact the University’s long term viability.

Processes

Review Process

Initiation

Reviews take place in the framework of a 10-year cycle.  Where applicable, unit reviews should be scheduled to coincide with (re-)accreditation, and with the review or 5-year update of closely related units. Should a Faculty or unit undergoing external (re-)accreditation wish to use the (re-)accreditation process to replace part or all of an Academic Unit Review, the Faculty or unit is invited to consult with CCAM about the possibility of doing so.

Time Frame

The review process typically spans a 16-month period as indicated below. The responsibilities of the Provost’s Office and the unit under review are indicated. In the case of reviews of the Library and large non-departmentalized Faculties, alternate time frames may be considered.

CCAM/Provost’s Office

Unit

October

Meeting between Provost's Office, Dean of the Faculty, and department head where relevant

Submit six names of potential external reviewers

Compile self-study

November

Coordinate site visit and make travel arrangements

December

January

Submit self-study

February

March

Send letters to individuals, groups, etc. requesting input into unit review

Provide contact list of individuals or groups who may be interested in providing input into unit review

Make general announcements to university community requesting input into unit review at 5 and 2 weeks prior to review

Develop itinerary for external reviewers (2 weeks)

Develop site visit schedule

Send notice of site visit to Deans' Council, CCAM, UR International, AVP Student Affairs inviting input (2 weeks)

April

Send itinerary and daily schedule to review team members (2 days)

Send memorandum to review team, Dean, VP Research, Dean FGSR

Site visit

May

June

Unit review report received from chair of review team

August / September

Meet with CCAM and give verbal response to unit review

October

Submit a formal written response to unit review to Provost’s Office and CCAM

November

Provide a formal written response to the reviewed unit

15 to 18 months

Meet with CCAM to discuss progress on implementation of recommendations

(Dean for Faculty reviews or department head and Dean for department reviews)

5 years

Submit 5-year update to CCAM


Unit Self-Study

All members of the unit should have a voice in the preparation of the self-study. The self-study addresses such aspects as the history, current status, pending changes, budget, future prospects and opportunities of the unit. Strengths and limitations of the program(s) under review need critical examination. Although the procedures to do so are for the members of the unit to determine, as many as possible should participate in examining pending changes and future prospects and opportunities. For program areas in arts, sciences, and fine arts that have federated college faculty members, it is essential that these members participate in the development of the self-study.

The most successful reviews are assisted by reports that are clearly written, and complete but concise. The quality of the self-study report is enhanced if a small steering group is responsible for its preparation and drafts are circulated to all members for comment.  In general, the focus for the self-study should be a frank and balanced consideration of both strengths and areas for improvement, and strategies for future change.  It is also essential that the self-study take into consideration the larger institutional issues and the vision, mission, goals and priorities of the University.  The result of the self-study is a report that serves as a primary document for the external unit review team.  Members of CCAM are available to provide advice on the development of the self-study if requested.

CCAM has developed a template for the unit self study and requests that units use this template.  The template contains the following categories:

  1. Background – a brief description of the unit, including history and structure
  2. Staffing, resources, and space
  3. Research and creative output – published scholarly output and/or professional creative activity over the last ten years, with an emphasis on the impact of that scholarship/activity
  4. Community service initiatives – community service initiatives carried out by the unit or its members
  5. Academic programs, including service teaching, enrolment trends, and student successes
  6. Unit budget
  7. SWOT analysis – unit strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats

The report should also contain a profile of the academic staff in an appendix to the main body of the self-study report.  It is highly recommended that the members adopt a uniform and brief format that summarizes the important information from each member’s curriculum vitae. CCAM has also prepared a template for academic curricula vitae.

Self-studies will be augmented by data from the Office of Resource Planning including enrolments, teaching credit hours, grants and contracts, budget, staff and faculty numbers. Links will be provided to additional material such as University planning documents, budgets, and calendars. The goal is to provide reviewers with sufficient information to have a broad understanding both of the unit and the context in which it operates.  (In the case of the Library, alternate data and information will be necessary.)

Review Team Selection

Members of the review team should be chosen to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest (see GOV-022-010 Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment). Typically, the review team will consist of three members. Two of these, including the chair, will be well-respected, impartial experts in the particular discipline or area, chosen from other universities.  The other members will be chosen from a closely related discipline or area at the University of Regina. When appropriate, any of the members may be replaced by a representative of a relevant professional association.

The composition of the review team is vital to the review's success. Team members must have credibility both inside and outside the unit under review. The unit is requested to submit six external and two internal review team nominees to the Provost's Office. A brief statement of rationale for the external nominees must accompany the submission.

Terms of Reference

The expectation of the review team is that they will provide an opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of the unit’s teaching, research and service programs. This will include an assessment of the numbers and diversity of academic and non-academic staff and their responsibilities, the resources provided, the effectiveness of the unit’s organization, the quality of the working environment, the relations of the unit to others, the quality of educational opportunities provided to students—both graduate and undergraduate, and the effectiveness of the evaluation methods used to gauge student and program success. The review team is expected to offer recommendations for improvement and innovation.

As members of a research institution, our faculty and students are expected to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their particular field of study. It is essential that the review team provide an assessment of the quality of the research and scholarly activities of the program, and the effectiveness of the relationships between teaching and research, particularly at the graduate level.

In addition, the Provost, working with CCAM, the Dean of the Faculty and the unit under review will identify specific issues to be addressed by the review team.

Site Visit

The review team will meet at the University for an appropriate period of time, normally two days, and prepare a comprehensive report on the unit reviewed.  In preparing the report, the team will consult widely with academic and administrative staff, students, administrators and alumni involved with the programs and activities of the unit under review. Departmental faculty from the federated colleges will be invited to participate in the site visit.

Typically, the review team’s time will provide opportunities for consultation within the academic unit (faculty, staff and students); members of the University administration; and other individuals inside and outside of the University who influence or who are influenced by the activities of the unit and graduates of the program.  Particular efforts must be made to ensure student participation.  The on-site consultations commence with a working dinner hosted by the University administration and end with an exit interview with the Provost, the Vice-President (Research), the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and the Dean of the Faculty.

The visit of the review team is to be advertised widely to the University community with an invitation for those who have an interest in the program(s) to contribute a written brief to the team, which is normally submitted to the Chair of CCAM and the Provost's Office, prior to an advertised date.  Such briefs are for use by the review team and will be held in confidence by the team.

The schedule of interviews during the visit will be developed by the unit under review with appropriate input from the Provost's Office.

Report

While the team prepares the report, the Provost, the Vice-President (Research), the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and the Dean of the Faculty, will be available to provide any additional information requested.  The findings and recommendations of the review team should be presented in the form of a concise written report (with an executive summary) which will be received by the Provost's Office on behalf of CCAM.  Provided that matters of individual sensitivity or confidentiality are handled with appropriate discretion, the report (in its entirety) will be made publicly available on the academic unit review webpage, as will the unit's response to the report.

Response and Implementation

On receipt of the report the members of the unit will meet in committee for discussion.  The Dean and the unit head will then meet with CCAM to review the report.  Based on the report, comments received from CCAM and any University planning and priority documents, the unit will then prepare a response.  The response will address the issues raised and clearly outline priorities and future directions and initiatives for the unit over the next three to five years.  As such it should be prepared in close partnership with the Dean.  The response will be transmitted to CCAM which may comment on it.  The response and any comments from CCAM will inform the faculty’s long-term planning. The Provost will provide a formal written response to the report from the unit.

Follow-up

Five years after the review (and mid-way before the next review) CCAM will initiate a follow-up with the unit.  The unit will be invited to prepare and submit a brief report in which members of the unit comment on the consequences of the review and initiatives undertaken in response to it and respond to any comments from CCAM.  In particular they will be asked to describe initiatives and plans for the coming three to five years until the next review takes place. The follow-up will be reported to Executive of Council and the report and any comments from CCAM will be made available on request.

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