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Program Review Process

All academic departments, major research centers, and administrative units at Northwestern University are reviewed once every seven to ten years through the Program Review process. The process is guided by the Office of Administration and Planning and overseen by the Program Review Council (PRC), a rotating committee of senior faculty and administrators who have been nominated from across the university. PRC and internal reviewers are invited at the recommendations of Deans and Vice Presidents. The internal review team consists of two faculty and/or staff who work closely with two or more external reviewers (nominated by the unit) from exemplary peer institutions. Together, they review all relevant materials from the unit, including a data profile, key issues list, and self-study. They then meet with the faculty/staff and key constituents of the unit, as well as the Dean/Line Vice President, Provost, and President. The external reviewers are responsible for issuing a final report with specific recommendations. These recommendations form the basis of an implementation agreement with specific action items for the unit. Implementation items are discussed by the unit head, Dean/Line Vice President, Provost, President, and PRC.

Program Review Process


Please view the following resources for further information on Program Review deliverables:

Unit Self-Assessment

  1. Collection and Analysis of Data and Feedback
    The Office of Administration and Planning works with the unit under review to define, collect, and analyze key performance indicators, such as student composition (e.g., average course enrollments), student satisfaction (e.g., course feedback), student performance (e.g., graduate student placements) and faculty performance (e.g., publications and citation data, research awards). The Office of Administration and Planning also facilitates and analyzes faculty/staff surveys (and customer feedback surveys, if applicable) that help frame the review.
  2. Key Issues and Self-Study
    Each unit undergoing review submits a list of key issues faced by the unit, which helps inform the unit's self-study. The self-study includes a critical analysis of the current state of the unit, specific issues that are critical to the further improvement of the unit, and the fundamental questions that should drive strategic planning for the unit moving forward. The study is summarized in a written report and provides a foundation for the subsequent review.

External Review and Report

  1. Review Team Visit
    External and internal reviewers jointly meet with faculty, administrators, staff, and students (as appropriate) to gain further insight into the state of the unit and discuss key issues. The review team then meets with the Dean/Line Vice President of the unit and members of central administration to share their initial impressions.
  2. Report and Recommendations
    A report is written by the external reviewers and may include an addendum by the internal reviewers. This document is an analysis of the review materials as well as insight gained from the meetings with key individuals from the unit. It includes specific recommendations for the continuous improvement of the unit.
  3. Report Review
    The review team's report and recommendations are submitted to the unit under review for fact-checking and an opportunity to respond. After any necessary addendums, the report is presented to the members of the PRC for questions and clarifications.

Implementation Agreement

  1. Implementation Agreement
    The President and Provost meet with the respective Deans/Vice Presidents and the unit leadership to discuss the recommendations and to agree on a set of specific actions for the unit to implement.


  1. Report to the Board of Trustees
    An executive summary of the final report and implementation agreement is prepared and provided to the Board of Trustees.
  2. Implementation and Follow-Up
    The Provost, Dean, or Line Vice President monitors progress on the implementation of the recommendations. One year following the review, the Office of Administration and Planning conducts a follow-up to report on the progress of the implementation agreement to the President, Provost, and Board of Trustees.
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