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Program Review Frequently Asked Questions

Please see below for a list of frequently asked questions on the Program Review process. If you have additional question, please contact Program Review staff.

What is the primary purpose of Program Review?
Program Review has many benefits, some of which are described here. Ultimately, Northwestern chooses to continue the Program Review process because it facilitates better planning and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Does Program Review duplicate other assessment efforts?
While Program Review is distinct from accreditation and other types of assessments, it can (and should) incorporate outputs from these processes. It may be particularly helpful to the unit through the development of a key issues list and self-study. Ultimately, the Program Review process is unique as an internal quality initiative that results in specific implementation agreements between the unit and the central administration.

Can Program Review really be effective given the length of time between reviews?
Program Review was never intended to be the sole strategic planning, data gathering, or change management mechanism for any unit; units at Northwestern are strongest when their leadership continuously engages in these activities. Program Review is most effective when these elements are already in place and can support a more in-depth analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for the unit. When a unit is lacking a strategic plan/roadmap or performance indicators, Program Review may serve as a catalyst for developing them.

Why is so much of Program Review confidential?
In order to get the most honest feedback from members or constituents of a unit, we have to ensure that the information will not be used against them personally. Likewise, in order to provide a unit with the space to honestly assess themselves, they need to know that we will not be opening them up to public scrutiny. Program Review information is obtained from and shared with the members of the unit and those participating in the review solely for the benefit of the unit.

Is Program Review tied to the budgeting process?
By design, the process focuses on identifying ways to strengthen units and strategically position them for the future assuming constant resources. Therefore, the process is neither a tool to downsize programs nor to request additional resources.

How is the schedule set?
Prior to the start of each review cycle, the Office of Administration and Planning consults with deans and vice presidents to create a schedule that accommodates as many preferences as possible. The timing of previous reviews or accreditations is taken into consideration, although each area may have a different preference with regard to how the Program Review lines up with these other assessments (simultaneous, sequential, or staggered). When possible, related units are reviewed in the same year in order to help identify cross-cutting issues. Each year, the Office of Administration and Planning confirms the planned reviews for the year and sometimes reschedules a unit due to exceptional circumstances.

How are external reviewers selected?
The department chair or head of the unit provides nominees to serve as external reviewers to the Office of Administration and Planning. These nominees should be leaders from distinguished programs in the field or industry. Both central administration (President, Provost, Executive Vice President, Vice President of Research, Dean of The Graduate School) as well as the respective Dean or Vice President that manages the unit are then given an opportunity for additional input.

How are internal reviewers selected?
The Office of Administration and Planning solicits nominations from deans, vice presidents, and the Faculty Senate for senior faculty and administrators to serve on the Program Review Council or as internal reviewers. Internal reviewers for academic units typically include at least one faculty member from a related field, and internal reviewers for administrative units include at least one administrator. Other members of the internal review teams bring valuable outside perspective.