Skip to main content

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

Program Review Process

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

Unit Self-Assessment
Each unit undergoing review provides a list of key issues faced by the unit, which helps inform the unit's self-study. The self-study is an analysis of the current state of the unit that identifies specific issues critical to the further improvement of the unit and the fundamental questions that should drive strategic planning for the unit moving forward. The key issues list and self-study are informed by data collection and analysis. 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 serve as input to the review. 

External Review and Report
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 also meets with the Dean/Line Vice President of the unit and members of central administration to share their initial impressions. Following the review, 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 recommendatinos for the continuous improvement of the unit. The review team's report and recommendations are submitted to the unit under review for fact-checking and an opportunity to respond. The internal reviewers present the report ot the Program Review Council for questions and clarifications. 

Program Review Council
The Program Review Council is a group of senior faculty and administrators that oversees the Program Review process. The Program Review Council is nominated based upon recommendations from Deans and Vice Presidents. 

The role of the Program Review Council is to review all external reports and guide the development of actionable implementation agreements. Once external reports are received, the Program Review Council reviews the reports and meets with the internal reviewers to have an in-depth discussion and presentation of the report. The Program Review Council is responsible for drafting the implementation agreement that follows the discussion. 

Implementation Agreement
For each unit, unit leadership, the Dean/Line Vice President, and central administration discuss the recommendations from the external reviewer reports and agree on a set of specific actions to implement. 

Follow-Up
After the review, an executive summary of each external reviewer report and implementation agreement is prepared and provided to the Board of Trustees. 

One year following the review, the Office of Administration and Planning conducts a follow-up report on the progress of the implementation agreement ot the President, Provost, and Board of Trustees. The Provost, Dean, or Line Vice President monitor progress on the implementation of the recommendations.