DePaul University Academic Affairs > Leadership Resources > Assessment & APRC > Academic Program Review > Guidebook
Welcome to DePaul University’s academic program review (APR) process. This guidebook is designed to provide information about the purpose and process of APR. Although APR is a requirement for maintaining accreditation with Higher Learning Commission, the two-year process we have developed is designed for units to evaluate and study all aspects of their academic programs, including curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular elements, with the goal of identifying activities and resource priorities that the units believe will lead to academic program improvement.
DePaul University’s Academic Program Review process is designed to be a reflective and analytical process. Its purpose is:
to promote the 1) the continuous quality improvement of 2) academic programs and the larger University, through a process that is 3) responsive to the mission, 4) faculty-driven, 5) focused, 6) collegial, 7) data-based, 8) contextual, and 9) adaptive, and that results in 10) an accountable plan of action (MOU).
Each component is discussed below:
(1) Continuous quality improvement: The improvement of overall academic quality is an ongoing objective. The intent of APR is to support each unit in developing and maintaining its own continuous, naturally embedded system of academic program review. Within such a system, periodic academic program review serves as an opportunity to consider globally the strengths and challenges of the unit.
(2) Individual academic programs and the larger University: Quality is systemic. While APR originates at the program level, the analysis expands to incorporate activities and support services at the school/college and University levels. In addition, multiple related units are scheduled for review per cycle with an emphasis on increasing interaction and reflection between and among units.
(3) Responsive to the mission: APR is contextualized within DePaul’s Vincentian mission, university learning goals, and strategic plan. APR seeks to enhance learning in a unit and among units and to further the evolution of a university culture characterized by ongoing institutional self-analysis that leads to continual program improvement.
(4) Faculty-driven: Faculty are responsible for the curriculum; therefore, APR is a faculty responsibility. The Academic Program Review Committee (APRC) is comprised of faculty from across the University. It is formed by the Faculty Council and charged to oversee the APR process. The APR process also requires units to form faculty-appointed self-study committee.
(5) Focused: APR is conducted in a 2-year timeframe. Each unit identifies important issues during the first year or planning stage of APR, addresses those issues required by the process, and reports accordingly to the APRC, unit faculty, Dean, and Provost. APR requires meaningful reflection that focuses on areas identified by the unit’s faculty as well as areas across units that the APRC identifies. Complete re-justification of programs and the production of lengthy reports are not APR goals.
(6) Collegial: APR seeks to support and sustain conversations among university constituents that lead to identifying and analyzing a unit's strengths and areas for improvement. Initially, these conversations are unit and college-based; however, as the process moves forward, they also involve perspectives from faculty colleagues across the University (i.e., the Academic Program Review Committee [APRC], Office for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment [TLA], Institutional Research and Market Analytics [IRMA], and Office of Academic Business Management), and beyond the university (external reviewers), as well as those of academic administrators. A unit’s APR documents support the conversations but are not ends in themselves. By including multiple perspectives, APR promotes university-wide understanding of the varied disciplinary and professional languages and norms that comprise the University. In addition, APR stimulates a culture of continuous reflection, internal research, and collegial accountability that is both program-based and university-wide
(7) Data-based: APR facilitates plans of action supported by analyzed data. The APRC, in conjunction with IRMA, supports internal research. IRMA continually refines the University’s academic information systems to support decision-making at the unit, school/college, and university levels. As much as possible, claims made at all levels of the process and by all voices are to be supported by data.
(8) Contextual: APR, through the APRC, encourages a cross-discipline/cross-profession dialogue and accountability for the University’s curricular programs as a whole. The APR process combines the strengths of internal review, best understood within the context of DePaul’s mission and array of programs, with external discipline-specific review, ensuring that academic programs represent current practice within the discipline.
(9) Adaptive: APR is dynamic, reflective, and evolving. To this end, the overall purpose of continuous improvement is paramount while the specific features of the process may be modified as needed for any individual unit to ensure the purpose is met.
(10) Accountable plan of action: The purpose of APR is to identify initiatives for improving academic quality, i.e., initiatives supported by both data and broad-based understanding. To this end, APR results in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the program, the school/college, and the University. This document outlines agreed-upon courses of action that the unit will take over one to five years to improve academic quality. It also identifies resource support priorities for academic improvement.
All graduate and undergraduate degree granting programs, general education, and all certificate programs within academic units are reviewed during each APR megacycle.
APR does not include Centers and Institutes unless those Centers or Institutes have credit-generating academic missions and impacts, in which case the review is linked with its academic unit. Similarly, units whose academic endeavors are supported by Centers/Institutes housed in the units or closely connected with them will identify how those Centers/Institutes support effective teaching and learning, as well as faculty and student scholarship and creative activities.
APR does not include support units within academic affairs. These units are reviewed as part of the annual performance reviews and through their annual reports. Faculty review the adequacy of the support provided by these units as part of APR.
An APR megacycle includes all colleges/schools, Liberal Studies, and centers/institutes that meet the criteria for program review. The current megacycle—Megacycle III—consists of 10 two-year cycles:
Cycle 1 (2017–19): College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences (LAS) Humanities Programs
Cycle 2 (2018–20): School of Continuing and Professional Studies (Graduate and Undergraduate) and College of Computing & Digital Media
Cycle 3 (2019–21): College of Science & Health (CSH) Natural Sciences, Health Science, and Mathematics Programs
Cycle 4 (2020–22): Driehaus College of Business (Undergrad and KGSB) and Cross-College Programs
Cycle 5 (2021–23): LAS Interdisciplinary Programs
Cycle 6 (2022–24): College of Education (Undergraduate and Graduate), School of Music, and The Theatre School
Cycle 7 (2023–25): Liberal Studies Programs (including Honors)
Cycle 8 (2024–26): College of Law, College of Communication, CSH School of Nursing, and CSH Department of Psychology
Cycle 9 (2025–27): LAS Master’s of Social Work, LAS Social Sciences, and LAS School of Public Service
Cycle 10 (2026–27): HLC-NCA Preparation and Review and Revision of APR and Annual Assessment of Student Learning (AASL) Processes
KEY PARTICIPANTS: APR includes the following constituencies (a schematic organizer of key participants is in Appendix A):
Academic Program Review Committee (APRC): The APRC oversees the APR process. The committee is made up of faculty members from each of the University’s colleges and schools. They are appointed by Faculty Council and serve three-year terms. The Committee meets quarterly during the academic year and may from time to time call an executive session of its faculty members.
APRC Director/Chair: The APR Director coordinates the APR process and serves as Chair of the APRC. The Director/Chair is a faculty member who has served on the APRC and is appointed by the Provost in consultation with the members of the APRC and Faculty Council. The Director/Chair reports both to the Faculty Council and to the Office of Academic Affairs.
APRC Ex-Officio members: In addition to its faculty representatives, the APRC also includes nonvoting ex-officio members from the following offices: Academic Affairs, University Libraries, the Office for Teaching, Learning, & Assessment (TLA), and the Office of Institutional Research & Market Analytics (IRMA). Ex-officio members serve as advisors to the committee and do not serve on subcommittees that work directly with units participating in review. Ex-officio members are chosen at the initiative of the APRC Chair in consultation with the APRC and the Associate Provost for Student Success and Accreditation on an ad-hoc basis to advise the APRC and to share information from their offices in support of the review process.
APRC Subcommittee: APRC subcommittees are made up of faculty members and are assigned to support units conducting APR. Subcommittees are responsible for facilitating APR in accordance with the APR Guidebook, assisting units with the processes and procedures of program review, examining and providing feedback to APR documents during APRC meetings.
Office of Academic Affairs: Academic Affairs provides guidance and support for the APR process. The Provost, as chief academic officer, has final authority over all academic programs and is responsible for any university-level commitments in the MOU. The Associate Provost for Student Success and Accreditation is an ex-officio member of the APRC and, along with the APRC Director/Chair, serves throughout the review process as a liaison to the Provost. The Associate Provost also coordinates the external review process, contacting reviewers recommended by the unit. Both the Provost and the Associate Provost sign the MOU, and in so doing recognize the unit’s priorities. The research associate in the Office of the Associate Provost provides research support and assists the APRC Director/Chair in facilitating the APR process.
Unit Self-Study Team: A unit’s self-study team coordinates the APR process for the unit. Generally 3-5 full-time faculty members (tenured or tenure-track) serve on the team, with one member serving as chair. APRC members may serve on self-study teams but not as chairs. At its discretion, the selfstudy team may also include part-time faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The team may not be chaired by a faculty member holding administrative appointment within or over the unit faculty unless the unit has reason to request otherwise. The team plans and implements the unit’s research plan, prepares the unit’s program review documents, and engages in deliberations leading to the Memorandum of Understanding (See Key Steps #1 below).
Unit Department Chair/Program Director: The unit’s department chair/program director supports APR, but the process itself should be conducted by the self-study team to ensure that it is faculty– driven. The self-study team should inform the unit chair/director of its activities and obtain input from the unit chair/director during the process, especially regarding the content of APR documents and the list of potential external reviewers. The unit chair/director will also sign the MOU, and oversee the implementation of the MOU.
Unit Dean: The dean of the unit reviews the unit’s research plan and provides input regarding its content prior to its review by the APRC. The dean also provides input, in writing or in person at an APRC meeting, regarding the unit’s research report. The dean also meets with the unit and the APRC Director/Chair to initiate the writing of the MOU. Finally, the dean signs the MOU and in doing so recognizes the unit’s priorities within the college and will work with the unit to address them as College and University priorities allow.
External Reviewer(s): Units undergoing APR that do not undergo outside accreditation or other external reviews shall, in consultation with the unit chair/director and unit faculty, identify potential external reviewers. The role of the external reviewers is to 1) evaluate the intellectual currency of the academic program, both undergraduate and graduate, and the overall quality of faculty scholarship, and 2) provide consultation on areas of interest and concern that emerge through the process of program review. The Associate Provost for Student Success and Accreditation coordinates the scheduling of external reviewers, including travel reimbursements and stipends.
KEY DOCUMENTS: Units conducting APR submit the following documents (guidelines for each document are included in Section 5; a schematic organizer of the APR timeline is in Appendix B):
The following document guidelines are templates for systematically reviewing and reflecting on the components of a unit’s academic program(s), including its co- and extra-curricular activities. The topic areas are provided to help the unit organize the documents. All documents are to be submitted electronically (MSWord) to the APRC Director/Chair on or prior to the due dates.
Use the following links to navigate to the guidelines for each specific document:
(~25 pp single-spaced, not counting appendices; DUE Year 1,Draft due early December; Final draft due February 15).
The Program Profile is an opportunity for the unit to summarize the current status of its academic program(s), including analyzing data provided by the University. Although the narrative provides the unit the opportunity to describethe sundry aspects of its program, the data allows the unit to identify trends and compare itself with the College and University on issues related to enrollment, retention, graduation rates,course offerings, and student and alumni perceptions. Together the narrative description of theunit and the analysis of the data should provide a comprehensive and concrete understanding ofthe unit’s strengths and challenges along with the identification of possible questions for selfstudy.
The writing of the Profile begins with the unit’s self-study orientation with the APRC Director, its research analyst, and the Associate Provost for Student Success and Accreditation in September to discuss APR and the content and timetable for the Profile. The self-study team should write the narrative sections of the Profile during the Fall term. As it begins to write its Profile, the self-study team may request from the APRC research analyst any additional University data they need at that point. If it is available, the data will be provided along with the University data by early December.
No later than the last week of Fall term, the unit’s self-study team shall meet with the APRC research analyst, representatives from IRMA, and the APR Director to review the University data. Regarding the data provided, where the response rates are too low to be representative, the unit should note the low response numbers and respond as it sees fit, including having the option not to respond to the data. For those cases where the unit wants to learn more in relation to items with low response numbers, the unit should identify possible self-study questions it would like to answer.
NOTE: The APRC provides relevant catalog and website information about the unit’s program(s). The unit may either insert the information as-is in response to different topic areas or revise it to reflect the most up-to-date information. In the following subsections, information for topic areas identified by an asterisk (*) is provided by the APRC, when it is available on the website. The APRC will identify the information it cannot find. The unit should plan to update or add information to its website where necessary.
1. Misson and Prior Review
a) Provide the unit’s mission statement* and identify how it aligns with the College’s and University’s mission.
b) Using data from the University surveys—the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Alumni Survey, and the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students—analyze and discuss student perceptions about their exposure to DePaul’s Vincentian mission.
c) Briefly summarize the findings, recommendations, and actions resulting from the last APR (APRC will provide previous MOU and follow-up reports).* Identify any unresolved areas of concern from the previous APR.
2. Curricular Offering
a) Provide a short narrative describing each degree program, major, certificate, and other formal programs currently offered (300 words or less for each). In the narrative, please include information about program structure, goals, and career possibilities Provide in an appendix representative syllabi, curricular descriptions, brochures (Fact Sheets), bulletins, or other descriptive material. (APRC will provide catalogue descriptions of all academic programs, including course descriptions, which should be included in a Profile Appendix).
b) Using data provided by the University, analyze and discuss:
i. Patterns of enrollment in degrees/concentrations.
ii. The diversity of the undergraduate student profile.
iii. Degrees conferred, graduation rates (at College level only) and time to graduation patterns for your program(s).
iv. Course hours taught for majors (including second majors) and non-majors students in major courses, service courses, and general education courses.
v. Market share, where data are available (patterns of interest by enrolling students).
c) Describe any new curricular initiatives that are not reflected in item 2a.
d) If there are Centers or Institutions housed in the unit, describe how they support effective teaching and learning, faculty and student scholarship, and research and creative activities.
e) Discuss steps the unit has taken to address academic quality and raise the level of academic challenge as called for in the current University Strategic Plan.
f) Identify possible issues/questions, if any, related to this section that might be part of the APR self-study or MOU.
3. Student Learning
a) The APRC will provide the learning outcomes for each of the unit’s degree-granting programs.* The unit should identify any learning outcomes that are no longer current, or are not clear, concrete, or measurable. Any learning outcomes that are not current, clear, concrete, or measurable should be updated.
b) Using the template provided in Appendix D (electronic copy available on APRC website), provide in an appendix a curriculum map for the learning outcomes for each degree-granting program (undergraduate and graduate). Identify any learning outcomes that are assessed in multiple courses in a degree-granting program’s coursework. Identify any learning outcomes that have not been assessed during the past seven years. Identify any learning outcomes that need to be reviewed or assessed differently (in terms of when and how they are assessed).
c) Based on a review of past annual assessments and, if applicable, any assessment or assurance of learning materials provided for accreditation/external review, identify what the strengths and challenges for student learning are in your degree-granting programs.
d) Using data from the University surveys—the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Alumni Survey, and the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students—analyze and discuss:
i. Student satisfaction with the quality and rigor of their academic program and their preparation for life after DePaul. Consider also possible changes between student perceptions in the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students and the Alumni Survey.
ii. Student perceptions of acquired work-related knowledge and skills: communication (verbal and written), quantitative and analytical skills, and other related knowledge and skills.
iii. Student perceptions about their exposure to diversity.
iv. Alumni perceptions of their knowledge and abilities gained in their program at DePaul.
e) Using the template provided in Appendix C (electronic copy is available on APRC website), identify the learning outcomes that are a priority for future assessment projects
f) Identify possible issues/questions, if any, related to this section that might be part of the APR self-study or MOU, including any learning outcomes that might need to be updated or any possible future assessment activities or program changes that are a result of assessment activities.
4. Student Support
a) Describe how students are advised in the unit, including how students who are academically under-prepared and/or historically underserved are supported and how advanced students or students in Honors Programs are supported.
b) Using data from the University surveys—the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Alumni Survey, the Survey of Academic Advising, and the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students—analyze and discuss student satisfaction with advising.
c) Describe the co-curricular and extracurricular activities that the unit provides to support and engage students.
d) Using data from the University surveys—the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Alumni Survey, the Survey of Academic Advising, and the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students—analyze and discuss student engagement in community service, internships, extra-curricular and cocurricular opportunities, research with faculty, and other opportunities.
e) Describe the career planning support the unit offers to students, including how it collaborates with Career Services.
f) Using data from the University surveys—the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), the Alumni Survey, the Survey of Academic Advising, and the Exit Survey for Graduating Senior and Graduate Students—analyze and discuss student perceptions about the challenges they face to succeed in their academic programs and competing priorities.
g) Describe the unit’s relationship to the University library and the types resources and support the unit encourages students to use.
h) Identify possible issues/questions, if any, related to this section that might be part of the APR self-study or MOU.
5. Faculty and Staff Support
a) Using data provided by the University, analyze and discuss:
i. The demographic profile of your faculty.
ii. Patterns of workload by full- and part-time faculty in the context of your college.
b) Describe the scholarly/creative activities, specializations, etc., of the unit’s faculty and staff (where appropriate) and the collective strengths and limitations in relatio to the unit’s purpose, academic goals, and learning outcomes.
c) Describe how tenure-stream and contingent/part-time faculty are evaluated and supported in their efforts to provide continuous improvement to instruction.
d) Describe how the unit works with the University library to support tenure-stream and contingent/part-time faculty.
e) Describe the staff positions that support the work of the unit.
6. University and Community Engagement
a) Describe how the unit serves students in the Liberal Studies Program and in other University programs/majors.
b) Describe how the unit interacts and collaborates with other units in the University. Describe the benefits and challenges of these interactions/collaborations and their effect on the unit’s students. Describe where interaction and collaboration need to be developed or strengthened and why.
c) Describe how the unit engages the community, both locally and beyond, and contributes to community enrichment. Describe how these activities support student learning.
d) Describe how the unit engages alumni, including any opportunities students have to interact with alumni.
e) Identify possible issues/questions, if any, related to this section that might be part of the APR self-study or MOU.
7. Unit Specific Issues and/or Initiatives. Describe and discuss any unit-specific issues and/or initiatives not addressed in the preceding sections.
UNIT’S RESEARCH PLAN(3-4 pages, DUE: Year 1, April 20)Drawing on the issues/questions learned in the writing of the Profile and Response to Data, as well as on the APRC’s and Dean’s feedback, the Unit should identify three to five self-study questions. One self-study question must address some aspect of student learning outcomes, and include collecting and analyzing student work. The Unit should use the Research Plan template provided in Appendix D.
1. List the names of the members of the Self-Study Team.
2. Identify the questions or issues learned so far from your APR that will be addressed through the self-study. These questions can include investigating areas of concern remaining from the previous program review, as noted in the Profile.
a. Provide a short recap of why you chose these questions/issues of interest/concern and how answering these questions will help the Unit improve the quality of its academic program(s).
b. Identify data collection and analysis methods that will be used to address each question/issue. Be as specific as possible (For example, if a focus group will be used, who will be the audience, what will be the goal of the session, what are some questions that may be used, etc.? If surveys will be disseminated, identify possible survey questions). The APRC can provide example surveys and the APRC Research Analyst and IRMA can work with the Unit to develop data collection tools. Please note in your Plan if you need assistance.
c. Identify who is responsible for data collection and analysis and provide a time-line for the work.
3. For units undergoing external review:
a. In an appendix to the Research Plan, provide an annotated list in order of preference of 4-6 external reviewers, including contact information. The annotation should explain how each external reviewer will be able to 1) assess the intellectual currency of the academic program and the overall quality of faculty scholarship, as well as to 2) help the unit reflect on issues of importance to them. Consider external reviewers who have prior experiences with conducting academic reviews.
b. Faculty Curriculum Vitae. Please provide an electronic copy of a recent curriculum vita for each full-time faculty member in a separate appendix. These CVs will be shared with the external reviewers.
UNIT’S RESEARCH REPORT(15-20 pp., single-spaced plus appendices; DUE: Year 2, December 15)The Research Report provides answers to the Research Plan questions based on an analysis of the data with the goal of supporting and identifying program improvement activities that will be in the MOU.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING AND LONG-TERM ASSESSMENT PLAN(MOU 3-5 pp, DUE: Year 2, May 10, signed by end of spring quarter)The MOU identifies goals, actions, and priorities based on the findings and feedback of APR. The signed MOU is the unit’s plan for the next year and beyond, and is a public document, accessible through Campus Connect. The long-term assessment plan identifies the unit’s plan to assess student learning over the next seven years.
The MOU includes the following:
ONE YEAR AND FIVE-YEAR FOLLOW-UPSOne year and five years after the MOU signing, the APRC asks the unit to reflect on the status of its MOU items. The APRC will provide the unit with a template with space for reporting the status of each MOU item.
The one-year progress report gives the unit an opportunity to reevaluate its goals and revise its agenda for the future. The five-year progress gives the unit an opportunity to take stock of its successes, identify what remains as a challenge or concern, and consider how unmet goals will be addressed prior to the next APR.
Preparation (Spring prior to Year 1)
Phase I: Preliminary Documents (Year 1)
September to Feburary
Phase II: Planning the Unit’s Research (Year 1)
Phase III: Implementing the Unit’s Research (Year II)
September to December
Phase IV: External review and feedback (Year II)
March to April
Phase V: Planning for the future: developing the Memorandum of Understanding (Year II)
Phase VI: Implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding
Download a PDF of the APR Guidebook