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
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
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:
(~20 pp single-spaced, not counting appendices; DUE Year 1, December 20). The Program Profile is an opportunity for the unit to summarize the current status of its academic program(s) and identify further questions of concern or opportunity, many of which may already be in discussion in the unit.
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 upto-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.
RESPONSE TO DATA(~ 10 pp single-spaced; due end of February)
The Response to Data document is the unit’s analysis of data provided by the University. It provides the unit with the opportunity to identify trends in data and to compare the unit with the college and University on issues related to enrollment, retention, graduation rates, course offerings, and student and alumni perceptions.
In early January of Year 1, 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. If there is additional data it would like to have, the unit should work with the APRC research analyst and IRMA to identify that data.
Regarding the data provided, where the response rates are insufficient to determine trends, the unit should note the low n’s and respond as it sees fit, including having the option not to respond to the data. In those cases where the unit wants to learn more in relation to items with low n’s, identify possible selfstudy questions it would like to answer.
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.
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-UPS
One 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 December
January to February
Phase II: Planning the Unit’s Research (Year 1)
March to May
Phase III: Implementing the Unit’s Research (Year II)
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 the Guidebook for University APR as a PDF file.