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Academic Program Review Process

All departments, degree-granting graduate fields, and centers are reviewed once every 7 to 10 years. Whenever possible, fields and centers that can be associated with a department are reviewed with the department. Where the interdisciplinary nature of the field or center makes combined reviews unfeasible, independent field and center reviews are carried out.

An academic program review consists of two phases: a self-study by the department faculty and an evaluation by an external review team.

To initiate the self-study process, the chair of the Faculty Committee on Program Review (FCPR) and the administrative manager of the FCPR  meet with the department chair and review the self-study format. During that meeting, they discuss the following:

  • The review process
  • Data needs
  • Schedule of review activities
  • The process used to identify external reviewers

Academic Program Review Timeline (PDF)

Planning for an External Review (PDF)

Upon setting a date for the completion of the self-study document, the FCPR administrative manager coordinates the completion of a 5-year statistical overview for the department which is sent directly to the department chair.

The Self-Study

The self-study addresses specific issues raised by the dean, the department under review, and the university administration and will include the following elements:

  • A description of the fundamental questions that organize and motivate the current teaching, research, outreach and other scholarly activities of the department, showing how the faculty share intellectual discourse and purpose
  • A critical analysis of the current state of the work of the department, including graduate and undergraduate teaching (with attention to the purpose and coherence of the curricula), research, and outreach, with whatever quantitative information may be required by the dean
  • Specific issues, if any, the department wishes the ad-hoc evaluation committee to address, and any other expectations the department has of the evaluation committee
  • A plan for the next 7 to 10 years, including staffing and resource allocation, and its relationship to the fiscal guidelines supplied by the dean

The self-study should comply with the self-study format guidelines. One electronic copy of the draft self-study document should be sent by the department to the FCPR for review and comment no later than six weeks prior to the scheduled external review. FCPR typically responds within two weeks to provide time for any changes before documents are sent to the external review team members.

One electronic copy of the final self-study document should be sent to the FCPR administrative manager no later than one week prior to the review team visit.

FCPR – Self-Study Format_2022 (PDF)

The External Review Team and Visit

The external review team consists of at least three specialists in the field from outside Cornell. The dean forms the committee after consultation with the faculty of the department under review. The committee then evaluates the department’s principal activities to compare it with leading departments in other universities, to assess its trajectory, and to recommend whatever changes the committee believes are appropriate, under the assumption of constant resources.

Choosing an External Review Team (PDF)

Establishing the date and time for the on campus visit; developing the charge, questions, and objectives for the external review team; and setting the agenda are all critical components that require communication within the department and between the department and dean. The opening and closing meetings with the external review team include the dean, a provost’s designee, the dean of the Graduate School, and two members of the FCPR; they do not include members of the department being reviewed.

Sample Invitation Letter to Potential External Reviewer (PDF)

Scheduling the External Review Team Visit (PDF)

Sample External Review Team Schedule (PDF)

Sample Dean’s Charge to the External Review Team (PDF)

After the Visit

The External Review Report

The visiting team submits a written report of their findings.  Distribution of this report will be limited to the provost, cognizant vice provost, all relevant deans, associate deans, department chairs, professorial faculty directly involved in the review, and to members of the FCPR. The report will be watermarked “Confidential – Do Not Copy.” The FCPR may, in unusual circumstances, send a copy of an external review report to another college dean, who will not be authorized to distribute it further. The dean(s) directly involved in the review may distribute copies of the external review reports at their own discretion.

External review teams may, if they wish, attach a confidential annex to the review report that will be removed and forwarded to the provost and the appropriate dean before the main report is distributed to the department chair and professorial faculty.

The External Review Report is simultaneously submitted to the appropriate dean and to the FCPR administrative manager within a month following the external review team visit.

The Department’s Response to the External Review Report

Upon receipt of the external review team’s written report, the department prepares a written response to the review team’s findings and recommendations.

The length of the Department’s Response depends on the department’s level of agreement with the report. When the department agrees with the report, intends to implement its recommendations, and urges the dean to do likewise, a short acknowledgement is sufficient. On the other hand, when the department disagrees with some of the findings or recommendations of the report, a fuller response to each significant finding or recommendation is required.

The Department’s Response is simultaneously submitted to the appropriate dean and to the FCPR within a month following receipt of the written report of the external review team.

The Dean’s Response to the External Review Report

Upon receipt of the Department’s Response to the External Review Report, the dean prepares a written response to the external reviewers’ findings and recommendations and the department’s responses thereto, with appropriate explanations where needed.

The dean should submit his or her response to the FCPR administrative manager within a month of receipt of the Department’s Response document.

The Faculty Committee on Program Review’s Report to the Provost

Upon receipt of the External Review Report and the Department’s Response, the FCPR will prepare a short report to the provost summarizing the review.

FCPR Report to the Provost Template (PDF)

The Reimbursement of Program Review Expenses

The department or college will be reimbursed for all expenses incurred by three to four external reviewers per department review (i.e., travel, lodging, meals, and honoraria). Additionally, the cost for the printing of the self-studies, including four copies for the FCPR, a copy for the provost, appropriate vice provost, deans, associate deans, and 1-5 copies for the department will be reimbursed. The department or college assumes responsibility for all other expenses related to the review.

Academic Program Review Expense Reimbursement Form (PDF)

The FCPR Administrative Manager

The administrative manager of the Faculty Committee on Program Review provides the following support to the committee, provost, and vice provost:

  • Tracking of all reviews and updates regarding where each review is are in the process
  • Coordinating the submission of all materials sent to the FCPR for review and approval
  • Coordinating the distribution of all documents to the FCPR, provost, and vice provost, including self-studies, external review charges and agendas, and external review reports

All communication between the college or department and the FCPR should be sent by e-mail or campus mail to the FCPR administrative manager:

Kristin Walker,
Institutional Research & Planning
440 Day Hall