The purpose of academic program reviews at Emerson College is to put into place a system of continuous assessment, planning, and improvement, which is intended to help achieve the academic mission and commitments of the college. Program review is an evaluative, not a descriptive process; it results in judgments about the quality of a program and the adequacy of its resources. The process of program review should be a cooperative exercise between the program faculty, chair or director, and administration that results in meaningful recommendations for program improvement.

Guiding Principles

  • The academic review process is a shared responsibility of the faculty, staff, and administration.
  • Program reviews should be directed toward the continued development and improvement of programs.
  • The evaluation of programs should be based on academic or professional criteria, within the context of the current and available institutional resources.
  • All relevant College constituencies should be involved in the process.
  • Program reviews should be independent from other reviews, such as professional accreditation, although the data collected should be shared as much as possible to avoid unnecessary extra work for the units involved.
  • The review process should result in tangible actions.


  • All programs will be reviewed every five to seven years
  • All program reviews will be coordinated through the Office of Academic Affairs. A member of that office will be designated as coordinator of program reviews and will be responsible for coordinating timetables, the collection of institutional data, etc., with the School Dean, Department Chair, Academic unit Director, etc
  • Academic program reviews will include an internal self-study by the department or unit under review
  • Academic program reviews will also include external review by a team of evaluators from outside of Emerson
  • The self-study report is a narrative discussion of the topics specified in the “Self-Study Outline” (below), to be used by both the external reviewers and internal audiences to better understand the academic unit. The report will be organized according to a prescribed and approved outline. Recognizing that each department and unit is different, the self-study outline should be customized to address the specific and unique topics and issues relevant to that program or unit
  • A department Chair or unit Director may assign a faculty or staff member to serve as coordinator for the self-study report. (Note: Normally, the department Chair should not serve as the author of the self-study report)
  • The external review team will be comprised of two to four evaluators from outside of Emerson who are acknowledged experts in the academic discipline or disciplines, or professional areas, represented by the department/unit under review. The School Dean and Department Chair or Unit Director will select the external evaluators. When possible, external reviewers will be at the department chair, dean, or director level to ensure broad experience in the discipline and some understanding of higher education procedures and processes. The Dean or Director, and the Provost, must approve the external evaluators
  • The role of the external team is two-fold. First, it will evaluate the department/unit based on the self-study; meet with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, administrators, and the Department Chair or unit Director; and review department/unit documents such as student files, student theses and projects, syllabi, faculty curricula vitae, and department/unit policies, practices and programs
  • Second, it will provide recommendations for strengthening the department/unit. The external evaluators will be provided with a copy of the self-study in advance of their site visit. They will conduct a two- or three-day campus visit to meet with key constituencies. The external review team will discuss its initial findings with the Dean and Chair or Administrative Director, Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs, and the Provost and then submit to the Provost, Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Dean or Director a draft program review for commentary, fact-checking and clarification
  • The external evaluator’s final report will be shared with the department/unit. The department faculty or unit staff will be asked to respond to the report and its recommendations. Based on this discussion, the Chair and Dean, or Director, will write a departmental response to the recommendations that details the department/unit goals and the responsibilities of the department/unit and the methods for addressing the recommendations
  • The Provost, Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs, Graduate Dean (if appropriate), School Dean, Department Chair or unit Director, and one faculty member from the department or staff member from the unit will meet to discuss the self-study, the report, and the department/unit response. The agreed-upon final recommendations will be disseminated to and discussed with the department’s faculty or unit staff, and should be integrated into the department/unit long-range planning and budgeting

Self-Study Outline

The following self-study outline is a basic template that can be modified to meet the distinct needs of the reviewed department or unit.

  1. Introduction 
    1. The introduction will consist of three parts:
      1. A description of the departmental review process and faculty/staff participation, in developing the self-study, including numbers of faculty and/or staff in the unit and composition of the self-study committee

      2. A summary of the final recommendations from the last program review, discussing which recommendations have been implemented, eliminated, or 5 changed, or remain unaddressed and why, since the last program review. (Include last program review final recommendations in the appendices)

      3. The Department Chair’s or unit Director’s overall summary of the department/unit (not to exceed 5 pages) that discusses program/unit strengths, persistent challenges and concerns, and recommendations, strategies and priorities for improvement

  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

    1. Academic excellence is grounded in equity, diversity and inclusion. Describe in which ways the program enacts Emerson's commitment to diversity, equity and justice initiatives. Academic programs should address all of the following areas; academic support programs should address all that are relevant:

      1. Program goals

      2. Curricular development (pedagogical innovation, creation of new courses, elimination or substantial revision of existing courses)

      3. Review of syllabi (learning goals, diversity of perspectives, assignments/projects)

      4. Special projects or initiatives

      5. Alignment with Departmental and/or School Equity and Justice plans

      6. Responsiveness to specific demands by BIPOC student 

      7. Active recruitment and search efforts to hire diverse faculty and staff

      8. Efforts to retain diverse faculty, including the Nexus mentoring program

      9. Demographic breakdown of faculty and staff from the Fact Book

      10. Other areas/approaches/actions not listed above

  3. Department/Unit History, Organization, and Mission Statement

    1. History of the department/unit formation and major organizational changes: include mission statement, goals and objectives of the program and contribution to the institution’s mission. Local, regional, and national need, reputation, and accomplishments of the program; national or discipline ranking (if applicable)

  4. Curriculum (if appropriate)

    1. Degrees offered; Include information about undergraduate degree programs, majors and minors, graduate degree programs, and certificate programs (if applicable); degree requirements; program structure; recommended course plan from year one to completion, current undergraduate, graduate, and combined courses; frequency of course offerings; major changes in curriculum in last five years; representative course syllabi (addendum)

  5. Faculty or Staff

    1. Total number (full-time, affiliated, visiting, tenure/non-tenure track); number of new and retiring full-time faculty; average age; sex; ethnicity; percent tenured; terminal 6 degrees; affiliated faculty salaries; fields of specialization represented by faculty. Faculty recruitment and retention efforts, and steps to diversify faculty. Information should cover last five years or since last program review

    2. Faculty bios to include description of faculty research, scholarship, and creative activities; special projects; professional awards and recognition; grants awarded. Faculty CVs should be included in the appendices

    3. Role, contribution, significance, and participation of affiliated faculty in the department

    4. Faculty Development: include resources available to support faculty development in teaching, research, or creative activities; faculty involvement in development activities such as teaching seminars and training to update skills or knowledge

    5. Number and type of staff; description of how faculty and professional staff work together to meet curricular needs; evaluation of adequacy of support, information on staff responsibilities and lines of reporting; staff development activities; brief staff bios

  6. Faculty Workload (if applicable)

    1. Describe faculty workloads, including average course load; average class size; average advising load per faculty member; average thesis load per faculty member; faculty/student ratio (undergraduate and graduate). Describe service obligations, special assignments, time spent on scholarly and creative activities as part of overall workload

  7. Students (or student constituents)

    1. Enrollments for last five years (undergraduate, graduate)

    2. Narrative description of current enrollment breakdowns, strategies and recent trends; tables and graphs may be included or in appendices

    3. Number and type of degrees awarded over last five years

    4. Student admissions profile and criteria (SAT scores, high school grades, GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL scores; undergraduate GPA, work experience); number of applicants and admitted students; average age; sex; ethnicity; citizenship; part-time/full-time status; transfer credits

    5. Department recruitment plan; advisement and retention efforts

    6. Financial Assistance for undergraduate and graduate students, institutional funds; government aid (including loans); percent of students on financial aid; average level of support; for graduate students, the ratio of grant-to-loan funds; number of teaching, advising, and/or administrative assistantships and selection process

    7. Student productivity: number of theses, Master’s projects, and dissertations produced in last five years; sample dissertation, thesis, and project quality (both undergraduate and graduate); student publications, exhibitions, productions, and professional presentations; degree completion rates; average time to degree completion; financial resources to support student work

    8. Profile of graduates: number of graduates; where graduates are employed (upon graduation and at five and ten years after); continued contributions to the profession or field

    9. NOTE: Much of the data about faculty and students will be provided by the AVP for Institutional Research. The coordinator from Academic Affairs will contact the AVP for Institutional Research several months in advance of the due date of the self-study report to Academic Affairs and provide the results to the department

  8. Assessment of Student Learning and Information Literacy

    1. Provide student-learning outcomes for each degree (program) offered. For each degree, list the required courses and provide examples to show that the course-level student learning outcomes align with the respective degree-level student learning outcomes. A table may facilitate this reporting. Outline the departmental student learning assessment plan. First, provide a brief summary of the plan’s developmental history

    2. Use a table to report information. Include the courses or requirements that are designed to provide the most direct evidence of student learning for the degree-level student learning outcomes. Three to five courses or requirements may suffice. Give a brief description of the assignment, project, capstone experience, etc., that directly measures student learning for each of the three to five courses or requirements you have chosen

    3. Indicate how a sampling of students’ work is evaluated. A team of alumni, senior faculty, may do evaluation or another method that is as unbiased as possible. Include the semester and year that the samples were evaluated. Describe the findings from each evaluation. Finally, describe how the findings from the assessment plan have been discussed within the department and the resulting changes that have been made in the program (student learning outcomes, curriculum, pedagogical changes, etc.)

    4. External reviewers should be invited to a class (when reviewing an academic program) and should meet with students to elicit their feedback

    5. Describe how the Department is integrating information literacy into its courses

  9. Stakeholder Satisfaction and Program Climate

    1. Stakeholders include students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners. Gather information on stakeholder satisfaction; quality of the scholarly community; teaching; academic advisement; and diversity of faculty and students as it defines community– activities related to promoting diversity among students and faculty. This information can be gathered via meetings and forums, surveys or questionnaires

  10. Community Outreach and Partnership

    1. Describe any community outreach activities that the faculty and the department engage in and how they contribute to the department and college mission. Describe any partnerships with organizations and the benefits realized by the college and the organization

  11. Facilities

    1. Description of number, type, and size of dedicated facilities and assigned facilities including: classrooms, computer labs, studios, and offices. Describe any inadequacies and needs

  12. Budget

    1. Payroll and Operational Budget sheet annual summaries. Instructional and general expense budget; portion of budget used for undergraduate and for graduate programs(s). Identify any amount of external funding (externally funded research, gifts, contracts, special programs). Describe any major changes, shifts, trends in budget over last five years, and the impact of those changes

  13. Department/Unit Policies and Practices

    1. Department policies and procedures: admission policies, attendance policy, grading policy or practices, academic standards, teaching evaluations and evaluation practices, department handbooks, student handbooks, etc

  14. Strategic Plan

    1. Include the current departments strategic plan (reviewed and updated each January) and provide information on the status of the goals outlined in the plan. How does the department/unit’s strategic plan align with the College’s five strategic visions?

  15. Appendices (provided by the department/unit)

    1. Include enrollment charts, faculty history data sheets, faculty and staff member curriculum vitae (abbreviated form, 3-5 pages maximum each) representative course syllabi, department policies (including promotion and tenure standards), student handbooks, department promotional materials, surveys, past program review recommendations and department

External Evaluators Report

  • Following the site visit, the External Evaluators should consult with each other to discuss and formulate their final report and recommendations. There will be time during the site visit to meet and begin formulating the final report and to discuss initial findings with the Dean or Director, the Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs and the Provost
  • The team should submit to the Provost, Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs, and Dean or Staff Director a draft program review for commentary, fact checking and clarification. The draft report is usually due 14 to 21 days after the site visit. The final report, incorporating facts and feedback, is usually due 30-60 days after the site visit
  • The External Evaluators should select a site team coordinator whose responsibility will be to compile the member’s contributions into the report. The coordinator will be responsible for submitting the final report by the deadline
  • Both the draft report and the final report should be submitted to the Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs electronically as a Word document so it can be formatted into the program review document
  • The External Evaluators should address the following issues in their final report:
    • Program/Unit Strengths
    • Program/Unit Concerns and Persistent Challenges
    • Recommendations for Improvement
      • Please describe recommendations for program improvement. If possible, please prioritize your recommendations and include a brief rationalization for your recommendations