Academic, Faculty, and Global Programs

Guidelines for Academic Program Review &
Regent Policy ACIS-1.0 revised July 2006

July 2006

Guidelines, revised July 2006 (pdf)
Note:  The pdf version is formatted nicely for downloading and printing. It includes all of the attachments, but you'll want to download the modifiable Word or Excel versions below for the sample formats and/or worksheets.

ACIS-1.0, revised April 2010 (pdf)
Regent Policy ACIS-1.0 revised April 2010, Academic Planning and Program Review.  For reference.  Text not included in the Guidelines.


Program Review: A Collaborative Relationship
Flow Chart of Entitlement to Plan and Authorization to Implement
Flow Chart of Implementation and Joint Review Process
The Process for Academic Program Review
Joint Review
Key Issues to Address
Relation to Institutional and System Mission
Market Research
Outside Reviews

  1. Academic Program Reporting Overview
  2. Format and Necessary Information: Authorization to Implement (doc)
  3. Budget Format: Authorization to Implement (doc) or (xls)
  4. Executive Summary Format (doc)
  5. Materials to be Submitted to the Associate Vice President for Academic, Faculty, and Global Programs
  6. Making a New Program Presentation
  7. Model Format: Self-Study for Joint Review (doc)
  8. Model Budget Format: Joint Review (doc)



These guidelines are designed to assist the Provost, Dean, Department Chair and others involved in academic program planning and approval. The Board of Regents’ policy governing academic program planning and review is contained in ACIS-1.0, revised June 2006, Academic Planning and Program Review. These guidelines outline the process for requesting and implementing new academic programs and the key issues to consider when proposing new programs. Sample documents and formats that specify the information requested by the Office of Academic and Student Services during the program review process are also provided.

The process of development, review and approval for a new academic degree program is designed to be a collaborative effort between the requesting institution(s) and the UW System Office of Academic, Faculty, and Global Programs. See pages 2 & 3 for flow charts of the program review process. At any point during the process, the Provost is encouraged to contact the Associate Vice President for Academic, Faculty and Global Programs to discuss questions concerning specific programs, general program review issues, or ideas for new initiatives.

The most successful collaborations result when a senior administrator or academic planner is involved at an early stage in the process of academic program review. The role of the academic planner is to provide the institutional representatives with information and assistance regarding the planning process, to facilitate communication between the institution and the Office of Academic, Faculty and Global Programs, to serve as a member of the Program Review Committee, and to ensure that institutions are informed regarding the Board of Regents’ priorities. The institution may request the participation of the academic planner in the Joint Review process.

Some actions regarding academic programs require approval by both the Board of Regents and UW System, some require only approval by UW System, and some require only that UW System be informed of an institutional action. To determine the appropriate process, refer to Attachment #1.


Flow Chart of Entitlement to Plan and Authorization to Implement (pdf)


Flow Chart of Implementation and Joint Review Process (pdf)


Board of Regents’ policy calls for joint planning of new degree programs, with formal Board approval at stipulated decision points, to ensure such planning meets the policies and principles contained in ACIS-1.0, Academic Planning and Program Review. The Program Planning and Review Process involves four major phases:

  • Request for Entitlement to Plan an Academic Program (Entitlement)
  • Authorization to Implement a New Program (Authorization)
  • Implementation of a New Academic Program (Implementation)
  • Joint Program Review (Joint Review)

The following four sections list the major steps in each phase of Program Review:

1.  Entitlement
  1. The institution determines the feasibility of developing and requesting a new degree program. Informal consultation with other UW institutions and UW System is strongly encouraged.
  2. The Provost sends a memo to the UW System Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services requesting an Entitlement to Plan a new degree program. While extensive documentation is not necessary, the request from the Provost should address the following key questions:
    1. What is the need for the program? Include any available data on student demand and market demand for graduates.
    2. Identify the learning outcomes or provide a brief overview of the curriculum for this program.
    3. How does this new degree program relate to the institutional mission, strategic plan, goals and objectives?
    4. How does this new degree program relate to other academic programs in the UW System, the region and, if appropriate, the nation? Demonstrate awareness of how this program is similar or different from other majors and also sub-majors/emphases systemwide.
    5. If this program will be supported by unusual resources, provide description.
  3. As part of a preliminary review, the UW System Associate Vice President for Academic & Student Services may consult with institutions to determine how the proposed program fits into the systemwide program array.
  4. The Associate Vice President for Academic & Student Services circulates the request for entitlement to the Provosts of all institutions for comment. The purpose of this review is to ensure that all institutions know about the request and consider the potential for collaboration. Institutions typically are asked to respond within 30 days.
  5. The institutions’ comments are forwarded to the Provost/Vice Chancellor of the requesting institution and are shared with the Provost/Vice Chancellors of all the other institutions. If necessary, the UW System Office of Academic and Student Services consults with institutions to determine how the proposed program fits into systemwide program array and whether revisions need to be made to the proposal.
  6. The UW System Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services makes a decision on the request for Entitlement to Plan. S/he may consult with the Provost prior to making that decision.
    1. The decision may be to a) approve the request for Entitlement to Plan, b) return the proposal to the institution for additional work, or c) deny the request.
    2. If the UW System Office of Academic and Student Services and the requesting institution are unable to reach an agreement on the disposition of the request for Entitlement to Plan, the request can be forwarded to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs for resolution.
  7. Approved entitlements expire after five years if the institution takes no further action to implement the program.
2.  Authorization
  1. A three-person Program Review Committee is appointed. The committee consists of at least two representatives of the institution (one of whom represents the Provost) and a representative of the UW System Office of Academic and Student Services. The Provost appoints the institutional representatives, and the Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services appoints the system representative. The Provost’s representative typically convenes the Committee.
  2. The institution develops a proposal for Authorization to Implement the entitled program. The specific information that should be included in the program proposal is detailed in Attachment #2.
  3. The following reviews must occur in the process of developing the proposal. The sequence of these reviews is left to the institution, though the following order has been helpful in many instances.
    1. Review of the program by at least two reviewers from outside the proposing institution(s).
    2. Review of the proposal by the Program Review Committee.
    3. Review of the program by the appropriate institutional governance bodies.
  4. When the above reviews are completed, the Program Review Committee makes an informal recommendation to the Provost.
  5. If the Committee recommends proceeding and the Provost agrees, they prepare a draft Executive Summary which is finalized by the academic planner. Attachment #4 provides a template for the Executive Summary.
  6. The Provost submits the complete and final proposal for Authorization to Implement and the Executive Summary to the UW System Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services. Attachment #5 is a checklist of the required items.
  7. The Provost presents the Executive Summary to the Board of Regents Education Committee. Guidelines on making the presentation to the Education Committee are appended as Attachment #6. The Education Committee considers the proposal and, unless there is a request by a member of the Education Committee for a second reading, makes a recommendation for action by the Board of Regents. The Board acts on the proposal for Authorization to Implement the program.
3.  Implementation
  1. The institution is responsible for implementation. If the institution does not implement an authorized program within five years of the date of the Board of Regents approval, the Authorization to Implement expires.
  2. The Provost notifies the Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Services in writing when the program is actually implemented.
4.  Joint Review
  1. The institution and UW System Administration undertake a Joint Review approximately five years after implementation of the program. The institution will schedule the review to coincide with the first institutional review. The institution will provide the anticipated date of the joint review with the notification of implementation. Prior to the review, the UW System Office of Academic and Student Services will provide a copy of the original Executive Summary.
  2. The general purposes of the joint review are:
    1. Determine whether the goals and objectives, as originally stated in the program proposal, were met. If the goals and objectives were not met, determine the reasons why.
    2. Ascertain how the program is related to other programs offered by the institution and how important it is to the institution’s program array.
    3. Assess the level of quality the program has attained since its implementation.
    4. Determine the resource implications of continuing this program.
  3. The review of the program will follow the institution’s guidelines for self-study, external evaluation and review by appropriate governance bodies. The inclusion of an academic planner from AFP on the Joint Review Committee is recommended, so that the committee may benefit from a systemwide perspective prior to submitting final documents for approval to the Associate Vice President, Academic and Faculty Programs.
  4. The Joint Review Committee forwards its findings and recommendations to the Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Following review, the Provost/Vice Chancellor then makes a recommendation to the Associate Vice President, Academic and Student Services on the continuation, modification or discontinuation of the program, forwarding the internal reports and accompanying documents with his/her recommendation.
  5. The Associate Vice President, Academic and Student Services reviews all documents and contacts the Provost/Vice Chancellor to discuss any questions that arise. Following this review, the Associate Vice President, Academic and Student Services notifies the institution of his/her decision regarding the program.
  6. If the decision is to continue the program, the final step in the development of a new academic program will be considered to have been completed and that program will enter the normal institutional review cycle.

Regent Policy ACIS-1.0 establishes that UW System “is responsible for planning and oversight of the systemwide program array.” The policy delineates clear principles for considering new program proposals. These principles include:

  • Using resources effectively and efficiently to develop and maintain high quality academic programs.
  • Providing the highest quality, most cost-effective university system possible for the citizens of Wisconsin.
  • Ensuring that academic programs are consistent with the institutional and UW System missions.
  • Reducing unnecessary program duplication.
  • Maintaining excellent undergraduate basic arts, humanities, and science programs at each institution.

In line with these principles, institutions should demonstrate that their program is consistent with the following priorities:

1.  Relation to Institutional and System Mission

A strong proposal will make the case that the new program is congruent with and furthers the strategic plan and mission of the institution.

A strong proposal will identify what similar majors, or sub-majors/emphases/certificates already exist within the UW System and explain why the proposed program is different, not duplicative, and how it ‘adds value’ to the systemwide program array. (This issue connects closely to “market research,” see below.)

2.  Market Research

The Regents have asked that all new program proposals now include market research data. They suggest that the following questions may be of assistance providing market research information.

  1. To understand the competitive environment:
  • Are there similar degree programs that exist nationally or statewide?
  • What are some key program features of the competitive programs? For example, delivery method, course scheduling and tuition.
  • How many students currently graduate from competitive programs statewide or nationally? What is the five-year trend?
  • To understand the job/labor force environment:
    • What is the state of the current labor force regionally, statewide or nationally? In other words, how many people are currently employed in positions for which graduates of the proposed degree program would be eligible? Is there a shortage or surplus of qualified individuals?
    • What are the labor force or job market projections for the relevant labor force occupation?
  • To understand the demand:
    • What is the educational need of key stakeholders (e.g., employers in the area, or working adults who do not have a Bachelor’s degree, etc.)? Is it possible to quantify the need?
    • Profile the respondents that are most likely to enroll in your program. Who are they? Where do they live? What content areas are they most interested in? What scheduling options are most appealing?
    3.  Collaboration

    A strong proposal will demonstrate that institutional leaders have worked with their colleagues to consider options for inter-institutional collaboration. This may be a challenging prospect; however, the regents will be seeking evidence that faculty from the proposing institution have spoken with faculty at other UW System institutions to think creatively on the issue of program collaboration. For example, collaboration might occur through the exchange of students; or of administrative or instructional staff; or through shared access to specialized facilities such as laboratories, technical equipment or library resources or shared courses. A program might consider the possibilities of distance education as an avenue for students to take advantage of programs occurring at other institutions, or as a means for distant faculty to confer, plan and implement courses in a collaborative program.

    4.  Diversity

    The Board of Regents has made the presence of diverse faculty, staff, and perspective a high priority for UW System institutions. The BOR defines diversity broadly to encompass race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, socioeconomic status and age. Strong proposals will show evidence that questions such as the following have been considered during the process of program development:

    1. What methods will be used to attract students from diverse backgrounds into the program?
    2. What support systems will be available to ensure the success of diverse students?
    3. How will diverse faculty and academic staff be attracted to the program?
    4. How will diverse faculty and academic staff be supported and retained?
    5. How will knowledge about diverse perspectives be infused into the curriculum? How will the faculty ensure that contributions of diverse practitioner in this discipline are included in course content?
    6. How will the faculty ensure that all students are prepared to work in a diverse workplace?
    5.  Budget

    The budget documents should make clear both current and new costs associated with the program, as well as current and additional resources. You can obtain assistance in developing the budget narrative and form by contacting your institution’s budget officer or the academic planner assigned to the program.

    1. Explain the budgetary situation in narrative form, as well as by completing the budget form appended as Attachment #3 (doc) or (xls).
    2. Assume that no new general purpose revenue funds will be available.
    3. Use the budget form and narrative to indicate how program costs will be covered.
    4. Include both current costs and estimated new costs. Reflect items mentioned in the program plan narrative (e.g., library expenses, technology improvements, additional staffing, space needs) as either current or additional costs.
    5. Document current costs even if the program involves no new costs. For example, if a faculty member is teaching 50% in existing courses and will continue to teach these courses if the major is approved, then 50% of the faculty member’s salary should be included in the budget under current costs.
    6. Identify the source of all resources you will be using to support the program. If resources are from reallocation, explain the source of the reallocated resources.
    7. Costs and resources should balance.
    8. Be realistic in the budget information. If the new program is approved, underestimated costs or overestimated resources will undoubtedly come up as concerns in the five-year joint review process.
    6.  Outside Reviews

    The most credible outside reviews will be from reviewers who are respected in the field and do not have ties to the proposed program.

    The role of the reviewers is not to express their support or their lack of support for a program. They should comment on the strengths and challenges of the program in terms of student need and market, curriculum, pedagogy, administration, resource base and alignment with the disciplinary field. A program is often viewed more favorably when the planners have made significant improvements or modifications to the program plan in response to outside reviewer comments. Consult the Provost/Vice Chancellor concerning letters of request for external review.