At University of Waterloo, the fundamental purposes of the cyclical program review process are to help:
- Each program to achieve and maintain the highest possible standards of academic excellence, through systematically reflecting on its strengths and weaknesses, and looking forward to determine what actions would further enhance quality in the program;
Assess the quality of the program relative to counterpart programs in Ontario, Canada and internationally, and
Meet public accountability expectations through a credible, transparent, and action-oriented review process.
Schedule of Cyclical Reviews
The Cyclical Program Review Schedule for graduate and undergraduate academic program reviews is based on a seven-year cycle. Programs will be notified of an upcoming review by the Quality Assurance (QA) Office. An orientation presentation, followed by a series of workshops, is held in the spring of each year to review the processes and timelines for upcoming cyclical program reviews.
The University of Waterloo encourages units to undertake combined undergraduate and graduate reviews (i.e., augmented reviews) where possible. Augmented reviews can be more efficient and also have academic merit, since there are frequently interactions between the undergraduate and graduate programs. Academic programs that are not currently reviewed together, but would like to propose an augmented review, should indicate their intention to the Quality Assurance Office as soon as possible.
Each self-study includes three volumes (Volume I: Self-Study, Volume II: Faculty CVs, Volume III: External Reviewers) following the cyclical review templates. Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP) will supply data for the academic program reviews for most of the undergraduate, graduate and augmented tables. The QA Office and IAP will provide templates with guiding questions for each section – these will be pre-populated with data for the program(s) under review. The self-study will cover the last seven fiscal years, with emphasis on the last several years.
Effective self-studies are meant to be reflective, analytical, self-critical and evaluative. The self-study should be guided by consultation with students, alumni, faculty, staff, employers, etc. A major component of the self-study is the examination of strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities for improvement. This gives you a chance to imagine the future directions of the program and to ask the external reviewers for assistance in particular areas.
The self-study will include learning outcomes mapped to the Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLEs) or Graduate Degree Level Expectations (GDLEs). The Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has a number of resources, including templates and examples available on their website. Contact Veronica Brown, in CTE for further information.
A copy of the draft Self-Study Report is due to be submitted electronically (as a Word document) to the Quality Assurance Office by April 1st. The QA Office will read the report and respond to the program with comments and suggestions.
Final versions of the Self-Study Report (Volume I), Faculty CVs (Volume II) and Proposed Reviewers (Volume III) (see templates) are due to be submitted electronically (as a Word document) to the QA Office by July 1st.
Site Visit and External Reviewers' Report
The QA Office will oversee the co-ordination of a two-day site visit by two external reviewers. The external reviewers are selected by the AVPA or AVPGSPA from those suggested by the program in Volume III (see criteria for choosing arm’s length reviewers).
The reviewers will be accompanied by an internal support person, also selected by the AVPA and/or AVPGSPA. This individual does not have to be a specialist in the field of the program review, but should be arm's length from the program in question. As a result, this individual will come from outside the Faculty of the program being reviewed.
The external reviewers will read the self-study in depth in their preparation for their visit. During the site visit, the reviewers will meet with many different individuals associated with the program, including the Dean, Chair/Director of the home unit, current faculty and instructors, staff, students, alumni, a librarian, and many more. They also have the opportunity to tour program-related facilities.
The external reviewers will write a report, which addresses the criteria in the External Reviewers' Report (see templates) and is to be submitted to the Quality Assurance Office two weeks after the site visit. The Quality Assurance Office will then forward the External Reviewers' Report to the Department/School for comments on any factual errors. The Department/School has four weeks to respond with any factual corrections, and if no comments are received within that time period, it will be concluded that the report requires no correction.
Program Response and Implementation Plan
The Chair/Director has 10 weeks to review the External Reviewers' Report, write a response to each of the reviewers' recommendations and draft a plan for implementation of the recommendations.
Once the QA Office receives the Program Response and Implementation Plan, the documents are shared with the relevant Faculty Dean(s) and, if applicable, AFIW Dean. The Dean(s) is provided with a template to complete the Dean's Reponse, in which the Dean addresses plans and recommendations the program proposed in their Self-Study, the recommendations put forward by external reviewers, and the program's response to the external reviewers' recommendations.
The Program Response and Dean's Response should clearly identify:
What actions will follow from specific recommendations
Any changes in organization, policy or governance that would be necessary to follow the recommendations
Who will be responsible for providing resources
- A proposed timeline and responsibility for oversight and implementation of the recommendations
Priorities for implementation and timelines for initiating and monitoring actions
Final Assessment Report
The Quality Assurance Office prepares a Final Assessment Report (FAR) and provides it to the Department/School for review and comment. The Final Assessment Report outlines:
The nature of the review process,
The significant strengths and weaknesses of the program as described by the program,
The conclusions and recommendations from the reviewers' report, and
The Program Response and Dean's Response.
Once the FAR has been approved by the AVPA and/or AVPGSPA, it will be submitted to Senate Undergraduate Council (SUC) or Senate Graduate and Research Council (SGRC) for approval. Subsequently, it will be submitted to Senate for information.
All Final Assessment Reports are posted publicly on the Quality Assurance Website and are reported annually to the Quality Council.
Two-Year Progress Report
The Chair/Director is responsible for a Two-Year Progress Report (see templates) which is due to the QA Office two years after the date of the site visit. This report summarizes the steps taken to implement the recommendations of the external reviewers. The report will be completed using a template and should accomplish the following:
Clearly describe progress achieved on the various action items in the original implementation plan, and discernible impacts, if any.
Propose an amended implementation schedule for items that are behind schedule. There should be a clear indication of when specific actions will occur, who will be responsible for oversight or implementation, and, if there are resource implications, where those resources will come from.
Explain any circumstances that have altered the original implementation plan.
If certain recommendations or planned actions are no longer considered appropriate, indicate why.
Address any significant developments or initiatives that have arisen since the program review process, or that were not contemplated during the program review process.
Report on anything else you believe is appropriate to bring to Senate concerning this program.
Two-Year Progress Reports are submitted to Quality Assurance (QA) Office. The QA Office will closely examine these reports as will the AVPA and/or AVPGSPA.
The QA Office will take the report to Senate Undergraduate Council (SUC) or Senate Graduate and Research Council (SGRC) for approval and then Senate for information.