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022311Feature_ProgramReviewEvery academic program on campus will be subject to review in the coming months.

“The purpose of this review is to position UNCG to be as strong academically as possible while maintaining a sound and balanced educational program that is consistent with its mission, strategic plan and its functions and responsibilities as an institution of higher education – and to help us prepare for anticipated further budget reductions,” Provost David H. Perrin said. He provided introductory remarks at last week’s Faculty Forum on program review.

The forum offered an opportunity for the campus community to learn more, ask questions and provide feedback and suggestions. (Feedback was also solicited through the Academic Review web site, through Feb. 21.) In the first hour of the forum, nearly all seats were filled and the back of the Virginia Dare Room was two-deep and in some places three deep with people standing.

Perrin referred to an excerpt from Robert Dickeson’s “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance.” “The inescapable truth is that not all programs are equal. Some are more efficient. Some are more effective. Some are more central to the mission of the institution. And yet insufficient effort has gone into forthrightly addressing and acting on the efficiency, effectiveness and essentiality of academic programs.”

Perrin appointed a committee late last year, chaired by Dr. Rebecca Adams, to develop a process and the criteria for reviewing the academic programs. The drafts of their work, to that point, were on the web site and were referenced throughout the forum.

The university, as far as he was aware, had never done a university-wide program-by-program review, he noted in his introductory remarks, after Faculty Senate Chair John Gamble started the forum.

The timeline is ambitious, he said. The work should be finalized in October, and a timeline was created working back from that date. The review process will officially begin March 1. The first step is reviews on the academic unit level, which will occur during April and May. The goal of these unit reviews will be to sort programs within three groups: highest-performing programs, medium-performing programs and lowest-performing programs. (The provost noted at the forum that the terminology for these three headings had evolved.)

Next, a university-wide committee will make recommendations to the provost for what programs to:

  • Discontinue
  • Curtail
  • Combine with other UNCG programs
  • Recommend for combination with other UNC system programs
  • Continue with budget-neutral interventions to address program quality, functions and demand, or efficiency
  • Continue as is
  • Continue with additional resources to be allocated as available

Voting members of this committee will be appointed by the provost. A faculty member will be chair. The provost’s charge to this committee will include that they act as responsible university citizens, not as representatives of any unit or constituency.

The committee he had assembled to draft this process and criteria, chaired by Rebecca Adams, sat in the first row. Perrin acknowledged their “fantastic work” under a tight schedule and said, “They know what they’ve produced can be improved.”

Dr. Josh Hoffman moderated. A member of the current committee, he is chair-elect of Faculty Senate. More than two dozen faculty members asked questions and made suggestions from the floor.

Hoffman and Adams addressed some of these questions. Perrin did as well.

Adams, in response to a question, noted that the draft calls for a majority of the university-wide committee to be full-time faculty. All members of the committee would be university citizens. The draft calls for no two faculty members being from the same academic unit.

The chancellor rose from her seat alongside faculty more than once to speak about some of the realities our university faces and the importance of this process. “We stand still at the peril of our institution.”

She also spoke of shared governance, and said she thinks it’s critically important for faculty to be a majority of the university-wide committee. Referring to challenges the university faces, “We’re all in the same boat,” she said. “We’re all rowing and bailing furiously.”

There were about two dozen questions or suggestions. Some examples:

Has President Ross’ given a charge – and how will UNCG efforts coordinate with system’s approach? Will there be cross-university mergers of some sort? How much will cost-cutting be a consideration? When would this take effect – specifically, would this prevent current students from graduating? Do criteria in the draft reflect all of the UNCG Strategic Plan, particularly those of a liberal education? There was a concern regarding AOS (area of study) coding within departments. A concern that SAT scores should be considered inputs, not outputs. Is student learning not a factor in rating program quality? Is it fair to compare programs that have entrance requirements to those that take all comers? Will College of Arts & Sciences have fair representation, since it’s larger than other units? What exactly is the definition of the labels – one-third of each unit will be shown as being “low-performing”? The university will create a document that will say one-third of what we offer is “low-performing?”

One faculty member noted the large number of attendees and asked for one or more forums in the coming months.

The provost noted to CW on Friday the excellent suggestions for improving the process that were provided both at the forum and also in email messages afterward.

“The committee will consider each and every suggestion very carefully,” he said. “And I am confident the final process will be much improved as a result of this input from the faculty.”

To receive a message each time new material is posted on the Academic Program Review web page, sign up for the listserv.

To see the materials and information posted on the web page, visit http://opa.uncg.edu/programreview/.

By Mike Harris
Photograph by Mike Harris
Visual: Moments before forum began, John Gamble at the lectern

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