Academic Reviews of Graduate Programs
Graduate program reviews normally have at least the following common elements:
- the collection of data on the graduate program
- written departmental self-assessment
- written assessment by reviewers from Indiana University, but from outside the department
- and reviewers from the same intellectual discipline, but from outside Indiana University
The academic reviews of the graduate programs of the University Graduate School normally take place during the regular general program reviews of departments. The primary advantage of this approach is that it allows the review to occur within the context of the consideration of other important activities conducted by the department, such as undergraduate instruction and research. It also provides regularity in graduate program reviews, in that the reviews follow the schedule of regular departmental reviews, whether dictated by national accreditation organizations or university, campus, and school policies, and it allows efficiencies in the efforts required of the members of the department. Finally, it provides relevant information on the graduate program at a time when key decisions will be made about the department by faculty members and the school dean.
To facilitate the development of reliable data on graduate programs, the University Graduate School is in the process of developing a Graduate Program Data Bank. When complete the data bank will contain a separate file for each of the 88 graduate programs from the statewide IU system offering degrees through the University Graduate School. Each of these files will have annual data, beginning with the 1991-92 year, for over 100 variables of relevance for the review of graduate programs. Among those variables will be undergraduate GPA averages and GRE scores for graduate students, time to degree for students receiving the Ph.D., percentages of female, minority, and international students, schools where recipients of Ph.D.s are placed, and national rankings. A printout of the file for a graduate program being reviewed will be provided by the staff of the University Graduate School. Under appropriate conditions, and with the approval of the dean of the school, specialized reports comparing the program with similar IU graduate programs also will be developed.
To facilitate the academic reviews of graduate programs, two different sets of questions have been developed:
Neither list is exhaustive, rather they reflect those aspects of graduate programs which the Graduate Council of the University Graduate School considers of special importance in assessing the excellence of graduate programs. These lists indicate the kinds of questions and the kinds of concerns the Graduate Council expects to be generally relevant for graduate program reviews. (The questions were developed by the Evaluation and Planning Committee of the Graduate Council and discussed and approved by the Graduate Council on April 19, 1993.) Specific reviews require specialized consideration, and it may be that in some reviews some questions, or even areas of questions, will become more or less significant.
Questions for Departmental Self-Assessment
Recruitment. Describe your recruiting and admission procedures: the criteria you use for admissions, the procedures you follow, the percentage admitted, and the percentage finally matriculating. What schools do you compete with in recruiting students? How much financial aid do you have available to use for recruiting new students (as opposed to supporting students already on campus)? What could be done to improve your recruitment?
Curriculum. What new specialties have developed in your field during the past few years? How has your department responded to these developments? What new interdisciplinary programs has the department participated in? What are the assumptions that underlie your curriculum for the master's and doctoral degrees? How sequentially is your curriculum structured? What is the relationship between your undergraduate program and your graduate program? How much overlap in courses is there? What percentage of the graduate courses listed in the University Graduate School Bulletin do you offer each year? How could your graduate curriculum be improved?
Advising and Mentoring. How are graduate students advised in your department? What opportunities are there for mentoring? Does every student have an assigned advisory committee or mentor? What attempts are made to monitor and evaluate each student's progress? Is there any system for the selection of dissertation directors and committees? What opportunities are there for students and faculty to meet (formally or informally) to discuss their research? How could your advising system be improved?
AI Training. Describe your AI training program, including any materials that are used for this purpose. How is the teaching performance of your AI's evaluated? To what extent do AI's have full responsibility for courses or sections of courses? How could your department be more effective in training, evaluating, and utilizing AI's?
Placement. How are students advised for placement? What percentage of your students find the kind of employment they would prefer shortly after graduation? How typical of your field is your placement record? Please list your graduates for the past two years by position, title, and employing institution. How could your placement be improved?
Resources. Please identify the resources you have available for supporting students from institutional, governmental, and private sources. What steps have been taken to generate support?
Quality Assessment. How do you measure the quality of your program (statistical profiles of incoming students? national rankings?)? What awards and distinctions (including various kinds of fellowships, grants, etc.) have been won by your students in the past three years? What research and creative activity have they engaged in, including such things as presentations at professional meetings and articles published? Have dissertations of recent graduates (say during the past five years) been published, either entirely or in part?
Planning. Do you have a long-range planning document? How would you improve your department if additional resources were available? If they were not? Describe the development strategy which guides your fund raising efforts.
Questions for External Reviewers
Assessment of Quality. The key criterion for the evaluation of graduate programs should be excellence, though, of course, it is recognized the different missions of the department, such as research and undergraduate teaching, may create differing concepts of excellence. What is your overall assessment of the graduate program? What are its strengths? What is distinctive about the program? What makes it special? What are its weaknesses? How does the graduate program compare with the leading programs in the country?
Assessment of Potential. A major concern is whether a program is living-up to its potential. How good can the graduate program be? What are the major comparative advantages and what are the major constraints that affect the potential of the graduate program? Does the manner in which the graduate program is organized hinder or enhance its future? How should efforts and resources be concentrated on the areas which have the greatest potential for excellence?
Recommendations. Your perspective as an external observer can be invaluable to Indiana University in providing a broad assessment of this program. Your recommendations will be greatly appreciated. What must be done to preserve and enhance the quality of the graduate program? Should substantial changes be made in the graduate program? What future directions should the department follow in order to augment its existing strengths? Given budgetary limitations, what resources must be provided to the graduate program? What specific recommendations regarding the graduate program do you have for the department and its chair? What recommendations do you have for the dean of the college or school? What recommendations do you have for the Dean of the University Graduate School?
Anything Else? Is there anything else you noticed which would be useful for the department chair, school dean, or graduate dean to know? Do you have any other suggestions or recommendations?
- Additional information on graduate program reviews can be found in A Policy Statement: Academic Review of Graduate Programs (Washington, D.C.: Council of Graduate Schools, 1990).
- Procedures for program reviews from the Academic Handbook, approved by the University Faculty Council, April 13, 1993.