The Illinois Board of Higher Education mandates that public universities in the state review their degree programs on an eight-year cycle. As part of the Priorities, Quality, and Productivity (PQP) initiative that it began in 1991, the IBHE issued a state-wide schedule for program review, along with a format for the summary of program review findings that it wishes to receive. The IBHE expects that universities will use its guidelines as a framework within which to examine their academic programs.
The provost's office at Northern Illinois University has developed a program review format that addresses the IBHE's guidelines and focuses on issues that should help departments evaluate their programs and plan for their future. The Office of Institutional Research prepares data reports on enrollments, degrees granted, and various demographic matters to assist departments in carrying out their program reviews. Other units or offices that provide information for departments' use in program review include the University Libraries, the Office of Assessment Services, Career Services, the Office of Sponsored Projects, NIU Outreach, and the University Honors Program.
Departments complete a first draft of the program review by March of the academic year preceding the year of their scheduled review. Department and college representatives meet with the provost's staff during June and July to discuss the first drafts. During the summer, departments revise their program reviews, incorporating new information and responding to questions or recommendations from the summer meetings.
During the fall semester, the Academic Planning Council (APC) reviews the program reviews. Faculty subcommittees meet with the department chair and the college dean to discuss the reviews, and the subcommittees then make recommendations for program improvement and for strengthening the program review to the full APC. Department and college representatives attend the APC meeting to answer questions and provide additional information about the program. Following the APC review, the Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Development, who coordinates the program review process, works with the department, college, and the APC subcommittee to arrive at a final version of the program review and a set of recommendations for the future of the program.
Program review findings are reported to the Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Personnel Committee of the Board of Trustees at its November meeting each year. Any program actions taken as a result of program review are approved by the Board of Trustees in December. Summaries of program review findings and related program actions are forwarded to the IBHE in August of each year.
In 2013, changes were recommended and approved to refine the program review process. The implementation of these changes is ongoing.