An introduction to the Program Review process (July 10)

As a follow-up to the President’s July 3 letter setting out the broad outline of the Program Review, this document describes in more detail how that process will unfold, and informs members of the Brock community what their role in the review process will be.

The Program Review will be conducted by the President’s Task Force, supported by members of a Working Group. Both groups have already begun their work.  

The purpose of the Program Review is to examine every program in the University — academic and non-academic — in light of how that program fits the current priorities of Brock University. Every organization accumulates activities that were key to the organization’s function when they were established. However, over time priorities change. Periodically, every organization needs to review all of its activities to ensure that they are still central to its current mission. That is the role of this Program Review.

This review will be different from the more familiar seven-year academic reviews of programs, or comparable reviews done in administrative units. Those reviews employ outside expertise to determine how Brock’s “Department of X” is functioning compared to similar units in other universities. 

In the case of this Program Review, its purpose is to determine how each of Brock’s units contributes to the current priorities of the University.

The University’s senior administration will be ultimately responsible for determining how to proceed with the results of the Program Review. There will be a variety of recommendations. Likely some will be sent to the Board and/or Senate, and some can be acted upon by the senior administration, or even by individual organizational units.

The formal Program Review process begins by determining the University’s overall program structure. This use of the word “program” in this way is new at Brock, but this usage of the term has a long history in many other organizations. A complete definition of “program” along with some illustrations are provided below, but the basic idea of a program is that it is a grouping of resources that serves a specific target audience, and has a specific set of outputs and outcomes. 

A program is the basic building block of the entire review process. Every activity that draws on University resources or employs the Brock name is part of a program, and every organizational unit across the University is expected to define its own program structure.

By mid-September, each department will be required to complete a short Program Identification Form for each program it operates (the forms will be available by mid-August). In late summer the Task Force will hold campus information sessions to discuss identifying programs and completing the forms. After the completed forms are submitted, the Task Force will review each unit’s proposed program structure to ensure consistency across departments.

Once the program structure has been determined across the entire University, the next step is to prepare a Program Assessment Form for each program. This will be the key document in the Program Review process; it will contain a list of criteria that will be used by the Task Force to review each program. The exact content of this form is not known yet; the Task Force is still working to establish the criteria that will be used for assessment.

The Task Force is mindful of the workload associated with this process, so every effort is being made to minimize the work required of program staff. For instance, much of the data needed for the Program Assessment Form can be provided by Institutional Analysis and Planning, the Registrar’s Office and other administrative units. Program staff will be required to draw on this information to answer some questions about the program.

At this point, departments can begin to think about how to define their program structure. The Program Identification Form will be available in mid-August.

The Task Force will continue to keep the Brock community informed about the progress of the Program Review. Please monitor this website for updates. 

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Defining “program”A program employs a particular grouping of resources (people, dollars, equipment, supplies etc) to provide a product or service that (1) is directed at a specific target audience and (2) has a particular set of closely-related goals, outputs and outcomes associated with it. All activities that employ University resources or are undertaken in the name of Brock must be a part of some program.

Departments will be responsible for identifying their programs. For the purpose of this review, a department is considered to be an academic department or centre. For administrative units, a department is a major organizational unit, regardless of the actual title of the unit. Thus divisions, offices and so forth would all be considered departments. Senior managers must ensure that all departments are included in this exercise.

The Task Force will ultimately determine what constitutes a program, but will be pleased to assist departments in the process of determining program structure. These examples help identify programs:For academic units, a department or centre will usually not be a program. Most departments will offer several programs. Each degree or certificate (BA Pass, BSc Honours, MA, MSc, PhD) is a separate program. Departments could also have programs for administration (administrative assistant and other support staff) and courses offered for non-majors.Concentrations within a degree will constitute separate programs if the patterns of courses of the concentrations differ substantially from one another. Non-credit activities would also be considered programs. Programs can span more than one department. For example, a degree offered jointly by several departments would constitute one program.Faculties (Dean’s offices) will also have programs related to administration of the Dean’s office, research centres and possibly common services (i.e. machine shop, or central stores).

In administrative units, a program will normally be defined by its audience and its specific activities and goals. For example, the audience of most programs in the Registrar’s Office is all students of the university. Within that broad universe, the Office engages in several activities with different goals — maintaining student records, academic advising, room scheduling, convocation, and so forth.

Most of the activities of Facilities Management are directed at everyone who works on and visits the campus — also a very broad universe. But some of its activities with distinct goals and outputs might be turf maintenance, winter control, building cleaning and so forth.


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