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Guidelines for Departmental Self-Study with External Review 

Self-study with external review at the University of Richmond is intended to provide both internal and independent assessments of each unit’s (department, program or other academic unit)[1] operations, curricular needs, and strategic direction, and to inform short- and long-term planning.  Reviews will commence with a departmental self-study that builds upon and/or updates previous internal reviews. External reviews complement departmental self-assessments by inviting individuals from peer institutions to share their perspectives and to provide advice on the department’s use of resources and future direction. The composition of the external committee will be determined in consultation with the Office of the Provost and the department. The Provost’s Office will provide funding, and the provost and school deans will support departmental efforts to gather information and host reviewers. Each academic unit should have an external review once every ten years.[2]

General Timetable

The timeline for reviews is established by the Office of the Provost in consultation with deans, department chairs and program coordinators, and will be available to relevant planning bodies within each school. A self-study with external review is usually a year-long process. The department will complete its self-study in one semester and the external review committee will visit and complete its report the following semester.  The department will work with their dean to offer a response to the external reviewer’s report.  

The Self-Study Report

The department determines the scope and content of its self-study in consultation with the dean and provost regarding particular areas of emphasis. There is no fixed format for the self-study, however all reviews should address each of the following points:

  • the department’s goals and aspirations for its curricular and co-curricular programs and for its faculty, majors and minors, and staff;
  • the department’s contribution to the general education of UR students, including the department’s relationship to other UR departments and programs;
  • resource considerations, including: student demand for courses and applied learning experiences (e.g.: research, internships, community-based projects, and performances), anticipated enrollment changes, staffing, funding, space and equipment requirements; and
  • efforts through scholarship, pedagogy, and service to align with the values and goals of the University’s strategic plan: student growth, pursuit of knowledge, inclusivity and equity, diversity and educational opportunity, ethical engagement, responsible stewardship, alumni engagement, and academic excellence. (For reference, see

A department may also find it useful to consider the history, design, structure, and intended outcomes of its curriculum. Those preparing the self-study will naturally consult with colleagues in their department, senior and junior, so that the document reflects as broad a discussion and consensus as possible. Departments may also wish to consult current students and UR faculty in departments across the university. 

Data to Support Program Reviews

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IFX) supports departments by providing the data indicated in the document, Metrics for the Department or Program Self Study and External Review. These data elements are designed to provide departments with baseline quantitative information and relevant survey information about their majors and minors, overall enrollments, and alumni outcomes, and to put that data in the context of the school and University.  IFX or the Office of Planning and Policy are available at any time to discuss the data provided. 

Departments and programs may have data requests particular to their program or questions that are not answered by the data provided to all program reviews.  Any such questions should be discussed with IFX in the semester preceding the semester of self-study (May-June for Fall self-studies or no later than November for spring self-studies).  The University regularly collects additional data, including student and alumni feedback, through a variety of regular surveys, and additional information may be able to be provided from existing data sources if enough notice is given.  Given the existing regular cycle of student and alumni surveys, and the very low participation rates that result from over-surveying, IFX and the Provost office will typically work with departments to find sources other than new surveys to gather any additional information that is needed to support the self-study.

The Provost’s Office will share with IFX the list of departments and programs commencing their self-study. That information will be provided in the semester preceding the self-study. This will initiate data collection by IFX.  IFX will aim to have the information complete by the time the department begins its self-study.  When the data is available, the Provost’s Office will share that information with the department via BOX.

The self-study report should include a robust discussion of departmental metrics – for an outline, please see the Appendix: Topics to be Discussed in Department or Program Self Study. The self-study report should also discuss the data provided by IFX, and the financial data provided by the financial partner in the respective schools. The self-study report should include an appendix with, or links to, faculty CVs and course syllabi. If the department would like to curate the raw data provided by IFX such as enrollment, teaching, advising and alumni statistics, that curation could also be included in the appendix.

Self-Study Timeline

The self-study report should be completed and shared with the dean and the provost at the end of the semester preceding the external review. Approximately three weeks prior to the scheduled on-site review, the provost will send to the external reviewers the set of self-study materials described above.

External Reviewers

The Office of the Provost will work with the dean and the department to collaboratively assemble a team of external reviewers, with the final composition determined by the provost.[3] The department will nominate a minimum of four reviewers. Suggested reviewers should not have a personal or close professional relationship with any member of the department. For each suggested reviewer, the department should briefly indicate why the reviewer has been suggested and note any relationship with department members.  Ideally, the list should contain internationally known Teacher-Scholars who have achieved the rank of Full Professor.  The provost will select one to two reviewers from the department list, and through consultation with peer institutions, will identify one or two additional reviewers.[4] The provost will seek the input of the department before making final selections. Review teams will typically consist of 2 external experts, and review itineraries will typically take place over 2 days. External reviewers will be provided honoraria for their time and effort.

The On-Site Visit

The provost’s office will work with the department to create a detailed schedule for the on-site review which typically extends over two full days. The Office of the Provost will provide logistical and financial support for the external review committee.

  • The external review team will first meet with the provost’s office, dean’s office and department chair or program coordinator.
  • During the course of the visit, the external reviewers will meet individually and in small group settings with the department’s faculty, staff and students.

Final Report Distribution and Department Response

The external review team provides a report to the provost and dean summarizing the strengths and challenges of the department and its recommendations for future departmental improvements.  The external review team’s report is normally due to the provost within a month following the on-site review.  The API shares the report with the provost and dean; and, after consultation, the dean shares the report with the department chair for departmental discussion. The department will formulate a response and work with the dean to fashion a future action plan. The report will be shared with the department for departmental discussion. The department will work with the dean to fashion a response and future action plan. This response will be submitted to the provost within an agreed timeframe following receipt of the external reviewer’s report. Both the final report and the department response are then distributed by the provost and the dean, to relevant university leaders, and planning bodies within each school.



[1] The term “department” will be used to indicate an academic department, program, or other academic support unit.[2] For some units and schools, external reviews are occurring regularly through normal accrediting body processes in that area. [3] The review team is typically comprised of two members, dependent on the size and complexity of the department. [4] Nominations should include a brief rationale and disclose any professional or personal relationship.