November 17, 1993

Dr. G. Jack Allen

Associate Executive Director

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

1866 Southern Lane

Decatur, Georgia 30033

Dear Dr. Allen:

Thank you for your letter of October 11. In accordance with the procedures you have outlined, I am sending you our proposal for the alternative self-study.

The first part of the proposal outlines our present institutional procedures for meeting the threshold conditions listed on page three of the ūGuidelines", together with some thoughts on possible approaches for documenting compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. The second part of the proposal outlines our proposed strategic self-study focus and process.

I am pleased that the University of Virginia has been invited to submit a proposal for the pilot program. Should you have questions or wish for a fuller statement of our plan, please do not hesitate to call or write.


John T. Casteen, III





Submitted by

The University of Virginia

November 17, 1993

Part I.

Institutional Effectiveness Program

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia's program for ensuring institutional effectiveness includes a statement of institutional purpose, a list of goals and strategies for each school and administrative unit, a set of procedures for evaluating the extent to which goals are being achieved, and a system for the use of the results of these evaluations to improve institutional programs, services, and operations. Details on each of these four components are provided below.

1. Statement of Purpose

The University's formal statement of institutional purpose was adopted by the Board of Visitors in May, 1985. It was written by a committee that was appointed as part of the self study and chaired by a distinguished faculty member. The committee followed a process that included participation by all aspects of the University community.

2. Goals and Strategies

In fall, 1990 the University began the process of having all schools and administrative units prepare statements of goals and strategies consistent with the institution's purpose. Members of the entire University community, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Board members, were involved in writing and discussing the goals and strategies over a two year period. The final product, known as the Plan for the Year 2000, was formally approved and adopted by the Board of Visitors in October, 1992. The Plan elaborates upon the Statement of Institutional Purpose by offering a comprehensive view of academic life at the University. In addition, the Plan presents goals and strategies, or means, for achieving the goals that will guide each school and administrative unit into the next century.

In addition to the Plan for the Year 2000, all academic departments and programs formulate specific educational goals consistent both with the institutional Statement of Purpose and with the Plan as part of the University's assessment program . These goals are each academic department and program's definition of its expected educational results. The goals are an integral component of an overall student assessment plan which all departments and programs conduct on a five year schedule. We now are in the fourth year of the first five-year cycle which means that around 80 percent of academic departments and programs have completed a cycle of setting and assessing student achievement of educational goals.

Both the academic schools and administrative units of the University also set specific goals and propose strategies for achieving them as part of the biennial budget process. Budget requests are required to be consistent with the goals and strategies contained in the Plan for the Year 2000. The budget process begins with each school and unit being asked to identify specifically those strategies included in the Plan with which they would like to move forward.

3. Procedures for Assessing Achievement of Goals

The University has established a commitment to assessing the achievement of the goals of all schools and units and specific procedures for evaluating the extent to which educational goals are being achieved.

At present administrative units conduct their own assessment of the extent to which they achieve their goals as part of their annual reports and their biennial budget requests. These self- assessments result in a discussion between the unit head and the appropriate vice president or dean. The evaluations included in the biennial budget requests also are discussed with the appropriate vice president. Plans for future development of the University's institutional effectiveness program include a more formal evaluation process for determining goal achievement within administrative units.

The University assesses the extent to which academic departments and programs are achieving their goals for student achievement primarily though the student assessment program. The University's commitment to assessment of student achievement is a formal part of the Plan for the Year 2000 (see page 30 of the Plan attached). Each department prepares an assessment plan for approval by the dean of the school on a five year rotating schedule following specific written guidelines for assessment that have been established. Assessment procedures used include evaluation of portfolios of student work, structured interviews, standardized testing, student questionnaires, longitudinal surveys of student development, and surveys of alumni. In addition, the assessment guidelines specify that each department should have an external visiting committee at the end of the process to review assessment results and to comment upon assessment findings. The assessment program provides separate funding for the external evaluation component. As stated above, we now are in the fourth year of the first five year assessment cycle. Thus far student assessment has been limited to undergraduate degree programs and continuing education. We plan to expand the program of student assessment into graduate degree programs in the near future.

In addition to the assessment of student learning outcomes described above, the University's Center for Advanced Studies conducts a program of visiting committees for all academic departments and programs, both graduate and undergraduate. Visitors are prominent scholars from other colleges, universities, and institutes who come to the University to review all aspects of academic programs, from faculty credentials to curriculum. These evaluations occur at roughly five-year intervals. The 20-year archive of these reports contains valuable information on academic problems, solutions, and changes for almost all of the University's academic departments and programs.

4. Use of Evaluation Results to Improve Institutional Programs, Services, and Operations

Assessment reports prepared by academic departments and programs include 5-year "action plans" in which each department or program proposes an academic development plan including proposals for solving problems identified by assessment. These action plans are approved in each department after consideration of assessment findings including the reports of the external evaluators. Departments and programs submit these plans to their deans for review and approval. Deans typically request follow-up information and sometimes additional studies. These plans then become the starting points for the next assessment cycle. Results of other assessment efforts, including the longitudinal survey and other studies, also are provided to appropriate departments and units.

The reports generated by the visiting committee evaluation program conducted by the Center for Advanced Studies also are used to make changes when appropriate. These confidential reports on program quality, given orally during an exit interview and then in a formal written report, are reviewed by the affected department chairs, departmental faculty, deans, and other senior administrators, and by the Center's advisory board. The reports are used by academic departments and programs in their program planning activities and by administrators in making both budgetary and personnel decisions.

In our plans for future development we contemplate that as more formal evaluation procedures are put in place to assess achievement of goals in administrative units, results of those evaluations will be used to enhance the effectiveness of these units. Up to this point, however, we have concentrated our assessment efforts in the academic program areas.

Plan for Documenting Compliance with the Criteria

We believe the University is substantially in compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. To document this compliance we propose to conduct an audit, to be completed by August 31, 1994, of all requirements specified by the Criteria. In this audit, to be coordinated by the University's Office of Planning, Assessment, and Studies, we will ask all departments and units to review the Criteria and document in writing compliance or non-compliance with each requirement. For those areas in which we find non-compliance, we will take such steps as may be necessary to bring ourselves into full compliance. We will develop procedures, including the use of committees, to assure that a cross-section of members of the University community, faculty, administrators, and students, are involved in examining whether we comply with the Criteria and what steps should be taken to correct problems, if and wherever found. A full record of the documentation of compliance will be collected and maintained by the Office of Planning, Assessment, and Studies.

We understand that should we be approved for the alternative self-study, there would be two visiting committees: a compliance committee to review the compliance documentation, and a consulting committee to be concerned with the report of the alternative self study. We expect to be prepared to host the compliance visiting committee as early as fall, 1994 if that should be desirable. We understand that the consulting visiting committee is scheduled for spring, 1996. We do see merit in the suggestion that it might be most helpful to have the two visiting committees closer together so that compliance and self study subjects would be connected. In this case, we would suggest that the compliance visiting committee be scheduled for fall or winter, 1995-96, and the consulting committee for spring, 1996.

Part II

Proposed Strategic Self-Study Focus and Process

University of Virginia

I. The Focus

Two intersecting forces in our current situation at the University of Virginia argue for the specific self-study focus we propose to undertake:

l) This university, like most other public research universities in America, confronts a continuing period of state budgetary constraint unparalleled in recent history.

2) As an institution committed to preserving knowledge and expanding its frontiers, we have been responding, and must continue to respond, to an extraordinary growth in the knowledge base.

These two forces, acting simultaneously on the University's culture, have already caused major changes, both in fiscal management and in the contours of the University's academic mission. Yet the changes have, on the whole, been more reactive than proactive. They have come about as ad hoc responses to fiscal crises and intellectual developments, rather than as part of a systematic, holistic strategy for change. Short term or "quick fix" solutions to the current situation are not only inadequate; they are also dangerous. The causes behind the deep changes in the academic culture in the last decade, not only at the University of Virginia, but at other American research universities, must be understood if we are to identify a creative and coherent direction for future change. This direction for change, moreover, must be based on community consensus and a shared understanding of both constraints and opportunities. It must also take full account of national practice and the demands of competition with other institutions. In this regard, it will be important to be in constant contact with the leadership of our peer institutions, both to learn from their experience and to provide standards for benchmarking our own initiatives.

We propose as our alternative self-study focus to undertake a twelve-month long process of internal assessment of all the University's operations, aimed at streamlining and, where necessary, restructuring. The outcome of this study will be a long-range community plan to guide the institution's future development. The plan will not be a simple one. It will have to mirror the va riety and complexity of the University in its several schools, departments, and other units. But it must reflect community agreement sufficient to enable the hard choices about budget, curriculum development, institutional academic goals, and the like, that will have to be made, not once but many times, over the next decade and beyond. And this agreement, we believe, can be reached only by means of a highly focused, intensive dialogue among faculty and administrators. Once achieved, this community consensus will provide the basis for a blueprint to rightsize, and, in some cases, reorient our operations, both academic and administrative.

Both intense state pressure for change at the University during the last year and the University's plan to launch a capital campaign within a few months give compelling reasons to undertake such a study. With substantially decreased state support (now comprising only l6 percent of the total operating budget, 23 percent of the academic budget), the possibility of privatization of at least some units becomes increasingly attractive. At the same time, for those units which will continue to require state funds, the question of relative autonomy from state control in academic and fiscal matters is one that must be considered. If we are to move towards greater regulatory autonomy in relation to the Commonwealth, we must develop management strategies that will allow us to maintain high quality within severe budgetary constraints.

II. The Process

A. Organizational Structure

The committee structure outlined below is aimed at involving the entire university community in scrutinizing and, where necessary, restructuring its operations and redefining its collective educational goals.

l. Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will be comprised of about ten or twelve key administrators and faculty members drawn from the several schools. Their responsibility will be to identify areas for discussion and deliberation and to oversee the activities of the subcommittees in schools, departments, and other units. The Provost and the Provost for Health Sciences will jointly chair the committee.

2. School and Departmental Committees

Schools, departments, and other units will be asked to establish small committees, whose members will examine among themselves and with their constituencies issues outlined by the Steering Committee as well as issues specific to their individual units. As the outcome of their deliberations, the committees will make recommendations for restructuring, reorienting, and/or streamlining their respective schools and departments. In the case of the College of Arts and Sciences, it will be necessary to have both a college-wide committee and departmental committees, which will work along parallel lines, but will also meet together to discuss broad curricular and fiscal issues.

3. Outside Consultants

At an early stage in the process, outside consultants will be engaged to participate in the self-study. Their principal concerns will be budgetary, and they will work closely with the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and the Provost. Their recommendations will provide guidelines for the Steering Committee as they frame the issues to be deliberated by school and departmental committees. Where appropriate, the consultants may provide insights and models from other institutions in the process of making substantive recommendations concerning this University. The school and departmental committees will also review the consultantsū recommendations as they formulate their plan for streamlining, change, and development within the University.

4. Mechanisms for National Benchmarking

The University has been participating for the last year in a project, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which parallels in important respects the self-study we propose. The administrative and faculty leadership of fifteen public and private research universities have met and will continue to meet regularly over the next two years to discuss the problems facing higher education. This forum will be one useful source of benchmarking information. In addition, our peer institutions will also supply essential comparative data on matters such as faculty workloads and salaries, tuition-pricing, and structures of administrative and faculty leadership.

5. SACS Consulting Team

The SACS consulting team, entering the self-study process at its conclusion, will offer a valuable review of the recommendations for streamlining and restructuring reached both by the outside consultants and by the internal committees. They will be able to assess the judgments of both groups as well as the processes leading to those judgments. It is our hope that the multilayered self-study we propose to undertake will provide a model for other research universities faced with similar challenges.

B. Likely Substantive Areas for Consideration

A full outline of areas for consideration will be developed by the Steering Committee, working in conjunction with the chairs of school, department, and unit committees. The agenda, however, must remain open to new topics throughout the process. While several of the issues listed here have undergone scrutiny over the last few years, all areas must be considered ab ovo in the dual light of continuing financial stringency and the need for a newly articulated academic mission. The following list is representative of the kinds of issues we expect to take up.

1. Expenditures and Revenues

Recent and likely future cuts in the Commonwealth of Virginia's allocations to the University require the closest scrutiny of expenditures in every area. This study must be coupled with an equally close analysis of possible new revenue sources. The goal will be to support continuing academic excellence at the University in the most cost-effective, efficient way possible. The size of the workforce in relation to the University's mission, operating expenses, student aid and tuition-pricing will be among the principal areas put on the table.

2. Enrollment Policy

The issue of growth in student enrollment is closely tied both to tuition-revenue and to the size of the faculty. It is also an issue that has engendered strong differences of opinion among the faculty and between the University and the Commonwealth. While the option of "no-growth" has already been ruled out by the state, guidelines, based on reliable statistics on population growth, must be developed to ensure continued high quality in the education the University offers its students.

3. Graduate Programs

Graduate programs at both the Masters and Ph.D. level, which are generally labor intensive for senior faculty, must be examined on a case-by-case basis to rightsize them. Highly successful programs must have the financial backing to be nationally competitive; less successful programs, which drain precious resources, may need to be curtailed or discontinued.

4. Faculty Governance

The Faculty Senate, which is the principal university-wide faculty governance body, has lost credibility over the last few years. In a period when the voice of the faculty is critical to the leadership of the institution, the Faculty Senate must either be revived or replaced by a more effective organization.

5. Collective Faculty Curricular Responsibilities

As a foundation stone of the self-study process, the faculty will be asked to discuss within their departments and schools the strengths and weaknesses of the current academic culture at the University and the role of the teaching mission within it. A profound explosion of information and of new technologies in recent decades has put faculty members under an increasing strain in their efforts to provide the most up to date and comprehensive knowledge available to students in classrooms, studios, and laboratories. It has also tended to skew faculty endeavor in the direction of research, which has become increasingly specialized under the influence of the information explosion. Yet, as a community of learners, we must strive to provide a positive environment committed equally to teaching, research/creative endeavor, and service. Moreover, we must find creative ways to locate the ideal of a broad, humane liberal arts education for undergraduates at the center of our shared educational enterprise. Among the University's greatest strengths is its tradition of excellence in undergraduate education, coupled with its strong national ranking for research. To preserve and enhance this double strength within the context of a constrained budget will be a principal goal of all discussions.

6. Curricular Change and Development

In an environment increasingly hospitable to interdisciplinary studies, the structures supporting curricular innovation need to be ever more flexible. These structures must positively encourage the development of new programs and new fields of study. We must also develop university-wide mechanisms adequate to facilitate team teaching for faculty members from different departments and schools.

7. External Relations

In a national climate hostile to higher education, we must find effective ways to strengthen our public relations effort. The basis for this effort will be the development of an internal consensus concerning our academic mission and our commitment to streamlining of the kind our projected self-study aims to achieve. We will, however, also need to examine our present institutional strategies for dealing both with the public and the state legislature and consider more effective, systematic alternatives.

III. Conclusion

Some of the areas outlined above will provoke controversy, others will invite vision, and still others will be a simpler matter of defining appropriate strategies. But intense dialogue on all of them will be essential, if we are to develop an effective community plan for promoting academic excellence at the University of Virginia within the context of severe budget constraints.

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