Best Practices for Your Academic Portfolio Review in 2023-2024

Academic portfolio review is key to sustainable growth in higher education. Use these insights to meet your institution’s program goals.

The environment around higher education is changing. Decreased enrollment, shifting workforce demands, and rising public doubt about the value of a degree or certificates leave university and college leadership with the responsibility of adapting institutions to suit a landscape in flux. Academic portfolio review provides a way for institutions to understand how well their degrees and certificates promote their goals, mission, and student-career readiness. It is the process of analyzing the full range of program options to gather insights needed to adjust course.

By understanding how academic portfolio review can help your institution assess existing degree programs, identify future program opportunities, and examine the viability of a new program idea, institutional leaders can make informed decisions that promote longevity in a turbulent landscape.

Assessing Your Current Offerings

Many institutional leaders already conduct reviews of individual degree or certificate programs. However, they may not realize that they should also be measuring the entire breadth of their academic offerings. By conflating program review with portfolio review, institutions may miss prime opportunities to attain campus-wide, real-time insights. It’s imperative to expand current program review practices by examining not just one program in isolation, but rather how all programs are performing to promote student achievement and preserve institutional health.

Assessing current offerings means striking the balance of evaluating — and potentially cutting — programs while honoring students’ academic pursuits and faculty interests. The process of expanding, contracting, or even eliminating existing programs does not come without its share of vital considerations. Sunsetting existing programs can dramatically alter student and faculty life, risking trust and confidence in leadership.

Without proper accountability, transparency, and communication, hasty removal of programs may decrease enrollment and affect faculty or student retention. Use the following tips and insights when considering how to assess your institution’s current breadth of program offerings:

  • Allocate training and resources to monitor program performance as continuously as possible (rather than on a three to 10-year cycle).
  • Engage faculty, staff, and program administrators from the start to establish a shared understanding of the portfolio review’s purpose, scope, and possible outcomes.
  • Include student and faculty input by establishing a clear timeline for open platforms of communication and feedback.
  • Define goals for each existing program and create specific metrics to monitor how well programs are achieving these goals.
Searching for academic portfolio review guidance? Explore our Academic Assessment Suite to enrich your program planning journey.

Academic Portfolio Review Highlights New Program Opportunities

Overcoming current obstacles in higher education requires innovation. Every year, institutions could be missing opportunities to meet emerging students, faculty, and employer interests with new program offerings, in turn attaining progress toward institutional goals. Student-oriented media outlets often focus on “underrated” programs, and “college degrees you should have gotten”. Why not use data to understand if this buzz means something more for your institution?

By choosing metrics that focus on evolving labor market demands, student demand, and mission fit, institutions may identify what types of new programs would have the most potential to perform successfully and strengthen institutional identity. Survey research, in-depth interviews, and focus groups with students, alumni, and community employers help identify demands and interest. Institutions should also identify metrics that reflect labor market data and job growth trends to help promote student success post-graduation. Utilizing external data can strengthen confidence in your institution as a worthy investment, by prioritizing career readiness.

Stay caught up on trends in career readiness with our infographic on the Top 10 Careers on the Rise in 2023.

How to Assess the Viability of a Future Academic Program Idea

Everyone knows we have to look before we jump, but sometimes it’s not clear how. Without the right information, it’s difficult for institutions to know which ideas are simply interesting suggestions and which ones should be put into action. Academic portfolio review is a promising way to help determine the viability of a new program idea. By using data and outside perspectives to critically analyze the potential of a new offering, institutions lower their risk of wasting resources on something with little return.

Rather than take a shot in the dark, your institution can build a framework for identifying which program ideas have the most potential, before expending resources to launch something new. Consider these tips when assessing the viability of a new program idea:

  • Make sure faculty understand the importance of data-backed programmatic decision-making and the purpose and objectives of an academic program review.
  • Conduct peer benchmarking to understand market saturation and learn how other colleges and universities position similar programs.
Learn how to connect the dots between a new program idea and student interests by exploring our blog on 4 Critical Strategies for Matching Academic Programs to Student Demand.

The Many Purposes of Academic Portfolio Review in Higher Education

Academic portfolio review doesn’t serve just a single purpose. Each function of the comprehensive review process can help solve a different problem to fit your institution’s specific mission, budget, and growth trajectory. Innovation and continual assessment are vital aspects of institutional success amid a changing higher education landscape. By incorporating academic portfolio reviews into your institution’s planning, you’ll gain a better real-time understanding of current programs, catch potentially overlooked opportunities for growth, and quantify the potential of new ideas.

Make sure your programs work together to drive student and institutional success with our Step-by-Step Guide to Comprehensive Academic Portfolio Review.

Adapt within the higher education landscape by conducting academic portfolio review.

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