Guidance on Timelines for Cyclical Program Reviews

Section 5 of the Quality Assurance Framework notes: “The Cyclical Program Review (CPR) of existing programs is the key quality assurance process aimed at assessing the quality of existing academic programs, identifying ongoing improvements to programs, and ensuring continuing relevance of the program to stakeholders.” 

In order for the CPR to function as an effective mechanism for the use of self-evaluation and external feedback for continuous program improvement, the process must be completed relatively quickly. Significant delays in the process make it less meaningful for the program and important opportunities for improvement may be lost.

For example:

  • Significant delays between the approval of the self-study and the site visit will mean that the external reviewers are considering and commenting on outdated data and self-reflection;
  • Delays between the site visit and the approval of the FAR/IP can mean that the implementation of critical recommendations may not happen with the appropriate level of urgency;
  • Delays in the submission of FARs/IPs to the Quality Council may mean that systemic process issues, as identified by the Quality Council, may go unchecked, leading to increased and possibly repetitive interactions with the Quality Council; and
  • Finally, and perhaps most critically, delays in acting on the Implementation Plan and subsequent monitoring reports will mean that the continuous improvement goal of the CPR will not be met.

It is also worth noting that a protracted timeline increases the probability of staff turnover both at the program and the Faculty level, making the process more difficult to keep track of and engage with.

Sample timeline

The ideal timeline for a CPR will differ for each institution. Some universities launch a CPR well in advance of the more typical timeline in order to allow sufficient time for consultation activities to inform the self-study, and / or teaching and learning related elements such as workshops on the program’s learning outcomes, etc. Either way, universities should aim to complete all but the monitoring phase(s) of the CPR, i.e., from launch to the submission of the FAR/IP to the Quality Council, as quickly as possible, and ideally within two years. Many universities will be able to achieve a shorter timeline; however, the university’s size, its CPR process as laid out in its IQAP, its schedule for Senate (or equivalent) meetings, and other factors will have an impact on this latter portion of the timeline. Monitoring reports should be produced and approved according to the schedule and process set out in the university’s IQAP.

See also the Guidelines on the Schedule of Reviews for details on scheduling the next CPR when delays occur.

While each university’s timeline will follow the requirements of its Institutional Quality Assurance Processes (IQAP), below is a sample timeline indicating ideal timings, which has been created based on the timelines stipulated in a number of universities’ IQAPs.

StepsSample Timeline
1. CPR launchedAs per timing stipulated in the IQAP (typically between six months to one-year prior to the self-study due date)
2. CPR orientation / workshop (where offered)Typically, shortly after launch of CPR and approximately six months prior to the self-study due date)
3. Self-study approvedTypically, between six months to one-year after launch of CPR
4. Site VisitIdeally within six months of approval of self-study
5. External Reviewers’ Report receivedAs per timing stipulated in the IQAP (IQAPs typically require submission within two weeks and up to two months of site visit)
6. Program Response receivedAs per timing stipulated in the IQAP (where given). (Typically, between one to three months of receipt of external reviewers’ report)
7. Decanal Response receivedAs per timing stipulated in the IQAP (where given). (Typically, between one to three months of receipt of external reviewers’ report, or within a further month or two after receipt of the program’s response)
8. Approval of FAR/IP at Senate (or equivalent)As per timing stipulated in the IQAP (where given). (Ideally, this is between 18 months and two years of the launch of the CPR)
9. Submission of FAR/IP to QCUpon approval by Senate (or equivalent)
10. Follow-up Monitoring / ReportingAs per IQAP requirements (typically two- or four-years after approval of the FAR/IP)