The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Accreditation and Program Review (AQAD)

Accreditation and Program Review (AQAD)

The Academic Quality Assessment and Development (AQAD) process is a periodic review of all academic units at UMass Amherst. AQAD is the primary way in which the university assesses its core academic functions of teaching, learning, research/professional/creative activity, public service, and academic outreach on a regular basis. 

The Provost's Office manages the AQAD process, and maintains AQAD procedures and the department and program review schedule.

How Can an AQAD Help Me?

An AQAD is a tool that you can use to guide the pedagogical development and intellectual future of your department or program. It is an opportunity to assess your current state and ensure that you have clear strategic goals in teaching, research, and creative activity that are in tune with campus priorities and at the leading edge of your discipline. Although all AQADs must address the same general core criteria using the same general procedures, both the content and process may with the approval of the dean and provost be adjusted somewhat to suit a particular unit’s needs. 

How Often Do Reviews Occur?

AQAD guidelines require that programs be reviewed at least every seven years, but UMass Amherst has approval for some variances in order to match external review (e.g., accreditation) schedules. 

Many of the university’s academic programs receive accreditation from disciplinary or professional organizations that set standards for educational programs in the field. For those programs, the accreditation self-study and review committee visit are used for the purposes of the program’s AQAD as well. In these cases, the guidelines of the accrediting body take precedence in the process; however, if any of the AQAD core criteria are not covered in the self-study provided to the accrediting body, the program attaches an AQAD supplement addressing them. The University Analytics and Institutional Research maintains a list of campus programs receiving disciplinary accreditation. 

What Happens in an AQAD Review?

An AQAD minimally consists of four documents:  

Program self-assessment

The centerpiece of the self-assessment is a short (@ 20 page) narrative that describes the current state of your department, its aspirations, and the key issues that it faces. (CVs or tabular data can be added as appendices.) The narrative should be developed in consultation with your dean so that there is a common understanding of your goals. It is expected that documents created for strategic planning and the annual budget process in recent years would prove very useful (when appropriately updated to add new data and/or address additional topics) in the preparation of the self-study.

Report from external reviewers

The dean, in consultation with the department head/chair and faculty, will identify a team of at least two external reviewers, one of whom can be from another campus in the UMass system. Ideally, reviewers will come from public R1 universities and will have administrative experience at the level of a department chair or higher. The dean, department head/chair, and faculty will work together to determine the emphasis of the visiting team’s review, and the provost will have the opportunity to identify specific issues or questions that should be addressed. The provost will approve team membership and may add a member. The review team is charged with providing a written report based on the self-study, the questions posed by the dean and provost, and their experience on campus.

Program response to the external report that includes an action plan

The key product of the AQAD process is the action plan, which specifies how the department plans to address any issues raised during the review. The action plan should also indicate whether any subsequent action is needed once the review itself is completed (e.g., follow-up on specific issues, earlier-than-normal subsequent review, etc.).

The dean’s response to the action plan

After receiving the external review and the department’s action plan, the dean provides a memo reflecting on these documents. The department can, if it wishes, provide a response to the dean’s memo. 


The conclusion of the AQAD process is a meeting of the department head/chair, the dean, the senior vice provosts, and the provost.

University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus Procedures for Academic Quality Assessment and Development (AQAD) Incorporating University of Massachusetts System Guidelines (Trustee Doc. T98-033)

UMass Amherst AQAD Master Schedule including on deck, in progress, and completed reviews