Guidelines for Program Elimination


A Proposal By the Subcommittee for Academic Affairs


November 20, 2003





     This report is the culmination of a review of issues and policies relating to the subject of program elimination undertaken by the Subcommittee for Academic Affairs.                                                                                          


    Program elimination is used in this document to mean the termination of a program of study that culminates in a degree or the suspension of a program of study for a specified term of years.  The initiation of a process that ultimately results in the elimination of a degree related program could begin within the educational unit that offers the program.  Alternatively, the process could be initiated by higher administrative levels external to the department.  Currently guidelines and forms exist within Marquette University governing the process used to establish new programs.  However, there is no equivalent set of guidelines for eliminating existing programs.  Since program expansion and program elimination are both matters of equal interest to faculty, there is a need to establish comparable program elimination guidelines, a process and procedures.  This document contains guidelines and a delineated process for the elimination of programs similar to what exists for establishing new programs (Appendix 1). 




    Between February 2002 and November of 2003, 13 SSA members representing 11 departments have contributed to the development of the following program elimination guidelines.  The resources consulted included current Marquette University fundamental guiding documents (vision, values, and mission), guidelines for new programs (, and program elimination materials from several public and private universities (Appendix 2).  Early in the developmental stages the Provost discussed this endeavor with the entire committee (Appendix 3).  Our research identified two leading justifications for program elimination: 1) academic deficiencies and 2) institutional fiscal situations.  Our approach was to consider program elimination in these contexts.


Premises and Assumptions


     In the absence of established guidelines for program elimination, decisions may be made using ad hoc procedures.  This may create the impression among faculty in the affected unit that the process is unfair.  In addition, without established guidelines, the information used by the decision maker in the course of the process may vary or be incomplete.  This may create the impression among faculty in the affected unit that they have not been given a fair hearing.  


     Program elimination guidelines should be designed to facilitate open dialogue and the sharing of all pertinent documents in good faith between the Provost’s Office and stakeholders (faculty administrators, students and the Marquette community in general).  Transparency needs to be evident in the guidelines.  Thus:


  1. The process leading to a final decision should be based on a consideration of all relevant factors (correct and good data need to be shared).
  2. The same degree of care used in proposing a new program, including a reasonable amount of

time for contemplation, should be given before eliminating a program (allowing time for    stakeholders to be informed and time to reflect and respond).

  1. There should be one set of guidelines that are applied across the board, i.e., at the 

      administrative, college and department levels.

  1. If a program is to be eliminated, arrangements should be made for students in the program to complete their degree requirements and graduate within the usual timeframe for their program.
  2. The criteria for program elimination should be consistent with the stated vision, values and mission of Marquette University and reflective of the concepts of cura personalis and magis.


Sources of Guidance


     The fundamental documents of the University guide actions for all internal and external endeavors.  These documents therefore provide direction for formulating criteria for program elimination.  The guiding documents of the University are the Vision, Mission and Core Values statements.  Complimentary to these statements are the Jesuit pedagogical precepts of cura personalis and magis.  Finally, the matter of program elimination is one that has been addressed by other educational institutions.  The work of others also provides useful ideas.


The fundamental documents are as follows:


Marquette University Vision Statement

       Our vision is to provide a Catholic, Jesuit education that is genuinely

       transformational, so that our students graduate not simply better educated

       but better people, and to do so with such excellence that when asked to

       name the three or four best Catholic universities in America, people will

      include Marquette as a matter of course.


Abbreviated Marquette University Mission Statement

      Search for truth, discovery and sharing of knowledge, fostering personal and professional

      excellence, promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in

     service to others


Core Values of Marquette University

     Excellence (personal, professional), Faith, Leadership and Service (to all communities)



Discussion of Criteria for Program Elimination Extrapolated from the Fundamental Documents and Examples


     The vision, mission, and core values need to be translated into tangible terms.  Tangibility means that the guidelines need to be specific, consider measurable and subjective information, acceptable to stakeholders, reasonable, and time bound.  There are basic questions that need to be asked to be able to formulate substantive criteria.  The following statements are examples of objective and subjective criteria associated with academic performance as well as key questions that need to be considered when fiscal matters are the driving issues.  The example statements and questions provide some standards by which to judge if a program may be eliminated because of academic shortcomings or fiscal reasons, or both.


a.  Academic Criteria To Be Considered for Program Elimination


            From the Vision statement:


External recognition - Example criteria, U.S. News & World Report ranking, national presentations, national awards, polls and survey results comparing Catholic institutions on various criteria, word of mouth- testimonials, independent national polls, awards from professional association(s), etc.  Limited or no indicators of excellence is not in keeping with the vision statement. 


     From the Mission statement and core values:


Excellence - Example criteria, ATC/SAT scores of incoming students, GRE scores of graduates, percentage of undergraduates going to graduate school, refereed and nonrefereed publications, books, professional and public presentations, internal and external evidence of teaching quality, funding, graduate satisfaction, national recognition, external reviews, credentials of accepted students, student teacher ratio, # of full time faculty teaching courses (compared to part-time faculty or teaching assistants), advancement to the highest tier of research institutions, extent to which the program explores finding God in all things, etc.  Limited or no indicators of excellence is not in keeping with the mission statement. 


Faith - Example criteria, involvement in religious organizations, integration of faith and courses/curriculum, sponsored programs and activities, sponsors of public dialog, hosts of significant faith centered meetings, percentage of students and graduates who have significant involvement in religious groups, involvement in the Manrasa project or the Center for Ignation Spirituality, participation in University Ministry activities, etc.  Limited or no indicators of faith is not in keeping with the mission statement. 


Leadership - Example criteria, exemplary faculty and administrators who demonstrate and inspire others to make ethically justifiable decisions, informed teacher-scholars who contribute to the body of knowledge, use the information in their teaching, and demonstrate behaviors that reflect commitment to meeting students needs along with the needs of their religious, cultural, professional and civic communities, pursuit of magis, etc. Limited or no indicators of leadership is not in keeping with the mission statement. 


Service to Others (internal) - Example criteria, volunteer activities, pro bono service, actions commensurate with being an advocate for a just society, participation in service learning, volunteering in disadvantaged communities, engaging in actions that reflect “men and women for others”, commitment to a faith that works for a just world, apostolic spirituality-spiritual development, faculty and student pursuit of truth, cura personalis, etc.  Limited or no indicators of service to others in the University community is not in keeping with the mission statement. 


Service to Others (external) - Example criteria, fulfillment of professional

organization goals, support of volunteer organizations, pro-bono services,

faculty holding offices at local, state, regional, national levels, facilitating dialog

and action at all levels, etc.  Limited or no indicators of service to others outside of the University community is not in keeping with the mission statement. 


    b.  Other Questions Regarding Academic Considerations


Program Relationship to the Core Curriculum and other Programs - The relationships between the program’s offerings, the core curriculum, and other academic programs need to be examined.  There are obligations to multiple stakeholders, i.e., students, program faculty, other programs, and the community at large.  The following questions may guide the formation of criteria to examine.  To what extent is the program necessary to fulfill part of the goals of a Jesuit, Catholic institution?  What is the impact on core curriculum offerings (Foreign Languages/Diverse Cultures (3), Histories of Cultures and Societies (3), Human Nature and Ethics (6), Individual and Social Behavior (3), Mathematics (3), Rhetoric (6), Science and Nature (3), Theology (6)?  What and how many of the program’s courses have been approved for core credit?  Is the program necessary to fulfill the goals of a separate major, minor or professional program?  Would the elimination cut at the heart of Marquette’s self-understanding as a Jesuit and Catholic University? 


c.  Financial Considerations for Program Elimination


     To eliminate a program because of a fiscal emergency is justified to avert more general crisis but the Subcommittee believes that cost savings alone is insufficient grounds to eliminate a program. 

However, should the financial state of the University become such that costs must be reduced for the 

University to survive, i.e., fiscal exigency, a transparent decision making process should be in place

along with procedures for the process to be enacted. A hierarchy of importance needs to be 

formulated based on academic and financial common sense.  For example, programs that are

duplicative within a college, department, or within a sub-unit within a department should be considered for elimination before non-duplicative college or departmental programs.  In any case, the Provost’s Office should spell out the estimated cost savings from the elimination of the program.


    To develop criteria for program elimination because of financial need there are questions that need

to be asked and answered.  Such questions would include: Consideration of the financial

support that has been provided to the program in the past – has it been adequate?  Diminishing? 

Supra-ordinary?  What have been the fiscal trends over the past 5 years?  What is the approximate

size of target market, internal and external signs of demand for program, number and geographical

distribution of like programs, five year trends in admission and graduation rates, recommendations

from external consultants, etc.?  What are the alternative ways to reduce costs that have been

considered and rejected?  Can monies be allocated from the budget of another program or operation

that is relatively less vital to the spirit of Ignatian pedagogy or the core curriculum?  Is temporary

borrowing or delayed construction an option to weather a fiscal exigency?  Which of the preceding

factors should be considered in the decision?  Should all of them be considered?  Should any of the

above factors be given greater weight?  Will programs that least well match the fundamental

documents receive the greatest scrutiny?  What should the process entail?  Should Marquette adopt a

process that involves a broad based, university appointed, standing committee for program review

that includes program elimination?



Recommendations: Program Elimination Process and Procedures


What follows is a description of the procedures and guidelines for program elimination recommended by the Subcommittee on Academic Affairs.  The SAA has discussed and reflected upon the preceding information in 22 meetings over the past two years (Appendix 3).  Our recommendations are explained in the following narrative and depicted in Figure 1.  The process calls for the formation of a new body called the Program Review Committee (PRC).


Process Initiation


The process begins when the subject of possible program elimination is put forth for consideration.  The possibility of eliminating a program may be raised from within the affected college, department or sub-unit, i.e. from the bottom-up.  Alternatively, the possibility of eliminating a program may be raised as part of the regular and ongoing work of the PRC.  Finally, the possibility of eliminating a program my come from the top-down and originate with the University Administration.  Regardless of the original source of the proposal, the process of evaluating the ramifications of the program elimination is the same.


A Program Review Committee (PRC) will be formed, to be appointed by the Provost or the Provost’s designee.  The members of the PRC shall be selected from among various representative groups, as discussed in Appendix 1, but shall at a minimum include at least one faculty representative from the affected program.  The PRC begins its review either 1) by acknowledging receipt of a recommendation received as a result of a bottom-up review of the program or 2) by sending an official notice to the Dean and faculty of the affected unit indicating that the program has been identified as a candidate for possible elimination by the Administration. 


Due Process


The PRC shall conduct its review by assembling and evaluating data relevant to the decision to eliminate the program.  The factors to be considered by the PRC in making its ultimate recommendation are set forth in detail in this report.  The PRC shall communicate these factors and any other categories of relevant information to the Dean, Chair, faculty and students of the affected program, soliciting their input and providing an opportunity for these stakeholders to respond.  The PRC shall also solicit input relevant to these factors from the Academic Senate, and the Committee on Faculty.  It is anticipated that the PRC will prepare a memo summarizing the data that it has collected and will meet as a committee to evaluate whether program elimination is warranted.  In completing its work, the PRC may seek clarification or additional information from any University constituency as it proceeds to evaluate the data that it has collected.


Process Conclusion


The PRC shall then make a recommendation to the Provost concerning the possible program elimination.  If the decision of the Provost is to proceed with program elimination, the Provost will communicate that decision to the Board of Undergraduate Studies or, where relevant, the Board of Graduate Studies (Board) for its concurrence.  The Board may concur with the Provost’s decision, or may seek additional information from the PRC. 


If the Board concurs with the Provost’s decision to proceed with program elimination, then the provost will make an appropriate recommendation to the University President.  The President makes the ultimate decision, unless approval is required from the University Board of Trustees.

















Appendix 1

Checklist of Items For Program Elimination Derived from the Model Used

For Establishing a New Program (for Standing Program Review Committee)


Purpose.  (4 = related material we have drafted addresses the issue)


                                    Introduction/Preface 4

Idea Generation 4

Idea Screening 4

Cover sheet information format 4

Five year enrollment history/projections 4


Capital expenses

Closure expenses

Revenues lost, gained from closure 4

                                                Copies sent to (see Appendix 2) 4

                                                Relation between strategic plan, vision, mission and program 4

            Academic quality 4

                                                Strength and competence 4



            Competitive advantages 4

            Rationale for program

            Constituency(ies) served 4

                                                Impact on existing curriculum, program, college, core 4

            Special matters 4

Market Demand Analysis 4

Business Analysis 4

Evaluation Timeframe 4

Financial Goals

Evaluative Process 4

Other Factors 4

Outcome Evaluations 4


To complement the above check list a process flow chart has been prepared (Fig. 1).  This figure identifies three linked processes in the elimination component of program review: 1) process initiation, 2) due process, and 3) process conclusion.  Early in initiation process is the intervention of a proposed standing committee.  The proposed committee members would likely be appointed by the Provost or the Provost’s designee.  The Committee would likely draw from the membership of the Committee on Faculty, Academic Senate, and a representative of the program under scrutiny.




Appendix 2

Educational Institutions Guidelines Reviewed for Program Elimination DOCUMENTS/discontinue.html


Appendix 3


History of SSA Regarding Program Elimination


Early December 2000, the Subcommittee on Academic Affairs noted that a central University Committee is developing criteria for closing programs. In the minutes of the Academic Senate meeting of September 13, 2000, “Dr. [Gene] Laczniak explained ‘that there is a moratorium on program elimination for the present. Business organizations regularly evaluate all aspects of their operation and we need to do the same.”  Dr. [David] Buckholdt commented “that a draft proposal for the process of program elimination should be available for review during the fall semester … the program elimination process will involve faculty, the Academic Senate and the administration. Determining factors will include: cost, student interest, quality, and relation to mission.”


At its February 6, 2001 meeting, the SAA discussed a process for eliminating programs. It was suggested that SAA wait for the central University Committee report before responding. At its March 13 meeting, it was reported that a University committee had been formed over the summer to address what kind of criteria will be used to close a program, what information would be shared with the unit, etc. But the committee was disbanded because of no agreement. The SAA agreed to develop a proposal on program elimination. By its April 17 meeting, the committee had compiled a listing of program closing policies, i.e. website addresses, available at other colleges and universities. By its May 8 meeting, the SAA had prepared a “Draft Policy on Program Elimination … Outline of Issues.”


During its September 2001-February 2002 meetings, a volunteer SAA subcommittee was formed (Mike Schilke and Larry Nosse).  Its purpose was to review eight pre-selected website documents and to examine areas typically covered in program elimination policies and procedures, as identified in the Draft Policy. Submitted committee reports were put into one master document. At its March 2002 meeting, the SAA discussed the complexity of this project. It agreed that the “Draft Policy … Outline of Issues” would be used for sorting through key issues identified from the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center and the Washington University (Seattle) websites. At its April 15 meeting, a “Draft Policy (4/15/02) on Program Elimination” was presented. 


In the summer of 2002 program closing websites were searched once again.  Efforts to identify program closing websites at Jesuit Universities, while ongoing, have been to no avail.  ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) and The Chronicle of higher education were searched online.  These sources did not add new information to consider.


At its September and October 2002 meetings, the SAA began specifically discussing its “Draft Policy (4/15/02, 10/16/02)”.  Relevant information from the University of Saskatchewan’s website on program elimination introduced was introduced into the discussion.  A review of University documents was undertaken to determine the position of the SAA in facilitating discussion on program elimination.  The Final Report and Recommendations of The Task Force on Faculty Involvement in Governance encourages the kind of faculty initiative described later in this document.


February 10, 2003 the SAA Committee met with Dr. Madeline Wake, Provost, to dialog about program elimination.  Her view was that program discontinuance was probably a better term and discontinuance of a program should be part of a comprehensive, university wide, program review process, e.g., some form of continuous quality improvement.  The emphasis should be on improvement through program review rather than on discontinuance of a program or programs.  The responsibility for program review will be among the duties of an Associate Provost for Planning.  Recruitment to fill this new position is in progress.  As for the process, the Provost called upon the Faculty Statutes as her guide.  Coupling her knowledge of the Statutes and experience as a Dean she suggested a flow of decisions about program discontinuance (see Appendix 1).  In addition the Provost offered the following options at each level of decision making:

           Continue the program

           Modify the program

           Discontinue the program


In the February 24, 2003 meeting of the SAA it was clarified and reconfirmed that our charge is to represent faculty opinion with veracity.  In keeping with this charge the terms program elimination shall remain in our document.  Program closure, program discontinuation and similar terms were

found to be less reflective of our thinking.  It was recognized that other reviewers of this document  may choose alternative descriptors.  Appendix 2 shows the general process suggested by the SAA for program elimination.


After a further period of drafting and discussion, the SAA adopted the current report outlining its proposal at its November 20, 2003 meeting.



Program Elimination Flow Chart