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UMaine announces system-wide initiative to look at academic programs

In late January, the University of Maine System announced a new initiative, Programs for Examination, intended to provide annual reviews of University programs across the state. This is the first year that the policy has been active, and it is expected to remain in effect indefinitely.

In order for a program to qualify for the newly enacted examinations, it would have to fall below an established threshold of graduates per year, which decreases as the program’s level increases. Master’s programs, for example, will not be expected to award as many diplomas as undergraduate programs.

The proposed thresholds for graduates, which will be adapted as the program continues, are five graduates per year for undergraduate programs, three per year for Graduate programs and two per year for doctorate programs, all over a time period of three years.

Each program will also have a threshold for the number of undergraduate majors it offers and the amount of tenure-track and just-cause eligible faculty members it employs.

“This process is really campus driven — the System generates the data, starts the conversation and will be facilitating coordination across campuses — but the program planning occurs on the campuses with academic leaders and faculty,” Executive Director of Public Affairs for the University of Maine System Dan Demeritt said.

The University of Maine System is currently host to 386 academic programs. One of the objectives of this initiative will be the academic engagement of these nearly 400 programs through innovation and collaboration, with the intent of ensuring proper resources are allocated to each.

In effect since Aug. 1, 2018, the policy has already identified 130 programs across the seven UMaine campuses that are currently below their specific thresholds. Of these 130 programs, 32 have been selected for further review. The other 98 programs were deemed critical to either the individual university or the state, and therefore were removed from consideration.

Two reviews, one on campus in March and one system wide in May, will be performed on each of these 32 programs; then, on Aug. 1, the process will be repeated. Throughout this process, the level of changes and the impact that the changes have had on each program will be evaluated.

Both Demeritt and UMaine Provost Jeffrey Hecker emphasized that these examinations will not immediately affect a program’s budget or cause a program’s elimination.

“I need to be clear right out of the gate,” Demeritt said, “the Programs for Examination Process is [not] a pathway to elimination or cuts but the start of a process to ensure UMS programs are relevant, rich and properly resourced.”

The last significant program elimination within the University of Maine System occured in 2014 when the University of Southern Maine eliminated three of its programs in order to reduce a $15 million budget deficit.

Since then, Demeritt said, the System has “achieved a strong fiscal foundation at Maine’s public universities that allows us to review our academic programs with an eye toward ongoing improvement rather than program-cutting budget urgency.”

Of the 32 University of Maine System programs currently being reviewed, four are located at UMaine in Orono: Master’s in French, Science Education, Social Studies Education and Spanish.

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