6 External Review

The insights and guidance of external reviewers play a fundamental role in action planning for program review. In British Columbia, Ministry guidelines require that programs undergo external review by appropriate experts, including “an assessment conducted by a panel consisting of experts external to the institution that normally includes a site visit; a report of the expert panel assessing program quality and recommending any changes needed to strengthen that quality; and, a formal institutional response to the recommendations in the report” (DQAB, 2006, p. 5).

External review involves consultation with external experts who provide their opinion about program strengths and opportunities for improvement. This adds validity and value to the review process. The role of the external reviewers (as individual experts and collectively as a team) is to comment and advise the program on the strengths and challenges facing the program in terms of the market demand, curriculum, pedagogy, structure, service to students, and resource use.

Nominating External Reviewers

Instructions for Program Review Teams  – Nominating External Reviewers

Timeline: August 1 – September 30

Recommended Submission Date: September 30

  1. Read Module 6 in the Program Review Handbook
  2. Attend the virtual info-session in August where we will discuss the external review process.
  3. Complete the External Reviewer Nomination Form using the template provided.
  4. Seek Dean approval of the External Reviewer Nomination Form.
  5. Submit the External Reviewer Nomination Form to the office of quality assurance. Note that the Provost (or designate) gives final approval of the external reviewer nominees.


The program review team nominates potential external reviewers based on the following criteria:

Table 5.1
Criteria Description
Disciplinary Expertise External Reviewers will be respected peers with proficiency in the areas of specialization that are important to the program being reviewed.
Administrative Experience Administrative experience is an asset, as is prior experience in conducting academic program reviews. The Reviewers should be experienced academics who understand university operations and education, who are able to realistically evaluate the program’s operations, the plans for growth and development, the professional activities of faculty members, and who can assess the program’s strengths and opportunities relative to similar programs at other comparable institutions.
Curriculum Development The Reviewers should also have experience in pedagogical and curricular development in the field. In the case of a graduate program review, the reviewer must have considerable experience in graduate education.
Diversity The university is committed to fostering diversity and re-examining our practices in new ways. In addition to ensuring the external reviewers meet the criteria noted above, the program area should strive to identify External Reviewers who demonstrate a balance of diversity based on gender identity, sexual orientation, racial/ethnic identity, Indigenous ancestry, and persons with disabilities.
Conflict of Interest Any perceived or actual conflict of interest must be avoided. It is preferable to avoid former mentors or close personal friends of current university faculty members, former employees, or individuals who have applied for, or are likely to apply for, a position at the university. “Arm’s length” reviewers have no family ties, partnership links, supervisory relationships or other relationships with anyone in the program being reviewed. A conflict of interest would exist in cases where the proposed consultant has collaborated or published with a member of the program within the past 7 years, has an administrative or family link with a member of the program being reviewed, has been a supervisor or supervisee (graduate or postdoctoral) of a member of the program being reviewed within the past 7 years, is a former member of the program being reviewed, is a friend of a member of the program being reviewed, or has been a recent (within the past 5 years) visiting professor in the program being reviewed.

Number of External Reviewers

For non-degree programs, a minimum of two external reviewers are required for the review. For degree programs, a minimum of three external reviewers are required for the review. Depending on the nature of the program review and its issues, deans may request more than the minimum number of reviewers. Usually, external reviewers are appropriately experienced academics from other institutions. For programs that have a solid experiential focus, one of the reviewers may be an industry expert to provide advice and insight into the practical application of the program.

Once there is a list of approved candidates, a support person in the office of quality assurance will contact the potential reviewers equal to the number of required reviewers for the credential-level. The nominated reviewers are invited, via e-mail, to assist the university in the program review. Once the required number of external reviewers are confirmed, they receive the following materials:

Hosting the External Review Site Visit

Instructions for Program Review Teams  – External Review Site Visit

Timeline: September 1 – February 28

Recommended Submission Date: February 28

  1. Coordinate the external reviewer site visit in collaboration with the office of quality assurance.
  2. Ideally, site visits are scheduled a minimum of 3 months in advance to ensure availability of all parties.
  3. Where appropriate, there is the option to do virtual site visits.
  4. The Faculty/School is responsible for the costs associated with the External Review site visit, including all travel costs of the reviewers and catering. In addition, the program review team is responsible for room bookings, recruiting faculty, staff, and students to attend meetings with external reviewers, and facilitating the site visit events.


The most unpredictable part of the process is setting up the site visit, which entails identifying site visit dates that work for all of the program review participants, including senior leadership, deans, chairs, faculty members, current students, program graduates, and the external reviewers themselves. Therefore, site visits are coordinated a minimum of three months in advance by the office of quality assurance in consultation with the program review team.

The site visit typically spans two days. While on-site, the external reviewers will meet with students, graduates, faculty, administration, and other key stakeholders, as appropriate. A site visit schedule is developed well ahead of the visit to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from the visit. While on-site, time will be scheduled for the external reviewers to discuss their findings, prepare for their exit interview with the Dean, and start writing their External Reviewer Report.

External Reviewer Report

The external reviewers provide a report detailing recommendations and commendations for program improvement. On the second day of the site visit, the external reviewers are given time to work together on the External Reviewer Report.

The report is submitted to the office of quality assurance roughly three weeks following the site visit. The External Reviewer Report is shared with the Provost (or designate), Dean, and program review team who have an opportunity to review the Report for omissions or factual errors. The External Reviewer Report contributes to the development of the Action Plan (Module 7).


Degree Quality Assessment Board. (2006). Exempt status: Criteria and Guidelines. Ministry of Post-secondary Education and Future Skills. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/post-secondary-education/institution-resources-administration/degree-authorization/exempt_status.pdf


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Program Review Handbook Copyright © by Alana Hoare; Catharine Dishke Hondzel; and Shannon Wagner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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