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Institutional (Program) Reviews

PLEASE NOTE: Until further notice, NIFA will no longer be accepting applications for Institutional (Program) Reviews. This program is being reassessed.


As part of its efforts to enhance science and education program performance and increase resource effectiveness, NIFA, at the request of cooperating institutions, facilitates reviews of institutions, departments, programs, or issues. Reviews are neither mandated by federal statutes nor required by NIFA, but the agency places a high priority on reviews in allocating its staff time and resources. NIFA has developed the following Institutional (Program) Reviews materials:

What is the scope of the institutional review activity and why should institutions participate?

Institutions identify the purpose, objectives, and scope of the review activity based on their own needs and internal planning processes. Preparation of a forward looking planning document by the reviewed entity is an integral part of the review activity. Generally, the internal review process is followed by an in depth on-site visit by an external team of well qualified peers lasting two or more days, depending on the scope and complexity of the activity as determined by the institution. The external team of reviewers can help the institution project future needs and directions for the reviewed entity for some definitive time frame into the future based on the self-study document and the site visit.


  • Flexibility – Requests for reviews received anytime.
  • Agenda – Specific expectations identified and concurred by institution and NIFA.
  • Review Team – Area of expertise and individuals identified by institution and NIFA.
  • Review Types – Institution-designed reviews.
  • Responsiveness – Review reports delivered to institutions within 45 calendar days of completion of the review activities.

What kinds of reviews are offered?

Reviews can be designed to address specific institutional issues, needs, and expectations. Reviews can address a single or multiple missions. Review types:

  • Organization - an organization based review focuses on structure management, or function to assess effectiveness of system(s), such as graduate programs, research, and extension integration.
  • Program - programs that cut across organizational units or college boundaries, for example community economic development or integrated pest management (multi-disciplinary reviews)
  • Department - a single academic unit.
  • Issue - an issue or a topic, such as sustainable agriculture, water quality, or food safety. Issue-based reviews most likely cut across organizational units and disciplinary boundaries.

What role does NIFA play?

NIFA, in cooperation/consultation with the institution:

  • establishes a list of issues, needs, and expectations
  • identifies a review team with expertise that matches the review objectives
  • assists the team in developing procedures and processes that address the review objectives

Benefits of institutional reviews

Benefits for institutions:

  • Reviews are important in assessing current strengths, identifying future opportunities, and recommending appropriate strategies for enhancing university-based programs; and
  • have a positive impact on land-grant program quality and encourage program advancement for those undergoing the review.

Benefits for NIFA and the system:

  • Reviews provide NIFA staff with an important understanding of the dynamics of programs and program changes;
  • help the agency better understand partner staffs and activities, thereby advancing the partnership;
  • help the agency gain a broader perspective of activities supported through formula grants and competitive grants; and
  • provide NIFA with current and comprehensive information useful in responding to Congressional inquires related to the investment of federal funding for research, extension, and higher education programming; and,
  • expose review team members to new ideas in program management and resource utilization.

How to request an institutional review

For review requests, complete the Institutional Review Request Form and email it to NIFA, Director of Planning, Accountability, and Reporting.  Contact the Director of Planning, Accountability, and Reporting with questions about Institutional (Program) Reviews.

Institutional review materials

Institutional compliance reviews

NIFA is also available to assist institutions by providing compliance reviews in two areas: civil rights and finance. Please direct questions for these reviews to the following:

Civil Rights Review:
Curtiland Deville, Director, Equal Opportunity Staff

Financial Review:
Andrea Brandon, Deputy Administrator, Office of Extramural Programs