The spark for this question was a remark (you'll know which one when you see it!) made in this answer. My other reason for asking is that I recently learnt that one physics PhD program went ~25 years between curriculum evaluations. That seems like a long time period to me, but is it unusually long?

My question is, in principle, quite simple:

How often do US graduate programs, particularly in STEM fields, tend to reevaluate their curriculum and requirements? Is there a typical time frame?

Note that I'm not talking about year-to-year changes to the syllabus of individual courses, or the institution of new elective courses. Rather, I wonder how often a department might have a curriculum committee (or a similar structure) evaluate the program's structure for core courses, and the mandatory number of other courses. I'm also primarily interested in established programs that have been around for quite a while (that a two year old program is still figuring out its policies isn't terribly surprising).

Note also that I have added the reference request tag. If there is an actual report or survey out there, that would form an ideal answer. If someone happens to have experience from multiple programs that would also be useful, but if, like me, you only know the answer for a single program, a comment is likely more appropriate.

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    The only one i know of does about every 10 years Oct 11, 2018 at 5:05
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    Pure guess, but I suspect it will depend on bureaucracy above the department level. For example, UK-wide rules essentially determine how often this happens for undergrad courses.
    – Jessica B
    Oct 11, 2018 at 5:48
  • @AzorAhai Thanks for the data point! A period of 10-15 years seems natural to me, as it allows a few cohorts to graduate, and is a reasonable period over which you expect some changes in most fields, as well as in the demographics of incoming students and the careers of graduates.
    – Anyon
    Oct 11, 2018 at 12:20
  • @JessicaB Also a guess, but yes, I think it's likely this is often set at the university or college level.
    – Anyon
    Oct 11, 2018 at 12:27
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    Another data point: in my math dept, although formal updates occur only every few decades, there is constant informal updating and reconsideration of requirements, course content, and re-interpretation of the formal description of requirement... which, by design, are very flexible in the first place. Oct 11, 2018 at 18:11


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