"Clarity of expectations" can reduce attrition and increase completion
"Our findings suggest that the GEI (Graduate Education Initiative, a 10-year Mellon Foundation project) reduced attrition rates and improved graduation rates primarily through the routes of improving clarity of expectations and encouraging students to finish their dissertations as quickly as possible"—Ronald G. Ehrenberg, et al., "Inside the Black Box of Doctoral Education"
"Research suggests that formal annual evaluations tend to increase the numbers of students who complete, and are therefore preferable to sporadic and informal reviews . . . Some form of progress-tracking, annually or each semester, allows the student and supervisor to meet and establish objectives for the year. This ensures that both students and advisors be held accountable for timely progress and for constructive feedback"—Council of Graduate Schools, "Ph.D. Completion and Attrition"
Reviews may prevent more serious problems from developing later
"Pre-empting conflict is possible only if we make the implicit explicit. We need to overcome information that is incorrect or not universally shared or understood; the lack of commonly shared and agreed-upon expectations; the lack of specific expectations between individual faculty and individual students regarding possible areas of conflict and their resolution"—John P. Beck, Michigan State University
Reviews can help departments see their programs from the student's perspective
"It would be valuable for departments to regularly engage enrolled students in conversation about their goals and their experiences in the program, and about how the department and faculty might help students"—Chris M. Golde, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
Regular reviews can be an indicator of program quality
The new National Research Council assessment of research doctorate programs will feature a student survey of admitted-to-candidacy students in five disciplines (Chemical Engineering, Economics, English, Microbiology, and Physics). The first question under "Program Environment" asks "Does your program provide an annual or more frequent assessment of your progress?" and the second, "Do you receive timely feedback on your research?"