8.4.1: Policy on the annual review of research degree programmes
1. Each board of studies is responsible for ensuring that all of its research degree programmes are reviewed annually. The conduct of this annual review, and the issues arising from it, are monitored by Education Committee through Faculty Education Committees and Quality and Standards Sub-Committee. The effectiveness of annual review in each department is also considered through periodic review. This reflects the fact that boards of studies are primarily responsible for the management of degree programmes, but the academic quality and standards of all degree programmes are the responsibility of the University.
Aims of the annual review process
2. The principle aim of this process is to ensure that an overview is taken of research degree programmes on a more frequent basis than the periodic review, and to support the development of opportunities for reflection in departments.
Departmental annual review
3. All departments are required to review annually their research degree programmes. The areas to be considered in the annual review process are set out in Section 8.4.2.
4. To support departments in this process, professional support services will circulate the following data to departments:
a. statistics on applicants by programme, mode of study and fee status;
b. a summary of submission and completion statistics and the methodology used for their calculation;
c. departmental-, faculty- and University-level data on intake, withdrawal, progression, submission and completion;
d. data on student numbers by supervisor;
e. a summary of the results of any seperate PGR questionnaires (e.g. PRES);
f. the number of appeals, the reasons for them, and how many are allowed.
5. Departments may conduct their annual reviews by one or more of the following methods:
a. A dedicated meeting of the board of studies;
b. An annual away-day, or specifically convened meeting of relevant departmental staff and/or relevant departmental committee(s);
c. Consideration of key issues at routine meetings of departmental committees through the course of the academic year.
6. The approach to annual review chosen by a department should ensure that all staff involved in research degree supervision are given the opportunity to participate in some stage of the process.
7. All departments must directly involve students in their annual review. Where a department conducts its annual review solely at an away-day or board of studies meeting, student representatives must be invited to this meeting and departments must ensure that the timing of this meeting allows this. Where a department choose to adopt a phased approach to annual review, student involvement can be achieved through appropriate student representation on the departmental committees participating in the phased annual review.
8. No later than the Friday to Teaching Week 3 in the Michaelmas Term all departments must submit to the secretary of the appropriate FEC a completed annual review report form (Appendix A8.02). This report will include:
a. An analysis of the key issues arising from the annual review process. This should normally be no more than three to four pages in length.
b. A checklist setting out the departmental committee/meeting at which each of the issues to be covered in annual review were considered; the dates of these meetings; and the minute numbers of discussion of these issues.
c. An action plan of key issues to be taken forward as a result of the annual review.
For any research degree programme delivered through a collaborative partnership, a separate monitoring form (available as Appendix A9.09 of the Learning and Teaching Handbook) should also be submitted.
9. Departments must ensure that where appropriate the action points arising from the annual review are discussed as part of the November meeting between the head of department and Faculty PVC, and if necessary incorporated within the departmental strategic plan submitted in the following February.
University and faculty consideration of annual review reports
10. In the first week of November, the chairs of FECs (Postgraduate) and QSSC will agree two of the areas from the annual review checklist for which they will ask departments to submit relevant minute extracts setting out the detailed consideration of these two issues. FEC secretaries will then contact departmental administrators to request these minute extracts. Where departments cannot submit these extracts, or the submitted extracts demonstrate that consideration of an issue has been inadequate, the chair of the relevant FEC may require the department in question to complete the extended annual review report form available at Appendix A8.08.
11. It is the responsibility of FEC chairs to review all annual review reports, and raise with the departments any questions or matters of concern arising from the report. This may include requiring the form to be revised and resubmitted or, if the FEC chair identifies serious concerns, requiring a department to complete the extended annual review report form available at at Appendix A8.08. Departments may also be required by QSSC to submit an extended annual review report form, if QSSC has identified through other mechanisms or processes concerns relating to a department.
12. FEC chairs are responsible for preparing a faculty overview of departmental annual review reports. Overview reports will identify areas of strength and weakness, and key issues for the faculty and University to consider further, and should be completed using the form at Appendix A8.09.
13. Faculty overviews should be considered by the first meetings of FECs (Postgraduate) in the Epiphany Term each year.
14. All departmental review reports will also be reviewed by the Head of the Academic Support Office or their nominee. The purpose of this review is to identify key issues of policy and process emerging from the reports, and to assess the overall effectiveness of the annual review process. This review will result in a University overview of departmental annul review reports.
15. The University and faculty overviews should be considered by the second Epiphany Term meeting of Quality and Standards Sub-Committee each year. QSSC will be responsible for confirming that the annual review process has been conducted in line with University policy, and identifying any issues of University policy or practice that require further consideration. QSSC's consideration will be reported to Education Committee.