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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

4.2.1: Policy on the annual review of taught programmes

Please note: this a record of the historic annual review process which Durham operated 2011/12-2016/17. From 2017-18, a revised, centrally-led process of annual monitoring will operate, as proposed within the RADAA report considered by Senate in June 2017.


1. Each board of studies is responsible for ensuring that all of its taught 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 aims of annual review are to:

a. Ensure that the programmes offered by a board of studies remain current and valid.

b. Evaluate the extent to which the learning outcomes of programmes are being met by students.

c. Evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum, the learning opportunities offered to students and the assessment strategy in supporting students in developing and demonstrating the knowledge and skills set out in programme learning outcomes.

d. Evaluate the effectiveness of a department's taught provision in supporting achievement of the University's Education Strategy.

e. Provide an opportunity for departments to reflect holistically on the programmes they offer, and to identify actions to enhance the taught provision for which they are responsible.

3. Consequently annual review allows departments to:

a. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of their taught provision.

b. Identify and disseminate good practice.

c. Establish development priorities for the next academic year.


Departmental annual review

4. All departments are required to review annually their undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes. The areas to be considered in the annual review process are set out in Section 4.2.2.

5. To support departments in this process, professional support services will circulate the following data to departments:

a. Key performance indicators for each programme of study for a three year period, including student numbers; number of applications; number of admissions; 'mean' A-level entry score; number of mature/disabled/ethnic minority entrants; transfer rates; wastage rates; degree results. (To be supplied by Student Planning and Assessment).

b. Data on admissions according to socio-economic group. (To be supplied by the Undergraduate Admissions Office).

c. National Student Survey Results. (To be supplied by the Academic Support Office).

d. Data on the first employment destinations of graduates. (To be supplied by the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre).

6. Departments may conduct their annual reviews by one or more of the following methods:

a. An annual away-day.

b. A meeting of the board of studies.

c. Consideration of key issues at routine meetings of departmental committees through the course of the academic year.

The University recommends that departments combine the approach set out in c. with one of those set out in a. and b. This phased approach allows key business to be conducted through the course of the academic year, which can then inform a more holistic and strategic discussion at the away-day/board of studies of key issues relating to the department's taught provision. A schedule for such a phased approach is set out in Section 4.2.3 (departments who decide to adopt phased approach are not required to use the schedule set out in Section 4.2.3; this is merely indicative).

7. The approach to annual review chosen by a department should ensure that all staff who have had the opportunity to teach or assess on a programme are given the opportunity to participate in some stage of the process. Where a department has employed research students to teach or assess, the department must ensure that research students involved in teaching and/or assessment are given the opportunity to participate in the annual review of taught programmes (for example by inviting one or more research students to attend relevant meetings, or by nominating a research student to gather feedback from all research students involved in teaching and/or assessment to feed into annual review meetings).

8. 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.

9. No later than the Friday of the third teaching week of the Michaelmas Term all departments must submit to the secretary of the appropriate FEC a completed annual review report form (Appendix A4.06). 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 (for an example see Appendix A4.11). (Departments are only required to submit a single report form, covering undergraduate and taught postgraduate provision, although if they wish to completed and submit one form for each type of provision they may do so).

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.

Where a department delivers programmes through a collaborative partnership, a department must submit a separate extended annual review report form (available at Appendix A4.09) for each collaborative partnership in which it is involved.

10. 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

11. In the first week of November, the chairs of FECs 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 A4.10.

12. It is the responsibility of FEC chairs to review all annual review reports, and raise with 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 Appendix A4.10. 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.

13. FEC chairs are responsible for preparing a faculty overview of departmental annual review reports, using the template at Appendix A4.14. Separate overviews should be prepared for undergraduate and taught postgraduate provision. Overview reports will identify areas of strength and weakness, and key issues for the faculty and University to consider further.

14. Faculty overviews should be considered by the first meetings of FECs (Undergraduate) and (Postgraduate) in the Epiphany Term each year.

15. All departmental review reports, and additional documentation submitted in accordance with paragraph 11, will also be reviewed by the Head of the Academic Support Office. 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.

16. 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 and Senate.