Preparation and writing for the Periodic Review

Role of the department

The department are consulted over the planning for Periodic Reviews, to ensure the structure of the event and Panel suit the provision being reviewed. Representatives from the department meet with the panel during the Periodic Review event.

Reflective document

The most important document for the Periodic Review event is the Reflective Document provided by the department under review. This should take the form of a critical commentary cross-referenced to any other documentation provided and should identify issues that the department would find useful to explore in greater depth. Departments might find it useful to refer to the guidance provided to panel members, including details of the areas covered during a review when preparing for the event and producing documentation as well as the Reflective Document guidance.

The structure of the Reflective Document should correspond to the broad agenda themes for Periodic Review and should include the following information:

  • A brief introduction to the department including aims, strengths and distinctive features
  • Teaching, learning and assessment (including course design and curriculum, student support)
  • Student Outcomes
  • Opportunities for enhancements for the future (including any key themes the department may wish to highlight to the Panel)

Supporting documentation

Details of supporting documentation which should be provided are given in the Periodic Review documentation list. Where information has been provided as part of another item, it should only be included once (for example if External Examiner reports or actions following the previous Periodic Review have been included in the Annual Review of Courses, they do not need to be provided separately again).

Deadlines for submitting documentation

6 weeks before the Initial Periodic Review Panel meetings

Departments should submit their final documentation to QUAD six weeks before the review meeting to allow time for us to collate the files and resolve any queries before circulation to the Panel.

3 weeks before the Initial Periodic Review Panel meetings

Quality and Academic Development will make all documentation available (online via Box) to Panel members and Department(s) three weeks in advance of the Periodic Review meeting. If an alternative format is required, then requests can be made to the QUAD team.

Nominating Panel members

Departments are responsible for nominating Panel members, including external subject experts, industry and employer representatives, external accrediting body contacts, and Student Panel members. The Chair of the Review is responsible for approving all Panel members.

  • External subject expert: The department will be asked to recommend external subject experts who meet the criteria to the Chair of the review. Information on the role of the external will be provided in advance of the event and with the documentation when it is circulated by Quality and Academic Development (QUAD).
  • Industry and employer representatives: Where there are programmes under review that have a strong vocational focus or where apprenticeships, or work-based learning is involved, departments will be asked to recommend one or more representatives from a relevant industry.
  • Student representation: The department will be asked to recommend a student to join the panel, and to organise students to meet the panel during the periodic review event. The department should brief the student panel members and the students meeting the panel during the event on the purpose and format of periodic reviews, and on their roles. Departments can circulate information about opportunities for students to participate in Periodic Reviews via email and poster boards.
  • External accrediting body: The department will be asked to provide details of the external accrediting body contacts
  • Student representation: The department will be asked to recommend a student to join the Panel, and to organise students to meet the Panel during the Periodic Review event. The department should brief the student Panel Members and the students meeting the Panel during the event on the purpose and format of Periodic Reviews, and on their roles.
  • The department will be prompted to identify a selection of students to meet the Panel by the representative from QUAD. The Panel normally sees 6-12 students, representing a cross section of the provision under review (i.e. for undergraduate reviews at least one student from each course and a mixture of first, second and final year students; for postgraduate reviews a cross section of students from both taught and research provision representing the full range of courses and stages of completion).

Departments might find it useful to refer to the guidance provided to Panel members and details of the areas covered during a Review when preparing for the event and producing documentation.

Departmental team meeting the Panel

The Departmental Team should normally consist of:

  • Head of Department principally concerned.
  • Up to six members of staff involved in the delivery of the course(s) under review (normally teaching staff members and the Departmental Manager).
  • A member of staff from the partner Department in the case of a joint course.

The role of the Departmental Team at the Periodic Review meeting is to:

  • Help the Panel understand the Periodic Review documentation and to gain a greater insight into the departmental ethos and approach to learning, teaching and assessment.
  • Seek to be open and honest about both the strengths of the course(s) under review and areas that need to be improved, and be prepared to engage in constructive discussions with the Periodic Review Panel.

Periodic Review Panel members 

Membership of the Periodic Review Panel is designed around the range of courses and provision within the department, and will account for aspects such as professional body accreditation and requirements. A variety of experience and views should be available among the Panel members. Members will normally be dissociated from the delivery of the course(s), but within the Panel as a whole, there should be sufficient understanding of the subject matter and academic context to enable the Panel to make a sound judgement.

Panel constitution

Periodic Review Panels are convened by the Quality and Academic Development team after consultation with the Department, relevant Dean or Chair of the Review Panel. Each Panel is normally constituted as follows:

  1. The Faculty Dean for the provision under review will be the Chair of the Review Panel. A Dean cannot act as Chair for their own Department’s Periodic Review and in such instances an alternative Faculty Dean will act as Chair. In exceptional circumstances, a formal request to delegate Chair authority from the Faculty Dean to an alternative senior member of staff should be made to the Pro Vice Chancellor (Education). In such instances, departments should seek advice from Quality and Academic Development before submitting a delegation request.
  2. The Faculty Dean (Undergraduate/Postgraduate) for the provision under review.
  3. At least one subject expert from outside the University and its partner institutions (in the case of vocational or professional programmes, there should be two external subject experts, one of whom should be an employer representative) (1)
  4. At least one student representative (normally currently registered on one of the courses, although a recent graduate of an undergraduate course who has progressed to postgraduate study may alternatively be appointed)
  5. A senior administrator from the Academic Section (Secretary of the Review);
  6. Normally two members of academic staff external to the Department concerned but internal to the University, although the Faculty Dean or Chair of the Panel may approve one member only under exceptional circumstances.

(1) Initial discussions with the department will establish the number of external subject specialists needed to cover the range of courses falling within a particular periodic review and which individuals might be approached to serve in this capacity. This decision may also be governed by the requirements of any accrediting Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body.

Criteria for choosing panel members

External subject expert

The external academic panel member should normally:

  • be a senior academic currently employed in a substantive role at a higher education institution with degree awarding powers
  • have relevant subject expertise and current experience of delivering provision at the same level as the course(s) being reviewed
  • not be a current or previous external examiner employed by the University to oversee provision at the University or any partner institution, unless at least five years have elapsed between ceasing employment as an external examiner and the date of the review event
  • not have any conflict of interest arising from links with the University or its partner institutions, or from personal or professional relationships with members of staff or students at the University or its partner institutions
  • where more than one external academic is included on the Panel, be from a different institution to any other external representative
  • reside in the UK (approval to appoint a panel member from outside the UK will be granted only exceptionally)

Student panel member

Every Periodic Review should have a student representative panel member and potential students are nominated by the department. For undergraduate events, suitable candidates would be either a final year student or a masters student who undertook their undergraduate degree within the department. For postgraduate events, an ideal candidate would be a PhD student who had previously undertaken a masters degree in the department.

The student panel member will receive a fee of £60.00 for their participation.

Roles of panel members

It is the duty of the Review Panel to:

  • critically examine the review documentation and undertake discussion with the department representatives
  • make a collective judgement on the continuing quality and academic standard of the course(s) under review, to ensure that the award(s) conferred by the University are of an equivalent standard to comparable awards throughout the UK, and that UK threshold standards (see internal and external reference points) are being achieved
  • review the quality of the learning opportunities and information that students are provided with
  • review the department’s procedures for quality assurance and enhancement and the maintenance of academic standards as they apply to the course(s) under review
  • confirm that all areas which should be explored during Periodic Review are covered in discussion during the event or sufficiently covered in documentation
  • make a recommendation as to whether the course(s) should be reapproved

External subject experts

The external panel member will be asked to:

  • read the Periodic Review documentation
  • prepare a list of questions/issues to explore as part of the review meeting's agenda
  • visit the University for a meeting and contribute to discussions with the department
  • comment on a draft report

The University will pay a honorarium of £250 and will meet travel and subsistence expenses according to normal internal rates. Accommodation for one night can be arranged if required.

As an external panel member, the main role is to examine the:

  • currency of the curriculum
  • appropriateness of the curriculum in relation to national benchmarks and similar provision at other HEIs
  • appropriateness of the strategy for assessment
  • quality of the student experience

The student representative

The department will brief students on the role in advance of the meeting. The student panel member will be asked to:

  • read the Periodic Review documentation
  • think about the issues in advance of the meeting that the panel should explore
  • visit the University for a meeting and contribute to discussions
  • comment on a draft report

The student representative's role is to:

  • contribute to discussions from the perspective of a student's experience
  • help to ensure that the Periodic Review takes due regard of student opinion
  • contribute to the agenda of the meeting and identify questions for the departmental team to answer. Normally the student panel member would identify questions relating to:
    1. the quality of the student experience
    2. academic support and guidance
    3. how the department provides advice on improving student performance
    4. the effectiveness of assessment methods
    5. the availability of resources
    6. the clarity and accessibility of information

Guidance for student panel members and students meeting the panel (.pdf)

Internal panel members

All Periodic Review Panels include members from other departments to that being reviewed. The Internal Panel member isn’t expected to be able to comment on subject specific content, but experience of their own faculty and department’s practice in relation to learning, teaching and assessment should enable them to:

  • critically evaluate the Periodic Review documentation
  • identify possible issues or good practice
  • comment on how the department has responded to institutional strategic developments as outlined in the Education and Research Strategies
  • ask questions about particular areas of responsibility or interest (for example assessment methods)

Employer and industry representatives

Periodic Reviews should also seek to include wider external input.  This could be via Panel membership or through preparation for the Review.  For apprenticeships and where programmes have a strong vocational focus and where work-based learning is involved, the Periodic Review Panel should include one or more representatives from a relevant industry. As the employer representative, the role is to examine:

  • the relevance of the programme to the industry
  • the content to ensure it reflects its current and future needs and recognised standards
  • whether the work-based or work-related learning offers appropriate experience whether the graduates of the programme will have the skills and knowledge that an employer would wish to see

The University will pay a honorarium of £150 and will meet travel and subsistence expenses according to normal internal rates. Accommodation for one night can be arranged if required.


Role of the secretary

The secretary plays a key role, particularly in supporting the Chair and is usually a Quality and Academic Development (QUAD) Manager, and therefore is able to draw on their knowledge of the Department when helping to organise Reviews.

The secretary will:

Before the Periodic Review event

  1. Work with the Department, QUAD and the Chair to structure the event to suit the department’s needs. This includes agreeing members of the Panel and the agenda for the meetings.
  2. Arrange a meeting with the QUAD Manager in advance of the initial panel meeting to help prepare (if the QUAD Manager is not the Secretary).
  3. Arrange to meet the Chair in advance of an event to talk over preparation for the event, any particular areas that may arise, how they will work together on the day, and how they will liaise afterwards.
  4. Review, alongside the Chair, initial feedback forms submitted by Panel members, highlighting any key themes and questions, and submitting any requests for additional documentation to the Department if requested.
  5. Read through the documentation prior to the review, and block time in their diary after the event to write the report.

On the day of the meetings

  1. Note issues raised by the Panel during discussions, highlighting any potential items for the agenda for meetings with students and the course team, and which may lead to an outcome.
  2. Prompt and help the Chair and Panel to confirm that they are satisfied that all the areas they wished to discuss have been covered. It is important that the report summarising the event confirms that all areas have been considered, so the Panel should be satisfied that any areas not explicitly discussed at the event have been covered in the documentation provided.
  3. Be ready during the final discussion to draw to the attention of Panel members any key themes which may contribute to the outcome.
  4. Work with the Chair to write drafts of the commendations, conditions and recommendation which the Chair uses to feed back to the department at the end of the event, ensuring that a deadline is agreed for the response.

After the panel meetings

  1. Following the initial panel meeting, draft a summary of the themes and questions for the course team. This is initially agreed with the Chair before circulating to the Panel, and then the department.
  2. Immediately following the final panel outcome meeting, draft a summary of the outcome including any commendations, conditions and recommendations. This is initially agreed with the Chair before circulating to the Panel, and then the department.
  3. Write the full report, which is agreed with the Chair initially, then the Panel, before circulating to the department. Reports should ideally be completed within 5 weeks of the event, and should be done to ensure reporting can be made to relevant committees.
  4. Submit a copy of the final report to the Faculty Education Committee (FEC), Academic Quality and Standards Committee (AQSC) and QUAD. The FEC makes a recommendation to AQSC. AQSC has authority to grant approval for the courses to continue (and can do so subject to conditions and recommendations).
  5. Monitor the response to the conditions and recommendations to ensure this is received, and liaise with the Chair/Faculty Dean to ensure the response is approved. The Periodic Review process is not complete until AQSC has confirmed the courses can continue and the response to all conditions and recommendations has been approved.
  6. The outcome to be communicated effectively and in a timely manner to students, such as an executive summary by the department.
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