Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes

This section of the Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes (RDPs) relates to Indicators 3 and 15 of the UK Quality Code, Chapter B11: Research Degrees.

The University undertakes regular reviews of the provision of its RDPs to assure the quality and maintain the academic standards of research degrees, and to provide an indication of the University’s progress against national targets.  The University’s Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes process provides a retrospective overview across all Schools.  Schools complete the Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes School Report Template.  The key areas of review include:

  1. Overview of programmes.
  2. Student body profile for current students, student applications and new entrants.
  3. Achievement of standards.
  4. Stakeholder evaluations (students, staff, external examiners, employers, funders and sponsors).
  5. School action plans.
  6. A review of collaborative arrangements is managed separately via the Collaborative Provision Group.

Data from the Schools and other relevant internal and external agencies is assessed by the Postgraduate Research Academic Review Group for quality assurance purposes before reports and recommendations are fed back to each School.  The Research and Postgraduate Committee receives a report from the Postgraduate Research Academic Review Group which comprises cross-University feedback; collaborative arrangements feedback; and reports from each Faculty, including general themes, School-specific feedback, and a Faculty Action Plan.

Collecting and Responding to Stakeholder Evaluations of Research Degree Programmes

The University ensures there are mechanisms in place for a variety of stakeholders (e.g. students, staff and external parties) to be able to provide feedback on the delivery, assessment and outcome of RDPs.

Student feedback is collated in a number of ways from informal feedback sessions with supervisors, research administrators and School postgraduate advisers, to interactions with University-wide support services and forums such as the Postgraduate Forum, to more formal feedback mechanisms such as through the completion of external national surveys including the Higher Education Academy’s Postgraduate Research Experience Survey.  This feedback is reviewed, acted upon, and reported back to stakeholders both informally at School/academic support area level, and more formally through University governance structures.

Feedback from supervisors, review panels, research administrators, and internal examiners are collated and acted upon, and reported back at School level, for example by the School Postgraduate Research Committee, and at a University level, for example by the Postgraduate Advisory Body and the Research and Postgraduate Committee.  Academic Affairs also facilitates a number of mechanisms, including the PGR Support Staff Forum, consultation meetings, briefing sessions and feedback meetings to receive feedback, identify good practice, and discuss improvement opportunities, as part of the quality assurance of RDPs.

Feedback is gathered from external parties in a number of ways, including through the examination process, from external examiners; from collaborative provision review meetings, for collaborating organisations; and from School-based or academic support-based (such as Careers, Employability and Skills) consultation activities for employers and sponsors.

All of this feedback, and the resultant actions, are reviewed as part of the University’s Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes process, a key quality assurance mechanism to review academic standards and quality across the University.  This process culminates in the identification of areas of good practice for dissemination across the University, and areas for improvement, which are followed up with the specific Schools/areas.

Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes Procedure

The Head of School is responsible for ensuring that all of the RDPs (including Professional Doctorates) in the School are reviewed each year.  The School RDP Review Group(s) (which may comprise the School Postgraduate Research Committee) should be chaired by the Head of School (or nominee).  Membership must include a student representative(s), and should include other stakeholders, where appropriate.

The Faculty Dean overseeing PGR matters will arrange a structured conversation with the Chair of each School RDP Review Group within the Faculty to review the draft School Report before its submission to the Postgraduate Research Academic Review Group.

One Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes School Report Template should be completed incorporating data for all RDPs (including Professional Doctorates) delivered by the School, and approved by the Head of School.  An exemplar has been developed to support Schools in completing the template.  Schools are encouraged to submit concise reports focusing on the main issues; risks and ongoing/planned actions; good practice and plans for dissemination when completing the School Report.  The School Report should be sent to Academic Affairs by 15 December 2017.

School Reports are considered by the PGR Academic Review Group (a sub-group of the University’s Research and Postgraduate Committee).  Schools receive a feedback report, including an identification of any areas that need attention, to inform reviews of policies, procedures and practices to improve the provision of RDPs.

A detailed procedures memo was circulated to Schools in September 2017.

Annual Review of Collaborative Research Degree Programmes

Collaborative Research Degree Programmes (CRDPs), which typically include PhDs awarded and/or supervised with a third party institution, are considered as part of the Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes.  Completion of a separate reporting template is required to ensure appropriate monitoring of these specific types of arrangement and implementation of their supporting Memoranda of Agreement (MOA).  Only those Schools for which an active MOA is in place are required to submit a return.

The Annual Review of Collaborative RDPs Report Template, for CRDPs delivered during 2016-17, should be completed by the University Coordinator (or Principal Supervisor) in each case and endorsed by the relevant Head of School.  The CRDP Report should be sent to Academic Affairs by 15 December 2017.

Completed forms will be assessed by the Collaborative Provision Group with a report being prepared for consideration by the Postgraduate Research Academic Review Group in January 2018 alongside School Reports.  A final report will be submitted to the Research and Postgraduate Committee thereafter, with appropriate commentary being incorporated within individual School feedback memoranda on completion of the Annual Review process.

Please contact Clare McVeigh (c.mcveigh@qub.ac.uk) in Academic Affairs if you have any queries in relation to this process.

Feedback from the Previous Annual Review of Research Degree Programmes

Each School received a feedback memo in June 2017 which outlined both cross-university comments, and School-specific comments.  Additional copies of the individual School feedback memos can be provided on request.

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