Programme review guidelines

Programme review is an ongoing process and has as its basis the existing audit practices which take place as part of quality assurance mechanisms in place at the University.  These audit practices include, for example, the study-unit feedback exercises which are held twice a year, the course experience survey, the consideration of external examiners' reports, the collation of data in relation to student progression, and effective consultation with all stakeholders involved. However, collation of data only represents the first step in quality assurance. The real use of such an exercise is effective analysis of the data and conclusions as may be drawn from it. Periodic Programme Review (PPR) is the stage at which this data is considered in order to evaluate the quality and standards of programmes offered by the various academic entities. From such review, the University can design action plans which help map the way forward in favour of quality enhancement and maintenance.

All departments are required to undertake Periodic Programme Review (PPR), which essentially involves an evaluation of the complete portfolio of undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes on offer.  This process is an important aspect of the University's quality assurance procedures, and serves to ensure that programmes are of acceptable quality, appropriate academic standard and relevant to the needs of society.

The purposes of undertaking PPR are therefore:

  • to evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and the extent to which the intended learning outcomes are being achieved by students
  • to review feedback from students, staff, external examiners, professional bodies and other external stakeholders
  • to ensure that programmes remain current and valid in light of developing knowledge in the discipline, and practice in its application
  • to develop, as a result of the review process, improvements to the programme structure and curriculum
  • to consider how a department is implementing its learning and teaching strategy to ensure the currency, coherence and fit with the University's strategy
  • to identify areas for improvement/enhancement and to ensure that appropriate actions are taken in response to perceived weaknesses
  • to enable external stakeholders to participate directly in the development and enhancement of curricula, thus bringing programmes of studies closer to their needs and improving employability prospects of graduates
  • it provides a formally structured opportunity to reflect on the programmes and to develop new approaches and/or enhance current practices
  • it provides independent and external confirmation of the quality and standards attained
  • it offers an opportunity for good practice to be recognised, verified and disseminated
  • it allows for the identification of common themes and issues across the University which could benefit from co-ordinated action
  • Programme Review should be undertaken for every taught undergraduate or postgraduate programme. Departments are required to gather feedback on their taught undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, taking into account a range of factors.  The checklist of items to be discussed should be used to ensure that relevant key matters are covered.  It is not a definitive list, and many other issues can be raised during the review, as required.
  • Each Faculty/Institute/Centre/School decides whether to undertake this event at a Board level or through an ad hoc Sub-Committee.  It may decide that a Board of Studies for a programme can function as such an ad hoc Sub-Committee. The decision on the composition of the Sub-Committee shall be driven by practical consideration, such as the number of programmes for review, the size of the Faculty/Institute/Centre/School, size of the programme, etc.
  • The Sub-Committee charged with the PPR (in consultation with the Dean/Director) will draw up a list of persons who may have an interest in the quality of the programme in view of their relationship to its subject matter.
  • A meeting will be held with the Pro-Rector spearheading the University internal evaluation process to identify the adequacy of the identified persons, and the resources required to collect the information necessary for the conduct of such an internal evaluation.
  • The following data is required for the review of a programme of studies:
    Programme Specifications
    Minutes of Boards of Studies
    External Examiners' Reports
    Applicants' Profile
    Progression, attrition and completion rates
    Student Feedback results (study-unit and end of programme)
    Feedback from academic staff
    Stakeholders' Feedback
    Tracer Studies

Following review of available documentation, the Sub-Committee, in consultation with the Dean or Director, should prepare a draft Self-Evaluation Document (SED) for presentation to the Board of the F/I/C/S.  The SED should contain the following information: 

  • An Introductory Section
  • Evaluation of the aims of the programme
  • Evaluation of the Learning Outcomes
  • Evaluation of the Curriculum
  • Evaluation of the Assessment methods and the Standards they demonstrate
  • Student Progression, Completion and Destination Patterns following Graduation
  • Learning Resources and the Effectiveness of their Utilisation
  • Stakeholders' perceptions and attitudes to the programme
  • Assessment of merit or worth

The specific details which need to be captured under each heading are outlined in pages 11-14 of the Policy and Procedures for the Operation of Teaching Programme Review document. Following consideration of the draft SED, a finalised document which is to be signed by the Dean/Director, is to be forwarded to a Stakeholders' Committee set up by the Rector in line with the procedure outlined in pages 14 and 15 of the main PPR document.

The Stakeholders' Committee is expected to produce a summary of the findings from the PPR as outlined in the SED which can be organized as follows:&

  • Commendations
  • Recommendations
  • Conditions
The summary of findings and outcomes is then submitted by the Pro-Rector for Academic Affairs to the Department and/or Faculty for any action and any further consideration. The Department and/or Faculty, will submit any responses to these outcomes to the Pro-Rector, who in turn, will communicate the final conclusions to the Senate.

Download the Policy and Procedures for the Operation of Teaching Programme Review.