Guidance notes - procedure for annual programme review

Procedures for annual programme review of taught programmes


1. Following discussion at various committees during the session, and approval by the Learning and Teaching Quality Committee, revised procedures for the annual review of taught programmes were introduced for the review of the 2010/11 session. Subsequent end of session reviews have taken place and minor adjustments have been made each year. Those completing review reports should read the following guidance notes before completing the review report templates.

Key features

2. Key features of the procedures are:

  • revised templates to be completed electronically by programme convenors for each taught undergraduate and postgraduate programme;
  • departmental sign off by means of undergraduate and postgraduate report templates for completion by Heads of Department (again to be completed electronically);
  • explicit use of targeted and cumulative action plans and confirmation of feedback to external examiners and students;
  • emphasis on the identification and sharing of examples of good practice to facilitate quality enhancement across the School;
  • integration with associated quality assurance procedures and broader departmental planning.

The annual programme review report

3. An annual programme review (APR) report should be completed by the programme convenor for each undergraduate and postgraduate taught programme (including separate reports for Single and Combined programmes). For undergraduate programmes, reports should be completed in September: postgraduate reports should be produced in January (please refer to the Annual Programme Review cycle on the right-hand side for more information on the cycle). The report should be completed electronically and a link will be e-mailed for each programme convened.

4.The general format of the template seeks yes/no answers to a series of questions followed by the opportunity to add further commentary usually in the style of an action plan showing timescales and responsibility for actions. The final section ties up loose ends by seeking confirmation that actions from previous action plans have been completed.

5. The first set of questions relates to student outcomes.  A link is provided within the suvrey to programme data on recruitment, retention, progression and completion.  The programme convenor is asked to confirm consideration of this information and indicate what action will be taken to improve student outcomes.

6. The next section relates to student feedback. Programme convenors will have available to them student feedback from a number of sources including the School’s internal Student Evaluation of Modules and (where relevant) the National Student Survey (Department Managers will advise how information will be made available). Convenors/departments may have additional formal or informal means of obtaining student feedback. It is important that the programme convenor reflects upon the feedback received, identifies any matters of concern and, if necessary, formulates an action plan to rectify any difficulties. To complete the action loop, it is also important that students receive feedback themselves on what action has been taken to address any concerns, and this is picked up at departmental level in the Head of Department’s report.

7. External feedback provides a further dimension of input for the programme convenor, and this might come from a number of sources including external examiners, professional and statutory regulatory bodies and employers.  A link is provided within the survey to visiting examiner reports.  The programme convenor to asked to confirm consideration of this information and indicate what action will be taken. This is followed up at departmental level to ensure that externals who have made an input become aware of how matters have been addressed.

8. The programme convenor is then asked to give his/her own reflections on how the programme has progressed during the session. These include review of the programme specification and confirmation that it remains appropriate or requires amendment. In this section, the programme convenor also has the opportunity to identify examples of good practice which might be disseminated more broadly within the Department/School, and closes the action loop by seeking confirmation that actions from previous action plans have been completed satisfactorily.

9. Once completed, the APR will be automatically submitted to the Head of Department, Department Manager, Associate Director for Teaching Quality and Quality Assurance Office. 

The departmental report

10. An annual department report should be completed by the Head of Department (one for undergraduate programmes and one for postgraduate) electronically to a timescale to be confirmed by the Quality Assurance Office, but broadly in line with the review cycle diagram which can be accessed using the link on the right. Heads are asked to confirm (again in the style of yes/no answers) that satisfactory reports for all departmental programmes have been completed and considered at a departmental meeting, and that feedback on action on matters raised by students and examiners has been passed back to them. It is particularly important that this feedback loop is closed to enhance satisfaction and the future operation of the programme.

11. Enhancement might also be achieved through the identification and dissemination of examples of good practice across programmes, and departmental meetings might be a good vehicle for achieving this. The Head of Department is asked to confirm that such dissemination has taken place.

12. A further aim of the procedures is to firmly establish annual programme review as part of the ongoing planning cycle for the department and the School more broadly. If the review of the department’s programmes raises any wider themes or matters of relevance to broader planning, such as TEF action planning, they should be fed into the process. It is important that the cyclical and ongoing nature of annual programme review is recognised: reports are produced at specified points, but if some items cannot be considered to be complete at these points they can be rolled forward for subsequent action. However, all actions identified at programme level should be monitored through further consideration as necessary at departmental meetings.

13. The School has recently introduced revised programme specifications which represent the definitive information for students regarding the programme. In the annual programme report, the programme convenor is asked to review the programme specification and confirm that it remains appropriate or requires amendment. The Head of Department should confirm that this important information is up-to-date and valid and that, where necessary, the School’s amendment procedures have been followed.

14. The final section of the report asks the Head of Department to highlight key issues arising from the programme review reports, which might include matters of concern or examples of good practice.

15. Once completed, the departmental report will be submitted to the Quality Assurance Office and are considered at the Teaching, Learning and Student Outcomes Committee (TeLSOC).

16. In addition, as indicated above, there is a flow through to the broader planning cycle. The programme and departmental reports also form part of the evidence base for internal Comprehensive Departmental Reviews and externally might be considered by the Quality Assurance Agency at Institutional Review and/or by agencies such as professional and statutory regulatory bodies.