External Review of Academic Units and Disciplinary Areas Procedures


This document applies to:

  • academic units that are to be reviewed under the External Review of Academic Units and Disciplinary Areas Policy
  • members of academic unit and disciplinary area review panels


To specify the procedures that are to be followed by academic units and review panels in the conduct of an academic unit or disciplinary area review at the University.


Size, composition and responsibilities of the review panel

1. The panel conducting a review will normally have up to six members:

  • two senior academic staff members from the University of Auckland, one of whom will chair the review. Both internal members must come from outside the academic unit under review
  • up to three external academic members, one of whom should be from a U21 or Worldwide Universities Network university
  • where appropriate, a representative from a related professional group, business or significant client group can be added to the panel

2. Deans of faculties are not to be members of review panels.

3. The review panel chair is to be appointed well in advance of the review.

4. A standing chair may be appointed by the Vice-Chancellor to chair all reviews over a specified period.

5. Where a standing chair is not in place for a review, the Provost or Delegate is to consult with the Vice-Chancellor, the dean and the head of the academic unit to be reviewed on possible chairs.

6. The Vice-Chancellor is to approve the nomination of the chair.

7. Following this approval, the chair is to be briefed by the Provost or Delegate.

8. The academic head and dean are to collaborate to provide a list of possible panel members to the Provost or Delegate.

9. The Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Provost or Delegate is to decide on membership.

10. Before the membership is finalised any reasoned objections which the dean or the academic unit might have are to be considered.

11. Prospective members are then to be asked if they are prepared to undertake the task.

12. The list of nominations for panel membership must:

  • take into account, as far as possible, relevant expertise and experience, appropriate gender and ethnic representation
  • take care to ensure appropriate disciplinary representation in the case of a review where there are a number of disciplines involved
  • ensure persons nominated as external panel members do not have close links with the academic unit concerned
  • include relevant biographical data (qualifications, research interests, teaching experience, service roles) and contact details (including website address) for potential panel members. (Lists of publications are not required)

13. Two or three alternatives for each panel position must be provided as it is frequently the case that the first choice is unavailable.

14. Recent employment at the UoA, or receipt of a Hood Fellowship precludes panel membership.

15. Past and current research collaborations, and service as an external examiner within the last five years must be disclosed.


16. The chair is responsible for:

  • ensuring that the review is conducted in accordance with the key questions and the requirements of confidentiality
  • chairing meetings of the review panel
  • acting as the main point of contact between the review panel and the Provost or Delegate
  • ensuring that effective means of communication (e.g., email, conference calls) are arranged as necessary between panel members before and after the site visit
  • co-ordinating requests for additional information
  • co-ordinating the drafting of the review panel report, soliciting comments from the dean and academic head, finalising the report and submitting it to the Vice-Chancellor within agreed deadlines

17. Review panel members are to:

  • evaluate the self-reflective portfolio, which will be provided two months before the site visit
  • one month before the site visit, request, if necessary, additional information through the chair, or raise specific questions arising from the portfolio, to be discussed during the site visit
  • attend during the site visit
  • participate, as agreed with the chair, in writing the final report

18. The academic reviews manager in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor is to:

  • provide advice to the academic unit, where requested, on the preparation of the portfolio
  • manage the request and receipt of submissions
  • attend panel meetings and take notes
  • action panel requests for additional information
  • work with the chair on drafting the review panel report

19. The Vice-Chancellor’s Support Services will provide secretarial support to assist the chair, the academic reviews manager and the review panel in its work.


20. The self-review portfolio is confidential to the relevant academic unit, the review panel, academic reviews manager, and the dean.

21. Permission must be obtained from the academic unit for wider distribution of the portfolio.

22. As a review panel may be exposed to or uncover sensitive material during the course of its work, panel members must treat as confidential any material (both written and verbal) that is sensitive to the career or reputation of individual staff, or is commercially sensitive.

23. Where warranted, the review panel may report any matters that emerge outside the key questions in a separate confidential report to the Vice-Chancellor.

Key questions

24. The generic “Key questions for consideration by review panels” must be used to outline the focus of the review.

25. To take account of a special aspect(s) requiring investigation, the dean and/or academic head may request that the Vice-Chancellor and the Provost or Delegate include additional key questions.

26. Additional questions may also be included by the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

Note - External reviews are not intended as resource reviews. Review panels should only comment on resource levels (e.g., staffing, financial, administrative, physical, etc) in so far as they affect consideration of the key questions.

Academic unit portfolio preparation

27. Following agreement on the key questions for a review, a self-review portfolio that provides evidence addressing the key questions is to be prepared.

28. The preparation process is to be as follows:

  • The academic head is to have lead responsibility for preparation of the portfolio

Note - academic heads are encouraged to make the portfolio preparation process an inclusive one, involving both staff members and students.

  • The portfolio must describe how students have participated.
  • To minimise workload and duplication, the portfolio is to utilise to the maximum extent possible existing sources of data and information.
  • The portfolio must have two parts - a narrative portion, and appendices containing supporting data and information.
  • Academic units are to keep their portfolios brief and to the point.
  • Prior to submission, portfolios are to be reviewed by an associate dean nominated by the faculty, then by the chair and academic reviews manager.

29. The structure of the narrative part of the portfolio must reflect the key three areas of review focus (academic programme, teaching and research), and contain an introduction which gives an overview of the academic unit highlighting:

  • staff profile and academic unit management structure for teaching and research
  • special characteristics or factors that have influenced development in teaching and learning and research since the last review
  • key matters that are of particular interest or concern
  • plans for future development

30. The portfolio must go beyond description and be based upon reflection and critical self-analysis. Among the questions that an academic unit is to address in its portfolio are:

  • what are our current strengths (highlighting good practices, outcomes and impacts) and weaknesses?
  • what mechanisms and processes do we have to ensure quality (including benchmarking activities) and tell ourselves how well we are doing?
  • what strategies and activities can be used to further improve the academic unit and its performance?

Supporting documentation (appendices)

31. The portfolio appendices for academic programme must include:

  • description of the programmes into which the academic unit teaches, and pathways through these programmes
  • complete set of course outlines for the last full academic year*
  • complete set of exam papers for the last full academic year*
  • samples of top student work at each level*
    (1-2 pieces of work from approximately 50% of courses, up to a maximum of 20 work samples. Test and examination scripts are not to be included)
  • course evaluation data from SET (including student comments) at all levels*
  • enrolment breakdown by gender, ethnicity and residency by level

32. The portfolio appendices for teaching must include:

  • the graduate profile for programmes taught within the academic unit
  • graduate destination information, where available
  • academic unit policies on teaching and learning
  • summaries of:
    • courses taught and number of supervisions (main/co/joint) by staff member for the preceding academic year
    • postgraduate research topics and supervision teams (last 5 years)
  • student pass rate data by course
  • minutes from meetings of the academic unit’s Teaching and Learning Committee (where relevant) and Staff-Student Consultative Committee meetings (last 3 years)

33. The portfolio appendices for research must include:

  • external research funding for the last 5 years
  • summary in tabular form of the quantity of publications and other research outputs by type, location and (where measures are available) quality of outlet (last 5 years)
  • quality, citation and impact indicators appropriate to the discipline (last 5 years)
  • current national and international collaborations
  • short CVs for all academic staff (with research outputs limited to the last 10 years)

34. Appendices marked with * are to be supplied electronically.

35. Additional evidence may be included as appendices, or provided in hard copy for perusal by the panel during the site visit.

Academic unit portfolio submission

36. The portfolio is to be printed and spiral bound in two volumes (narrative and appendices, excluding those which are supplied electronically).

37. As portfolios are couriered overseas, the use of ring binders or other bulky folders is to be avoided.

38. One hard copy of the portfolio and one USB stick containing electronic files must be provided for each of the panel members and the academic reviews manager.

39. Portfolios are to be delivered to the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, The ClockTower, Bldg 105S, 22 Princes Street, Auckland no less than two months prior to the visit of the review panel.

40. A copy must also be sent to the relevant dean at the same time.

Written submissions

41. The academic reviews manager, on behalf of the review chair, is to call for written submissions addressing the terms of reference from staff members and students of the academic unit.

42. The call for submissions is to be circulated no later than two months before the site visit.

43. All submissions will be treated as confidential to the review committee.

Site visit by the review panel

44. The review panel must read the portfolio before the site visit.

45. Panels may request additional information from the academic unit prior to the site visit.

46. In the period leading up to the site visit, there may be informal exchanges between members of the panel to discuss the portfolio, and to identify and disseminate further information that may be useful.

47. No later than two weeks before the site visit, specific questions may be submitted by panel members to the chair, who will decide whether these questions can best be clarified by interviews with certain personnel during the site visit, or by other means.

Note - The site visit is devoted primarily to panel analysis and discussion, and progressing the draft report.

48. Interviews, either with the entire panel or individual members, may be used to clarify questions arising from the portfolio.

49. Following the panel’s initial deliberations, the panel will hold a two hour workshop with all staff members of the academic unit

Note - This will be an opportunity for the panel to address points of interest and queries arising from their reading of the portfolio, and for a preliminary discussion of their findings on the range of issues and opportunities facing the academic unit.

50. The workshop may be facilitated professionally.

51. At the end of the site visit, the panel will brief the academic head and dean on its findings.

52. If the chair finds it necessary, the chair may brief the Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor’s nominee.

Indicative review timetable

Review planning:

  • Twenty-six weeks before the site visit, a meeting is to be convened of the Provost or Delegate, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), the panel chair, the dean, the academic head and the academic reviews manager

    Note - This meeting plans the conduct of the review.

  • Four weeks before the site visit, the chair, internal panel member and academic reviews manager will meet to draft the schedule for the site visit

Following the site visit:

53. The chair and academic reviews manager are to complete the panel’s draft report and circulate it to panel members for feedback.

54. The chair has the discretion to discuss findings with the academic head.

55. The draft review report is to be completed within eight weeks of the site visit.

A typical timeline for key tasks is provided in the table following:

Week Number Task
-26 Initial meeting of Provost or Delegate, DVC(R), chair, dean, nominated associate dean, academic head, and academic reviews manager. Key questions finalised.
-22 to -18 Panel member nomination and recruitment. Finalise panel membership.
-14 Submissions invited from staff and students of the academic unit.
-12 Draft portfolio reviewed by nominated associate dean.
-11 Submission of draft portfolio (narrative component only) to chair and academic reviews manager for review.
-9 Submission of finalised portfolio to academic reviews manager and dean.
-4 Chair meets with internal panel member and academic reviews manager to consider issues raised in the portfolio, individual submissions, and questions posed by panel members. Proposed site visit schedule and interview list compiled.
-2 Additional information request made by panel (if needed).
0 Site visit by review panel (2 days).
+8 Draft report to academic head and dean.
+11 Academic head/dean comments to panel chair.
+13 Finalise report and submit to Vice-Chancellor.
6 months after receiving the report Report and draft implementation plan considered by Research Committee. Research Committee forwards comments to Education Committee.
At the next meeting of Education Committee Education Committee considers review report, draft implementation plan and comments from Research Committee. Chair of review panel and academic head attend.
One year later Year-on status report on implementation to Education Committee.

Finalisation and implementation of the review report

57. The review report must be no more than 10 pages in total, and its contents should conform broadly to the key questions.

58. It must provide an overall evaluation for each of the key questions and identify key action areas.

59. Within eight weeks of the site visit, the chair of the review panel must send the completed draft report in confidence to the academic head and the dean for correction of matters of fact and wording of matters of substance.

60. At that stage the report is confidential, although the academic head may discuss it in the academic unit as he/she thinks appropriate

61. Comments must be sent back to the chair within three weeks.

62. After receiving these comments the chair must finalise the report, consulting panel members as necessary, and submit the final report to the Provost or Delegate.

63. The Provost or Delegate is to approve its release to the academic unit and the dean for wider circulation and discussion within the academic unit.

64. The report must be treated as confidential until accepted by Council.

65. Prior to that time, copies must only be distributed on a need-to-know basis.

66. The Provost or Delegate is to provide a copy of the report to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

67. Six months after receiving the report the academic unit must submit a draft implementation plan.

Implementation plan

68. The draft implementation plan and review report must first be considered by Research Committee.

69. Where necessary Research Committee will provide written commentary on the findings of the report and the suitability and viability of the draft implementation plan related to the research key questions.

70. This commentary is to inform subsequent discussions of the report and draft implementation plan at Education Committee.

71. The chair of the review panel and the academic head are to attend Education Committee to discuss the report, the draft implementation plan and any commentary provided by Research Committee.

72. A representative of Research Committee may attend if needed.

73. The draft implementation plan must be revised as necessary in the light of this discussion, and be submitted to the Provost or Delegate.

74. The review report and finalised implementation plan must then be sent to Senate, and to Council.

75. One year after initial consideration of the review report by Education Committee, the academic head (in consultation with the dean) must provide a status report on progress against the implementation plan.

76. The status report is to be submitted to the academic reviews manager for review, who will then forward it to Education Committee.

77. The report may also be reviewed by Research Committee as needed.

78. A copy of the report is also to be sent to the chair of the review panel.

79. The academic head may be invited to attend Education Committee to present this status report.

80. Education Committee is to recommend to Senate and Council the approval of implementation actions or call for a further report where this is necessary.

81. The dean is to include progress on implementation as part of the academic head’s annual performance review.

82. In special circumstances the Vice-Chancellor may vary these procedures and advise Education Committee of the variation and the reasons for it.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic head means the head of the department/school/institute or other academic unit.

Academic unit may be a school, department, disciplinary area within a department, a broader disciplinary area across a number of departments, or a Large Scale Research Unit (LSRU).

Key questions refers to the generic key questions that must be used to outline the focus of every review.

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owner: Pro Vice-Chancellor Education
Content manager: Academic Reviews Manager
Approved by: Council
Date approved: 27 July 2020
Review date: 27 July 2023