External Review of Established Academic Programmes Policy


Programmes eligible for review under this policy and the related procedures are established programmes (either taught or research-based) which have completed a Graduating Year Review (GYR).

Qualifications are, in many cases, made up of majors, specialisations and minors focussing on one subject area, or a combination of subject areas or interdisciplinary courses. The quality of these components of programmes is primarily monitored by schools, departments and faculties, but may also be reviewed under this policy and the related procedures if a faculty or the University so determines.


To specify the categories, frequency and guiding principles for the cyclical review of academic programmes at the University.


Categories of programme review

1. All academic programmes must be reviewed on a regular basis in a way that is appropriate to the characteristics of the programme, including its size, complexity and strategic importance.

2. New programmes are first reviewed under the Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP) GYR process and thereafter must be scheduled for periodic review under one of the categories of programme outlined in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Review formats for established programmes

Category Description Review process
A Programmes with large enrolments and/or of strategic importance. In the case of staircased qualifications (e.g. postgraduate certificates and diplomas that staircase into a masters degree) and qualifications that draw on the same set of courses, qualifications are reviewed at the same time. Formal review commissioned by the Provost or Delegate at least once every ten years, with implementation monitored by the University through Education Committee. 
B Degrees, certificates and diplomas with limited enrolments and scope (usually fewer than 75 EFTS). Formal review commissioned by the faculty dean at least once every ten years and reported to the University through Education Committee.
C Programmes leading to professional qualifications where there is a regular review by an external body for  accreditation purposes, involving preparation of a self-review/ evidence portfolio and a site visit. Reviewed in the course of accreditation or professional reviews and reported to the University through Education Committee. May also be included in theme-based programme reviews.
  Conjoint degrees. Reviewed in the course of reviews of component programmes.
  Programmes co-terminous with a school or department. Reviewed in the course of the Academic Unit and Disciplinary Area Review. May also be included in theme-based programme reviews.
  Higher doctorates. Not externally reviewed.

3. Annex 1 lists all current programmes by category, A-C. New programmes are to be assigned a review category in consultation with the faculty dean following completion of the GYR.

Guiding principles for reviews of established programmes

4. Programme reviews may be comprehensive or thematic in their scope.

5. Comprehensive programme reviews are focused on the evaluation and enhancement of the overall academic quality of the programme, its purpose, structure, curriculum, teaching and learning, student outcomes and management.

6. The comprehensive review process asks if the programme is:

  • achieving its intended objectives and learning outcomes, at the required standard
  • meeting the needs of students, employers, the professions and the community
  • based on a strong, well-organised and coherent curriculum
  • supported by appropriate regulations
  • monitoring its performance effectively
  • anticipating future challenges and making improvements as required

7. Theme-based programme reviews are to be tightly focused on particular programme features or activities (e.g. assessment) which are to be evaluated across a group of related programmes.

8. The results of programme reviews may be used to:

  • provide an assurance of quality for students, staff, faculties, the wider University community and external stakeholders
  • provide feedback to faculties, schools and departments to assist them in identifying and making programme improvements
  • achieve greater consistency in practice across programmes, including the identification and dissemination of good practice

9. A programme review must not be used to determine the viability of a programme.

10. Before any programme is reviewed, the Provost or Delegate and the dean are to discuss the programme viability and determine whether or not a programme review should proceed.

11. Where a programme is not viable in terms of student numbers and/or resources, a decision is to be made through the appropriate University processes as to the continuation or withdrawal of the programme. If a decision is made to continue the programme (e.g. on the grounds that it meets important disciplinary, strategic or student needs), a quality review may then proceed.

The review cycle

12. The Provost or Delegate is to maintain a 3-year rolling plan of University-commissioned programme reviews to facilitate review planning.

13. All Category A and B programmes must be subject to a comprehensive review within 10 years of completion of the GYR. Thereafter, programmes may either be scheduled for a further comprehensive review within the next 10-year cycle, or for inclusion in one or more theme-based programme reviews.

14. For the five-year period 2021-2025, the review plan for established programmes which have already completed at least one cycle of comprehensive review is to be focused on theme-based reviews.

15. The procedures for the conduct of comprehensive reviews of established programmes are to be reviewed before the next cycle of comprehensive reviews commences in 2026.

16. Potential themes and programmes to be included in the 2021-2025 review plan must first be discussed between the Provost or Delegate, relevant faculty deans, review chair and academic reviews manager.

17. VCDD is responsible for approving the proposed review plan.

18. In selecting themes, consideration must be given over the course of the cycle to drawing a range of examples from across the full suite of Category A and B programmes.

19. The 3-year rolling plan may be adjusted annually by the Provost or Delegate, with the approval of VCDD, to take account of significant changes in enrolment trends, strategic importance and/or the external environment of the programme, or to respond to areas of strategic concern. This may result in additions or deletions of programmes on the review plan.

20. Other programmes may be nominated for inclusion in the review plan upon faculty request, or by the Provost or Delegate as a result of issues identified in ongoing quality assurance monitoring.

21. The formal cyclical review of established programmes complements, but does not replace, ongoing or periodic assessments of the programme by its managers and the process of continuous improvement. A cyclical programme review is to draw upon these assessments.


The following definitions apply to this document:

Programme is a generic term for a group of courses or other work which on satisfactory completion leads to the award of a qualification (a degree, diploma or certificate).

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: Senate and Council
Date approved: Council 27 July 2020
Review date: 27 July 2025