Theme-based Programme Review Procedures


This document applies to:

  • programmes that are scheduled for inclusion in a theme-based programme review under the External Review of Established Programmes Policy
  • members of theme-based programme review panels


To specify the procedures that are to be followed by staff members and review panels in conducting theme-based programme reviews.


Size, composition and responsibilities of the review panel

1. Theme-based programme reviews are to be conducted by a review panel comprising up to four members:

  • two senior academic staff members of the University who do not hold formal management responsibilities for any of the programmes included in the review, one of whom must chair the review
  • up to two external members with expertise relevant to the review theme, at least one of whom is to be from a Universitas 21 or Worldwide Universities Network partner

2. The size of the panel may be adjusted up or down by the Provost or delegate to ensure that there is an appropriate alignment of the panel composition with the scope and complexity of the review.

3. Faculty deans must not be members of review panels.

4. The review panel chair must be appointed well in advance of the review.

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

6. Where a standing chair is not in place for a review, the Provost or delegate is to consult with the Vice-Chancellor and the relevant deans on possible chairs. 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 relevant deans, review panel chair and academic reviews manager are to collaborate to provide a list of potential panel members to the Provost or delegate . This list must include relevant biographical data and take into account, as far as possible, relevant expertise and experience, as well as appropriate disciplinary, gender and ethnic representation. Potential members must not be approached at this stage (e.g. to determine interest or availability).

9. The Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Provost or delegate decides on membership.

10. Before the membership is finalised, any reasoned objections which the relevant deans might have are to be considered.

11. Prospective members are then to be asked if they are prepared to undertake the task, via an invitation from the Provost or delegate .

12. The chair is responsible for:

  • ensuring that the review is conducted in accordance with its terms of reference 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. by email or videoconference) are arranged as necessary between panel members before and after the site visit
  • coordinating requests for additional information
  • coordinating the drafting of the review panel report, soliciting comments from the relevant deans, associate deans and programme directors, finalising the report and submitting it to the Vice-Chancellor within agreed deadlines

13. Review panel members are to:

  • evaluate the review portfolio and written submissions in advance of the site visit
  • request, if necessary, additional information through the chair, or raise specific questions arising from the portfolio to be discussed during the review, no later than two weeks prior to the site visit
  • participate in formulating the findings to be included in the final report

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

  • manage the recruitment of panel members
  • advise the programmes on the preparation of the self-review portfolio
  • manage the request and receipt of submissions
  • prepare the site visit schedule with input from the chair and panel members
  • attend panel meetings and take notes
  • action panel requests for additional information
  • draft the review panel report in conjunction with the chair

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


16. Review panel members must treat all submissions, written and oral, as confidential. Submissions must be destroyed when the review report is finalised.

17. The names of staff who appear before the review panel may be kept confidential.

18. As a review panel may be exposed to or uncover sensitive material during the course of its work, panel members must treat material (both written and oral) that is sensitive to the career or reputation of individual staff, or is commercially sensitive, with utmost care and discretion.

19. Where warranted, the review panel may report any matters that emerge outside of the terms of reference in a separate confidential report to the Vice-Chancellor.

Review preparation

20. No later than six months before the site visit, the Provost or delegate is to chair an initial planning meeting involving the relevant deans, associate deans, programme directors, review panel chair, and academic reviews manager for the purpose of planning the conduct of the review, including the terms of reference and contents of the self-review portfolio.

21. The terms of reference for each review are to comprise 5-8 questions developed in accordance with the chosen theme and are to be enhancement-focused rather than retrospective.

Note - Theme-based programme reviews are not intended to be resource reviews. Panels should only comment on programme resource levels (e.g. staffing, financial, administrative, physical, etc.) in so far as they pertain to the terms of reference.

22. The Provost or delegate, in consultation with the relevant faculty deans, is responsible for approving the terms of reference.

23. Following agreement on the terms of reference, a self-review portfolio is to be prepared comprising a narrative component (maximum 40 pages) and a series of appendices containing supporting data and information.

24. The narrative component must provide reflective and critical self-evaluation of the provision across the programmes in relation to the theme of the review.

25. The academic reviews manager is to prepare and circulate specifications for the appendices following the initial planning meeting.

26. To minimise workload and duplication, the portfolio is to utilise to the maximum extent possible existing sources of data and information.

27. The relevant deans are to designate the staff responsible for preparing the portfolio (i.e. associate deans and/or programme directors).

28. The Associate Dean Academic and Learning & Teaching Community of Practice is to serve as a working party overseeing the coherence of the portfolio.

29. Prior to submission, a draft of the narrative component must also be reviewed by the chair and academic reviews manager.

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

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

31. 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.

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

33. A copy must also be sent to the relevant deans at the same time.

Written submissions

34. 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 programmes included in the review.

35. In addition, a notice is to be placed on the homepage of the staff intranet inviting submissions from any other interested staff in the University.

36. The call for submissions must be circulated no later than two months before the site visit.

37. All submissions are to be treated as confidential to the review committee.

Site visit by the review panel

38. The review panel must read the portfolio and written submissions before the site visit.

39. No later than four weeks before the site visit, the chair, internal panel member, and academic reviews manager are to meet to draft the schedule for the site visit.

40. 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.

41. Panels may request additional information about the programmes prior to the site visit. However, no material beyond the self-review portfolio is expected to be created especially for the review.

42. 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 scheduling further interviews with certain personnel during the site visit, or by other means.

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

44. Individual or small-group interviews and cross-programme focus groups or workshops may be used to clarify questions arising from the portfolio, and to collect further opinions and experiences from teaching staff, students, and others who interact with the programmes.

45. Meetings with students must occur towards the beginning of the visit so that their views may be discussed subsequently with staff where appropriate.

46. At the end of the site visit, the panel is to brief the relevant deans, associate deans and programme directors on its findings.

47. If the chair finds it necessary, the chair may brief the Vice-Chancellor or their nominee.

Finalisation and implementation of the review report

48. Following the site visit, the chair and academic reviews manager are to complete the panel’s draft report and circulate it to panel members for feedback.

49. The chair has the discretion to discuss findings with the dean.

50. The panel’s report must be brief (maximum 10 pages) and is to contain an introduction providing an account of the review scope and method (including terms of reference and panel membership), an overall evaluation section containing commentary against the terms of reference, and a set of review findings (i.e. areas for action).

51. The review findings are to be formulated as three parts:

  • areas of positive practice (particularly those which could be shared across the University)
  • areas for development within the programmes included in the review
  • other points for consideration by the University (i.e. any findings that are broader in their application or implementation, such as matters pertaining to academic policy)

52. Within eight weeks of the site visit, the chair of the review panel must send the completed draft report in confidence to the relevant faculty deans for correction of matters of fact and wording of matters of substance.

53. At that stage the report is confidential, although the deans may discuss it in the programmes as they think appropriate.

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

55. 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 .

56. The Provost or delegate is to approve the release of the report to the faculty deans for wider circulation and discussion within the programmes.

57. In addition, the Provost or delegate is responsible for referring any points for consideration by the University to the relevant persons, units, service divisions, or committees.

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

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

Implementation plan

60. Six months after receiving the report, the relevant faculties must submit a draft implementation plan for the areas identified for development within the programmes.

61. The academic reviews manager is responsible for coordinating implementation plan inputs on any points that have been referred for consideration beyond the faculties.

62. The draft implementation plan and review report are to be submitted to Senate and Council through Education Committee.

63. The chair of the review panel and representatives from the programmes are to attend Education Committee to discuss the report and draft implementation plan.

64. One year after initial consideration of the review report by Education Committee, a status report must be prepared on progress against the implementation plan

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

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

67. Programme representatives may be invited to attend Education Committee to present the status report.

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

Indicative review timetable

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

Week No. Task
-26 Initial meeting of Provost or delegate, relevant deans, associate deans and/or programme directors, review chair and academic reviews manager. Terms of reference and portfolio specifications drafted.
-22 to-18 Panel member nomination and recruitment. Panel membership finalised.
-14 Written submissions invited from staff and students.
-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 Pre-site visit panel discussion commences. 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 (2-3 days).
+8 Draft report sent to relevant faculty deans.
+11 Faculty comments to panel chair.
+13 Report finalised and submitted to Provost or delegate . Report referred to relevant parties for implementation planning.
6 months after receiving the report Report and draft implementation plan considered by Education Committee.
One year later Year-on status report on implementation considered by Education Committee.

70. 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:

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).

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: Provost
Content manager: Academic Reviews Manager
Approved by: Senate and Council
Date approved: Council 27 July 2020
Review date: 27 July 2025