Research and Education Units, Centres and Institutes: Review Guidelines


Application


These guidelines apply to all staff with responsibility for reviewing research units, research centres and research institutes, education centres, and centres involved in operating facilities that provide research infrastructure, of the University.

Purpose


These guidelines support the Research Units, Centres and Institutes Policy and offer detailed guidance for the review of research and education units, centres and institutes.  They also explain the responsibilities of the parties involved.

Content


  • Policy guidance
  • General guidance
  • Confidentiality
  • Reviews of department/school units
  • Reviews of faculty and University centres
    • Review panels - faculty centres               
    • Review panels - University centres
    • Panel responsibilities – University and faculty centres
  • Terms of reference
    • Objectives
    • Activities
    • Governance and administration
    • Reporting and accountability
    • Support
  • Compiling information
  • Review report

Guidelines


Policy guidance

  • The Research Units, Centres and Institutes Policy states that ‘every unit/centre will be reviewed three years after its initial establishment, in order to assess its viability and the degree to which it has met its objectives’
  • After the initial review, faculty and University centres will be reviewed every five years
  • The review process will be objective, rigorous and consistent with the level of approval authority
  • Where external partnerships exist, review arrangements will be coordinated to take account of the requirements of both internal and external partners and stakeholders

 

General guidance

  • The review process will act as the normal mechanism for re-categorising units and centres
  • An outcome of the review will be a recommendation on the future status of the unit or centre
  • Any unit or centre that has ceased activity or has low levels of activity may be closed down, or re-categorised as appropriate
  • In such cases the staff member with final approval authority for the particular centre is to be consulted about the decision.
  • The dean of the host faculty will notify the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) of review outcomes

 

Confidentiality

Review panel members may be exposed to or uncover sensitive material during the course of the review. Panel members will treat material, both written and verbal, that is sensitive to the career or reputation of individual staff, or is commercially sensitive, with utmost care. Where warranted, the review panel will report any findings on individual staff in a separate confidential report to the dean or Vice-Chancellor. Issues that emerge outside of the terms of reference for a review may also, at the discretion of the panel, be reported separately to the Vice-Chancellor. As the Vice-Chancellor is the employer of all staff, s/he will retain the report, and if action follows, may make information from it available to the staff member concerned.

 

Reviews of department/school units

  • These are reviewed every three years, including an assessment of research and other outcomes
  • It is recommended that reviews be conducted by the head of the host department/school or the dean of the faculty (or his/her nominee)

 

It is recommended that the reviewer:

  • ensures that the review is conducted in accordance with its terms of reference and the requirements of confidentiality
  • evaluates information about the research unit
  • invites the director or other members of the research unit to meet with them
  • consults with the final approval authority where re-categorisation or disestablishment is recommended
  • writes and finalises a review report for the faculty

 

Reviews of faculty and University centres

 

Review panels - faculty centres

  • Every faculty centre is reviewed by the dean of the host faculty every five years
  • The terms of reference and membership of a review committee are established by the relevant dean or nominee
  • The dean or nominee will act as chair of the committee
  • Where appropriate, a representative from a related external partner or stakeholder can be added to the review committee

 

Review panels - University centres

  • Every University centre is reviewed by the dean of the host faculty at least once every five years
  • However, if the centre receives funding from the University’s Strategic and Cross-Disciplinary Research Initiatives Fund, the review will be carried out in accordance with that funding (usually after 3 years)
  • The terms of reference and membership of a review panel will be established by the host dean in consultation with other relevant deans
  • The review committee will normally involve all relevant deans and at least one other senior academic who is not involved in the centre to provide an independent perspective
  • The dean who establishes the review committee is chair of the panel

 

The review will include specific assessment of research and other outcomes from centre activities, in line with the centre's mission, and will take account of the requirements of external stakeholders (e.g. reviews by funding agencies).

The host dean is responsible for submitting review reports to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

 

Panel responsibilities – University and faculty centres

 

When reviewing a faculty centre or a University centre, the chair of the review committee 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 committee
  • acting as the main point of contact between the review committee and internal or external stakeholders
  • ensuring that effective means of communication are arranged as necessary between committee members
  • co-ordinating and requesting additional information other than that provided by the Research Office and/or the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)
  • inviting the director and/or other members of the research centre to meet with the review committee
  • consulting with the final approval authority in cases of recommended re- categorisation or disestablishment
  • writing and finalising the review report and submitting it to the Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Research) (via the dean, in the case of a dean’s nominee chairing the committee)

 

The review panel is responsible for:

  • evaluating information about the research centre
  • requesting, if necessary, additional information through the chair
  • meeting the director or other members of the research centre as required
  • participating, as agreed with the chair, in writing the final report

 

Terms of reference

The following terms of reference are provided as a guide to assist with faculty and University centre reviews. Not all questions may be relevant to all centres, and a panel may need to consider other questions as it sees fit.

 

Objectives

To assess the role of the centre by reviewing its objectives to ensure that they are internally consistent and are aligned with the host faculty’s and University’s priorities and plans:

  • are the centre’s objectives clear?
  • are the centre’s objectives appropriate (research or teaching-related focus and/or other endorsed scope of activity)?
  • do the objectives need revision so that they remain appropriate in the future?
  • are priorities set and well understood?
  • are the centre’s objectives geared to enhance the university’s position
  • as an internationally recognised, research-led institution?
  • do the centre’s objectives include the intention to facilitate and promote
  • interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary activity in the university?
  • does the centre have appropriate goals for the future and developmental plans?
  • has the centre met its objectives?

 

Activities

To assess the centre’s level of activity to ensure that centres are appropriately categorised and named, and to ensure that centres with low levels of activity are formally disestablished:

  • in what way are the activities being undertaken greater than or different from the activity that would be undertaken by the individual members in the absence of the centre?
  • what are the range and extent of research and/or other endorsed activities?
  • are the activities of a nature and scale that will substantially contribute to the achievement of the faculty’s and/or the University’s strategic goals, e.g., contribution to the University’s reputation, research profile, or revenue of a sufficient scale?
  • how appropriate and effective are activities in achieving stated centre objectives?
  • is the level of activity appropriate and how might it be improved, taking into consideration the category of the centre and the number/amount of
    • activities undertaken (workshop, seminars etc.)
    • academic staff members (critical mass)
    • masters and phd students
    • research outputs
    • external funding
  • what is the comparative national and international standing and reputation of the centre?
  • what processes and procedures exist to encourage co-operation and links with other centres and outside organisations?
  • are the centre’s internal and external links appropriate, and what can be done to improve these?
  • how and to what extent does the centre promote its activities? how can promotion be improved?
  • how and to what extent does the centre advance its ongoing evolution according to its developmental plans?
  • is the centre financially viable?
  • does the level of activity reflect the current formal category of the centre or will it be re-categorised?
  • is the name of the centre aligned with its formal category?

 

Governance and administration

To assess the appropriateness of the centre’s governance and administrative processes to ensure that such arrangements will serve the centre adequately in the future:

  • does the centre have an appropriate governance structure, given its size, scale and activities?
  • what are the mechanisms for and effectiveness of financial management, including the distribution of any surplus returns from activity?
  • are administrative and financial arrangements well understood and functioning appropriately?

 

Reporting and accountability

To assess the appropriateness of the centre’s adherence to reporting and accountability requirements and to ensure that such arrangements will serve the centre adequately in future:

  • has the centre reported annually to the appropriate authority?
  • are reporting and accountability requirements, including financial/accounting requirements, well understood and complied with?
  • has a copy of the annual report been transmitted to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor
  • (Research) or Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) where appropriate?
  • has all recruitment and selection of personnel been carried out in accordance with the HR policy and practices of the University and through the dean of the host faculty?

 

Support

To assess the level of support being provided to the centre and to ensure the centre is receiving an appropriate level of support:

  • what level of support does the centre receive from the faculty/faculties, the University and from UniServices?
  • does the centre receive support for any of the following:
    • administration, research management, project management and/or financial administration/management
    • development and review of strategic plans
    • partial FTE allocation for director
    • direct financial contributions (CAPEX and OPEX)
    • provision of adequate and appropriate space
    • training and career development for directors and staff
  • is the centre receiving sufficient support, and are there other funds, funders, organisations, or divisions within the University that may provide additional support?
  • if the centre has received funding from the University’s Strategic Research Initiatives Fund, also consider the review requirements related to that funding under the Guidelines for the Strategic Research Initiatives Fund

 

Compiling information

In addition to its own expertise, information used by the review panel will come primarily from three sources:

  • Research Office
  • Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)
  • the centre itself

 

The Research Office and/or the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) will, on request by the review panel, provide information about research centres as made available by the research centre to the Research Office and/or the Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Research). Such information may include annual reports, updated website information and information from the latest research centre review.

 

Review report

The content of the review report will correspond broadly to the terms of reference. The report will conclude with findings, decisions and recommendations with respect to improvement, re-categorisation, re-naming and/or disestablishment of the reviewed centre. Where the panel determines that good or exemplary practices exist, these will be highlighted.

Definitions


The following definitions apply to the Research and Education Units, Centres and Institutes Policy and to these guidelines:

 

Centre means a group of academic and research staff with a commitment to undertake activity that is greater than or different from the activity that would be undertaken by the individual members in the absence of the centre.

Centres will usually have research as their main focus. However, some may be education centres and some may be involved in operating facilities that provide research infrastructure. A centre has a formal management and reporting structure, a number of staff (critical mass) and preferably a group of research students whose work is part of the centre. Centre status does not imply permanency of structure in the same way that departmental or school status does. Centres provide a flexible structure that facilitates an appropriate level of interactions with a range of stakeholders. The following categories exist:

  • department/school research unit
  • faculty centres
  • University centres

For the purposes of the policy and these guidelines, the term “centre” specifically excludes Centres of

Research Excellence (CoREs), Large Scale Research Institutes (LSRIs) and National Science Challenges (NSCs)

 

Department/school research unit is a centre that undertakes research activities that are:

  • greater than or different from the activity that would be undertaken by the individual members in the absence of the unit; and
  • of a nature and scale that will make a relatively small contribution to the achievement of the University’s strategic goals

 

Faculty centre is a centre that undertakes activities that are:

  • greater than or different from the activity that would be undertaken by the individual members in the absence of the centre and
  • of a nature and scale that will substantially contribute to the achievement of the University’s strategic goals, eg, contribution to the University’s reputation, research profile, or revenue of a sufficient scale and
  • multi-disciplinary

AND which may have the following characteristics:

  • employs a small core of dedicated support staff, including a part-time or full-time director
  • receives support from the relevant faculties and UniServices where appropriate, given the nature of the research undertaken

 

University centre means a centre that undertakes activities that are:

  • greater than or different from the activity that would be undertaken by the individual members in the absence of the centre; and
  • of a nature and scale that will substantially contribute to the achievement of the University’s strategic goals, e.g. contribution to the University’s reputation, research profile, or revenue of a sufficient scale; and
  • multi-disciplinary

AND which has the following characteristics:

  • scope and scale of activity similar to that of a department/school
  • international recognition (eg, attraction of researchers, students and visitors from overseas)
  • extensive links with external research, business and government groups
  • revenue from a variety of sources
  • a fully committed director and relevant administrative support
  • receives support from the relevant faculties and UniServices where appropriate, given the nature of the research undertaken

Note : The term institute may only be used in the names of centres in exceptional circumstances, with the approval of the Vice-Chancellor.  Key criteria are that the centre must:

  • be classified as a University centre and
  • have strong alignment with the university’s strategic goals and
  • have the ability to show international participation and significant financial activity

It is envisaged that the University would have relatively few institutes and that use of the term signals a major strategic focus of the University

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Key relevant documents


Document management and control


Content manager: Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Owned by: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Date approved: February 2015