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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) 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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

8.  The academic head and  dean  are to collaborate to provide a list of possible panel members to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

9.  The Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) 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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
  • 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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) 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 questions, 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 appropriate
  • 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
  • list of publications and other research outputs (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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), 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



Initial meeting of DVC(A), 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


Submissions invited from staff and students of the academic unit


Draft portfolio reviewed by nominated associate dean


Submission of draft portfolio (narrative component only) to chair and academic reviews manager for review


Submission of finalised portfolio to academic reviews manager and dean


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


Additional information request made by panel (if needed)


Site visit by review panel (2 days)


Draft report to academic head and dean


Academic head/dean comments to panel chair


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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

63.  The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) 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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) 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 Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

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 

Document management and control

Owner:  Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

Content manager: Academic Reviews Manager

Approved by: Senate and Council

Date approved: Council 18 June 2018

Review date: June 2021