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Case study: Institutional Teaching & Learning Review

The University holds its Periodic Review process – its Institutional Teaching and Learning Review (ITLR) - simultaneously for all departments once every five years. When ITLR first took place in November 2012 it drew commendation from the Quality Assurance Agency and widespread support from academic departments. Further refinements were made to the process for the second iteration of ITLR held in January 2017. On this occasion, ITLR involved the review of 37 academic departments and 786 courses plus relevant professional service areas. Scrutiny panels were appointed comprising 259 internal panel members, 37 external peer reviewers, 296 student panel members and 70 panel secretaries. The exercise took 77 days’ worth of activity across a 2 week period and were followed by 4 Faculty Engagements in March 2017 where issues and recommendations which had dominated departmental reviews were subsequently elevated to Faculty and institutional levels for further scrutiny.

Department(s) / colleagues involved

Staff and students from across all academic departments and professional services with a student-facing function, either as a unit of assessment, and/or as members of a review panel. A cadre of external peers was hired to bring the necessary element of peer review to the scrutiny process.

Our aim was to …

Secure the quality and standards of Warwick awards, as required by Periodic Review processes prescribed by the national quality assurance framework. However, the University was also able to use the opportunity afforded by ITLR to explore a number of issues from its own education agenda. Amongst these featured preparation for TEF, information for students, a holistic approach to student support, inclusivity and the inclusive curriculum, enhancement of the student experience, joint and interdisciplinary degrees and modules, and postgraduate provision. The aim was to ensure that recommendations arising would enable the University to make the necessary enhancements to the quality and standards of its awards and to the overall student experience to secure Warwick’s continuing future as a leading destination for tertiary level study internationally.

What we did …

A Steering Committee was established and drew on the contributions of an independent member of the University Council, taking account of the renewed emphasis on scrutiny of academic business by the Council as the University’s Governing Board. Colleagues sought to ensure that ITLR was thorough and well prepared as a process; rigorous in its scrutiny of the University’s agenda, supportive in its conduct and exhaustive in bringing forward recommendations for improvements for all departments at all levels of study. Review panels, including external peers, were appointed, and a common dataset provided to panels in addition to departmentally-authored self-evaluation forms. Training and guidance was provided online and face-to-face for all core groups taking part in the exercise, notably student panellists and departmental students meeting with panels. Staff were trained in the analysis of metrics and the common agenda to be adopted in review meetings. Review secretaries drafted review reports which were approved by panel members and agreed with departments. Recommendations and commendations from these were channelled to Faculty Engagements for further review where appropriate and contributed to the development of a database of outcomes. Mechanisms were established to monitor and review progress towards achievement of recommendations made to academic departments, professional service areas and to central University leaders. Follow-up to these recommendations will continue until the next ITLR in 2021-22.

The outcome has been …

  • A renewed focus on education across the institution and the opportunity to draw more staff and students into institutional conversations about the value of a Warwick education and specific aspects of the student experience
  • A clear agenda for enhancement over the next several years, which will serve Warwick well in the context of the evolving national education policy landscape
  • Opportunities to forge new links with other UKHEIs through the participation of external panel members from across the sector, who contributed valuable insight and expertise
  • An indication of priority areas for action in order to secure optimum outcomes for the University from future internal and external review exercises


The benefit/impact has been …

  • The development of an agenda for change in some areas
  • An opportunity to share best practice and to ensure all departments and their students may benefit
  • Identification of inconsistencies in the student experience which can be reflected in feedback and an opportunity to address these
  • Preparation for academic departments for the Education Experience Monitoring process which took place in 2017, the Teaching Excellence Group meetings which have taken place in 2018 and subject- level TEF which will commences in 2019
  • For professional service areas, greater experience of and insight into the nature of academic priorities and scrutiny alongside academic departments

This supports the Education Strategy by …

  • Providing a renewed ‘baseline’ for each academic department against which future exercises will be benchmarked
  • Developing and sharing knowledge about facets of departmental provision that are cutting edge and worthy of showcasing
  • Ensuring that departments facing greater challenges receive support and investment as required to enable change to take place
  • Assessing departments’ preparedness for subject-level TEF and identifying areas for further enhancement
  • Supporting continuing efforts to ensure that the experience of Warwick students is the best it can be

The response of students / staff has been …

Overwhelmingly positive. Students relished involvement in panels as equal members working alongside academic staff. External reviewers commented on the strong organisation of the exercise and value for the institution. Internal staff once again welcome a ‘big bang’ approach to periodic review where all departments undergo the same exercise at the same time, creating opportunities for mutual learning. The independent member of the University Council commended the process for its thoroughness and value in developing the institutional education agenda and contributing to providing the Council with the necessary insights now required of Governing Boards.

Our next steps will be …

Continued monitoring of departmental and institutional progress towards achieving recommendations made through the ITLR process. In due course, drawing on the thorough evaluation exercises of the process by the ITLR Steering Committee and Operational Group to inform the University’s approach to its next ITLR, planned for 2021-22.

To find out more, you can contact …

Roberta Wooldridge Smith, Deputy Academic Registrar: