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Annual Course Review (Postgraduate Research)


Annual Course Review provides a helpful framework for departments to formalise existing practice and to offer a formal vehicle for the consideration of student feedback (e.g. from SSLCs), data on admission, progression and submission rates, results and course literature. The idea of the Annual Course Review is to draw together these issues in order to enable departments to take a holistic view of a course of study, to assist with the planning of future course developments and to provide core material for Periodic Review. Departments can expect that the operation of the Annual Course Review process and the reports produced will be closely scrutinised during Strategic Departmental Review and, potentially, during external reviews of provision at subject, or institutional, level.


Annual Course Review should take place in the Autumn Term. Reports of Annual Course Reviews of research courses should be submitted to the meetings of the Faculty Boards in the following Spring Term. Please see deadlines for relevant year of study.

Responsibility for Annual Course Review

Each course (or group of courses) will have a designated course leader (director or co-ordinator) whose responsibility it is to ensure the organisation and conduct of the Annual Course Review.

Annual Course Review Meeting

Each year the course leader should convene a meeting of all members of staff with a substantial involvement in delivering the course(s) of study to discuss the progress of the course(s) during that year.

Student Involvement

Departments are strongly recommended to involve students in Annual Course Review, for example by inviting them to the relevant meeting. Such students might be SSLC representatives. It is otherwise important that student views of the provision are taken into account through consideration of feedback from sources such as SSLCs. Departments are also encouraged to make the Annual Course Review report available to a SSLC meeting.

Documentation for the Review

The review meeting is expected to consider a range of documentation including:

  • Results of reviews of student progress (for example end of year reviews and upgrade panels)
  • SSLC minutes and/or annual reports
  • Documentation for students (e.g. student handbook and information on departmental monitoring procedures)
  • Information on methodology training and provision to support the development of generic and discipline specific skills
  • Previous year’s Annual Course Review report
  • Data, including extracts from the Academic Statistics publication, on applications and registrations; submission rates; information on non-completion and cohort analysis conducted at departmental level to identify reasons for non-completion and potential implications for departmental support mechanisms; first destination of students
  • Feedback from employers and/or other stakeholders, where applicable
  • The University’s Guidelines on the Supervision and Monitoring of Research Degree students, available on the Graduate School website at:

Departments may wish to consider additional documentation as part of Annual Course Review.

Note on submission rates

PhD students are expected to submit their thesis by the end of their original period of registration (i.e. normally with 3 years for full-time students, 5 years for part-time students). They will, if necessary, be allowed a short extension (initially up to 3 months and normally no more than a maximum of 12 months) beyond their original period of registration. Departments should consider the proportion of students submitting by the end of their period of registration and by the end of the extension period allowed and reasons for any instances where students have submitted after these points.

Issues to be Addressed

The Annual Course Review report form seeks information in a number of areas which the review is expected to cover. This list is not intended to be prescriptive and it is open to departments to cover additional areas if they wish. Although not explicitly sought in the report form, departments are encouraged to include information on quality enhancement activities undertaken during the year and to include examples of best practice.

Review Report

Following the Annual Course Review meeting, course leaders are required to produce a brief report on the review on the standard form covering the progress of provision during the previous year and addressing areas for development in the forthcoming year.

Once completed, the report should be submitted to the Head of Department. Once departments are content with the report they submit it to the relevant Faculty Board. Where there is more than one report produced at PGR level in a department, departments are encouraged to produce an aggregated departmental-level report if possible. Reports from all departments are discussed by the Faculty Graduate Studies Committees and points of best practice and areas of possible improvement identified.

Faculty Board Secretariats will then produce composite reports on Annual Course Reviews conducted within their Faculty indicating the principal issues arising, areas for improvement and examples of good practice. These composite reports are forwarded to the Board of Graduate Studies for consideration.

The Board of Graduate Studies is required to report formally to Academic Quality and Standards Committee (AQSC) that it has received all the Annual Course Review reports from their respective departments and that they have been thoroughly discussed. It is important therefore that all reports are submitted on time. AQSC considers the composite reports on Annual Review produced by Faculty Secretariats together with the relevant Minutes from the Boards of Graduate Studies.

A copy of each Annual Course Review report, together with a record of any follow-up action resulting from its consideration, should also be kept on file in the department for use in future Annual Course Reviews, the Strategic Departmental Review process, and in external reviews of provision at subject, or institutional, level.