Academic Manual


Section 3: Internal Quality Review (IQR)

Published for 2023-24

3.1 Introduction3.5 The Review Visit
3.2 Selection for an Internal Quality Review visit3.6 The Review Outcomes
3.3 The Review Team3.7 Implementing the Recommendations
3.4 Review Visit Preparation 

3.1 Introduction

1.Internal Quality Review (IQR) is UCL’s central academic quality management and enhancement process. IQR is a risk-based programme of peer review, in which academic units of UCL which are identified as posing a significant risk to standards in one or more areas of their provision are intensively reviewed to identify areas where they can be supported to improve. 
2.The main purpose of the IQR is to focus on those areas where the department has been identified to be performing significantly below the agreed benchmark in its education and student experience activity, to investigate the factors that may be contributing to that performance, and to recommend areas for enhancement that will ensure that those departments are providing a high-quality student experience, that safeguards academic standards and delivers good outcomes for all students. 
3.The philosophy underpinning IQR is one of peer support and educational enhancement through the sharing of good practice. Through the review visit and the subsequent report and follow up, the process aims to enable colleagues in departments who are facing challenges in specific areas of their provision to learn from peers with expertise or proven good performance in those same areas.

3.2 Selection for an Internal Quality Review visit

3.2.1 Criteria for selection

1.In time for the start of each academic session, a review of performance in key education and student experience measures, as agreed by the Quality and Standards Committee, will be conducted and based on that analysis, a list of departments will be identified as potential candidates for an IQR visit. 
2.The measures that will normally factor into the analysis are listed below. There may be a need to consider measures beyond those listed below in cases where there is evidence of a risk to academic standards or the student experience that has not been directly flagged in the normal course of review. In such cases, a recommendation will be made to the Quality and Standards Committee.
 a. Student Outcomes:  
b. Student Experience (National Student Survey, Annual Programme Survey) 
c. Awarding Gaps 
d. Classification Outcomes 

3.2.2 Confirming the visit

1.The Quality and Standards Committee/Internal Quality Review Panel will, based on the analysis produced and the recommendations made, consider the list of departments that may qualify for an IQR visit. 
2.The Quality and Standards Committee/Internal Quality Review Panel may also consider other factors presented to them, as outlined above, to support them in making their recommendations. This may include the distance from the last review visit, and a review of progress made as evidenced within the Department and/or Faculty Education Plan.
3.Heads of Departments that are nominated for an IQR will be informed by the Head of Academic Policy, Quality and Standards, and invited to arrange an initial meeting to discuss the reasons for the nomination and to receive guidance on the process of preparing for the review visit. They will also be asked to nominate a contact within the Department who is responsible for liaising with the review secretary on all aspects related to the operational delivery of the review.
4.Heads of Departments that are not nominated for an IQR will be informed that they were considered by the Quality and Standards Committee/Internal Quality Review Panel, and that their Dean will be asked to include them in the Faculty Education Plan for the year. 

3.2.3 Repeat qualification for an IQR visit

1.As some issues can take more than one academic year to resolve, it is feasible that a department may, based on their metrics, qualify for an IQR in consecutive years, or within a short interval from their last visit. 

In the interest of giving departments sufficient time to embed enhancements, while maintaining assurance that progress is being made, the following decision framework will be used:

  • Year 0: Department is nominated to receive an IQR visit in Term 1 and the visit happens in Term 2 or Term 3. 
  • Year 1: As the review visit happened within the last year, there will not be immediate follow up, other than ensuring that IQR actions are being addressed through the DEP in line with 1.7. 
  • Year 2: The Head of Department and Dean of Faculty are invited to meet with the Chair of the IQR Panel to discuss their progress against any Essential recommendations and, where necessary, will agree an enhanced reporting schedule and additional actions based on changes in the data since the review visit. 
  • Year 3: The Department will be nominated for, and likely approved for, a new IQR visit. 

3.3 The Review Team

1.The IQR Panel will constitute a review team for each visit. As far as possible, the constitution of the team should be matched to the needs of the visit, based on the factors that contributed to the decision to conduct the review of that department. 
2.The review team leader must be a senior member of staff directly involved in delivering and/or supporting education and the holistic student experience.
3.The maximum number of reviewers that should be appointed is ten, but a smaller, more agile team may be appointed where appropriate to the needs of the visit. The Chair of the IQR Panel/Quality and Standards Committee will confirm how many reviewers they think would be appropriate, and the relevant expertise required, with the Head of Academic Policy, Quality and Standards. 
4.As far as possible, all internal members of the review team must come from outside of the faculty to which the department being reviewed belongs.
5.All review teams must have at least one student reviewer, and one external reviewer who will be appointed based on either subject or issue specific knowledge. 
6.All review team members will undertake to read all supporting documentation, participate fully in interviewing staff and students ruing the review visit, and make appropriate contributions to the preparation of the final report.
 Role of the Team Leader
7.To conduct the pre-meeting with the Faculty leadership team, supported by the secretary and at least one other internal reviewer.
8.To chair the review team’s planning meeting, in which the leader will confirm the areas of exploration that are being assigned to each member of the team. 
9.During the review visit, to ensure that each interview session is conducted in a collegial and supportive manner, while ensuring that the relevant avenues for discussion are appropriately covered. 
10.To agree with the other members of the team, the main findings, and conclusions of the review visit, and to ensure that these are correctly recorded by the secretary. 
11.To approve the formal report of the IQR visit once this has been agreed between the review team and the Department being reviewed.
 Role of the Student Reviewer(s)
12.To conduct the pre-meeting with the course representatives for all relevant programmes in the Department and produce the Student Submission in partnership with the Lead Department Representative. 
 Role of the External Reviewer(s)
13.External Reviewers play a vital role in assisting the team to identify key issues to be explored during the visit to the department. They can identify and make comparisons with similar provision or activity at other institutions and, where relevant, comment on the currency of the department’s programmes, or their education and student experience related practices and processes, in the context of developments in the discipline and/or the wider sector. 
14.An External Reviewer will normally be a senior member of staff involved in education or the support of education employed at another Higher Education Provider. They should either be appointed based on their knowledge of the discipline or because of their recognised capability in an area directly relevant to the reasons the Department has been nominated for review. 
15.A reviewer will be identified by and nominated to the IQR Panel by the Academic Policy, Quality and Standards team. They will have had no formal links to the Department within the previous five years and will have experience of conducting periodic review within their own institution, or external review on behalf of the QAA or another relevant professional body. 
 Role of the Secretary
16.The Secretary is responsible for facilitating communication between the Department and the review team in preparation for the visit. This includes agreeing the date of the visit, answering any questions the Department may have about the process and their preparations, and agreeing deadlines for the submission of key documents. 
17.The Secretary is also responsible for supporting the review team in their preparations for the visit, including arranging and attending preparatory meetings, preparing agenda for each interview, and agreeing attendees for each interview between the Department and the team leader. 
18.The Secretary is responsible for recording the key points of discussion and outcomes of each of the interviews, and for drawing this together to support the review team in reaching their final conclusions and recommendations. Subsequently, the Secretary is responsible for drafting and coordinating the agreement for the final report. 

3.4 Review Visit Preparation

3.4.1 Preliminary Meetings

 Initial meeting with the Department

Following confirmation of the Department’s selection for IQR, the Head of Department, the Director of Education, and the nominated contact person will be invited to meet with the Head of Academic Policy, Quality and Standards and the Secretary. The purpose of this meeting is to:

a) Explain why the department has been selected for IQR, and the specific evidence that was used to make that decision.  
b) Ascertain whether there are additional areas the department feels it would benefit from exploring as part of the visit. 
c) Agree what information the department will provide in its Self-evaluative statement and supporting documentation.  
d) In principle agree, agree which departmental teams the review team should interview to explore the issues identified.
e) Identify suitable dates to conduct the review visit.

   Meeting with Faculty education leadership 

Once the review team has been appointed, the review team leader, the secretary, and at least one other internal reviewer will meet with the Dean, Vice Dean Education, Faculty Tutor (or equivalent) and HEDS Faculty Partner. The purpose of this meeting is to:

a) Establish whether the Faculty has any specific areas it would like the review visit to explore.

b) Understand the Faculty’s perspective on the areas that the Department has faced challenges with, and their actions to address them.

c) Establish what support the Faculty has provided and continues to provide to help the Department to enhance its education and student experience.    

 Meeting with the course representatives

Prior to the review visit, the Student Reviewer and the Lead Department Representative will co-lead a meeting with the department’s course representatives. The purpose of the meeting is to: 

a) Facilitate a discussion of the key themes that the review visit will be exploring and understand the students’ view of the department’s efforts in addressing its challenges. 
b) Understand what, if any, changes, or enhancements the students feel would help the department to improve in the areas that are being reviewed. 
c) Enable the Student Reviewer and the Lead Department Representative to co-create the student submission, which will be based on the themes and ideas raised during the meeting and will form part of the supporting documentation for the review visit. 

3.4.2 The Self-evaluative Statement and the Student Submission

 The Self-evaluative Statement
1.  The purpose of the Self-evaluative Statement (SES) is to provide the department with an opportunity to reflect on the challenges it has faced in the areas for which it has been nominated for the review, and to outline actions and interventions taken to date to address them. This will help the review team to understand the context within which the visit will take place.
2.In producing the SES, the department should be honest about what it is finding challenging, where it wants to get to in terms of enhancement and improvement, and the support it feels it would need to get there.
3.The SES should reflect on the data provided to the department, such as its performance against key education and student experience metrics, as well as its own locally held information, such as its enhancement plans, Student-Staff Consultative Committee minutes, and responses to external examiners’ reports. These sources of information should be provided as appendices with clear cross references within the SES.
4.The template format for the SES will be approved by the IQR Panel and published each year and provided to each department at its preliminary meeting.
 The Student Submission
5.The purpose of the Student Submission is to complement the SES, which is produced by the staff leading education in the department, with a corresponding and co-equal reflection on the same information from the student body, as represented through the Course Representatives.
6.The Course Representatives will be supported in the production of the Student Submission through the preliminary meeting chaired by the Student Reviewer and the Lead Department Representative. 
7.The template format for the Student Submission will be approved by the IQR Panel published each year and provided to each Lead Department Representative and Student Reviewer prior to their meeting with the Course Representatives.

3.5 The Review Visit

1.  The purpose of the visit is to reach, through a series of collegiate and collaborative discussions, a collective understanding between the department and the institution, through the review team, of the key factors contributing to the challenges the department is facing, and to agree a set of realistic and useful recommendations that will enable the department to enhance its education and student experience.
2.A review team’s visit may last between 1-2 days, depending on the extent of business, the size of the department, and the number of interviews it has been deemed necessary to schedule. 
3.The review team will agree with the Department in advance of the visit a detailed timetable of interviews to be conducted. These interviews should align with the issues covered in the SES. A sample timetable is provided in the annexes. 

At some point during the day, the following role holders should always be interviewed: 

  • The Head of Department.
  • The Chair of the Department Teaching Committee.
  • The Lead Department Representative.
  • Programme Leaders for all relevant programmes.
  • A range of staff who teach on or support the delivery of the relevant programmes.
  • A range of students from the relevant programmes.

3.6 The Review Outcomes

3.6.1 Summary of Key Findings

1.The Review Secretary will draft a summary of key findings within two working days of the conclusion of the review visit. This will be circulated to the Review Team Leader for approval and sent to the Head of Department and Dean of Faculty with a note that the fuller draft report, which will contextualise all recommendations, will follow in 15 working days. 

3.6.2 The Review Report

1.The report of the IQR visit will be drafted by the Review Secretary, agreed with the review team, and forwarded to the Head of Department within fifteen working days of the last meeting of the review team for comment on any factual errors. 
2.The report will set out recommendations for improvement in the following categories ‘essential’, ‘advisable’ or ‘’desirable’ and, where appropriate, identify good practice and/or make affirmations of actions already under way. Where appropriate and applicable, the report will also set out what support may be available to help the department or programme concerned to meet expectations and within what period. 
3.Actions will be contextualised so that it is clear why a recommendation is being made, and how it is intended to support the Department.

3.6.3 The Department Action Plan

1.The department or programme concerned will, in consultation with the review panel and normally within four weeks of receipt of written feedback, produce a written plan detailing the follow-up action that it will take in response to the recommendations in the IQR Review Panel report for approval by the Chair of the IQR Panel and will be shared with and discussed at the Quality and Standards Committee and reported to Education Committee. 
2.The action plan must be realistic and commit to making progress against each recommendation within an agreed timeline. 
3.A copy of the report and action plan will be sent to the relevant Dean for information and should be submitted to the next normal meeting of the Faculty Education Committee for discussion.

3.7 Implementing the Recommendations

3.7.1 Relationship with the Department and Faculty Education Plan

1.As qualification for an IQR is indicative of a serious risk to quality and standards in one or more areas of the Department’s provision, it is expected that a Department working to implement an IQR action plan will undertake more enhancement activity in an academic year than other departments. 
2.All actions related to essential recommendations must be added to the Department Education Plan (DEP) for the duration of those actions. They must also be added to the Faculty Education Plan (FEP), as they are actions being taken to address a significant risk to standards. These actions will then be tracked via the regular report to Quality and Standards Committee, and the conversations with the HEDS Faculty Partnership teams.
3.The Department must table the IQR action plan at each meeting of the Department Teaching Committee, alongside the DEP to identify when and how to incorporate the actions that will be taken to address advisable and desirable recommendations into the DEP.

3.7.2 Relationship with the IQR Panel

1.At the start of each academic year, the IQR Panel will receive the agreed Department Education Plan and review it against the IQR Action Plan to monitor progress against the recommendations of the review team. 
2.Where the IQR Panel is concerned that progress against a specific recommendation is insufficient, it may ask the Quality and Standards Committee to explore this further with the Department. 

3.7.3 Annual Progress Conversations

1.Once a year, each department that is working to address an IQR Action Plan will meet with their Vice Dean Education and/or Faculty Tutor, HEDS Faculty Partnership Lead, and a senior member of the Academic Policy, Quality and Standards team. 
2.The purpose of the meeting is to identify where progress has been made against the action plan, what actions the department plans to focus on next, and any assistance the department may need to make progress on their outstanding actions. 
3.These meetings are not a monitoring point, as this will be conducted via the other methods listed above, but an opportunity to identify support and development needs.