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The University of Southampton
Quality Handbook

Degree Approval, Quality Monitoring and Enhancement

Programme approval and review, annual monitoring and periodic review

Senate must be able to give assurance to its governing Council that the University of Southampton’s programmes meet the conditions for registration as set by the Office for Students (OfS). These are defined in section B of the Conditions of registration - Office for Students. Senate delegates responsibility for defining, managing and monitoring programme quality assurance processes to its Academic Quality and Standards Committee (AQSC). AQSC has tasked its Postgraduate Quality Monitoring and Enhancement (PGR QME) Subcommittee with making recommendations for defining, managing and monitoring programme quality assurance processes for PGR degrees.

Programme Approval and Review

Programme approval is the process by which new PGR degree programmes are checked against academic quality and standards expectations. Programme review is the quinquennial process of reflecting on existing PGR degree programme delivery and student experience and planning for the next cycle of programme enhancement. The Programme Approval and Review: Postgraduate Research Degree Programmes sets out detailed guidance to support this process.

Annual Monitoring

This process forms part of the University’s evidence in assuring itself and outside agencies of the quality of its PGR education provision and provides opportunity to reflect on current provision and to consider enhancements.

The Annual Report on Research Degree Provision is produced at programme level and has three key purposes: (1) it allows Faculties to reflect on current research degree provision; (2) it provides opportunity to share (good) practice across the University via the Doctoral College; and (3) it assures the quality of the research degree provision. In completing the annual report, the Doctoral Programme Director (DPD) or programme lead should reflect on current research degree provision, share good practice and identify any issues of potential concern. Existing available data sources (e.g. Qlikview) or other prepared data should be used to aid the reflection.

The Commentary from the Faculty Director of the Graduate School should reflect on feedback received from external examiners, capture any Faculty-specific activity that has been delivered in support of the student experience during the reporting period, and should comment on the overall rates of progression review completion, submission rates, and completion rates across the Faculty.

The Faculty Director of the Graduate School is responsible for arranging for the programme-level reports and their commentary to be scrutinised by an annual monitoring subcommittee of Faculty Graduate School Committee, the purpose of which is to (1) ensure the standards and quality of the Faculty’s research degree provision; (2) to drive improvement and enhancement; and (3) to confirm that each programme-level report provides a sufficiently detailed reflection and evaluation (and if not, to require revisions to be made as needed).

The annual monitoring subcommittee is then responsible for completing and agreeing the Faculty Action Plan for Research Degree Provision. The Action Plan has three key purposes: (1) to monitor progress on enhancement actions for research degree provision in the reporting period; (2) to summarise good practices to share, issues of importance and respective actions to address them in the next reporting period; and (3) assures the quality and standards of the research degree provision.

Each Faculty’s submission is scrutinised by the Chair of PGR QME Subcommittee, the Director of the Doctoral College and a representative from the Quality, Standards and Accreditation Team (QSAT). This group will then produce an Institutional Overview Report for agreement by PGR QME Subcommittee and approval by AQSC. Templates to support the annual monitoring process are available from QSAT.

Periodic Review of PGR Degree Provision

Periodic review is conducted at Faculty level and forms part of the Quality Monitoring and Enhancement (QME) Framework at the University of Southampton. It evaluates the operation and performance of a Faculty’s entire PGR degree provision, and is conducted every five years in accordance with a schedule determined by PGR QME Subcommittee. However, a Faculty’s research degree provision may be subject to more frequent review if significant concerns have been identified and/or where there has been significant change to the structure and delivery of its provision. The PGR Periodic Review – Policy sets out detailed guidance to support this process and associated templates are available from QSAT.

The aim of periodic review is to:
• ensure a Faculty’s compliance with the University's Regulations for Research Degrees and Higher Doctorates (with specific reference to the Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidature and Supervision); and
• to identify and promote the sharing of good practice; and
• to consider changes to research degree provision which will enhance the student experience.

The scope of periodic review includes:
• the student lifecycle from recruitment and admission through progression review, examination and award;
• the student experience;
• the research environment and culture, and the resources available to support students and supervisors;
• training and development for students and supervisors.

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