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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 is the ultimate academic authority within the University, but it cannot be directly involved in decision making on all matters for which it is formally responsible; the range of business undertaken inevitably means that delegation of powers and responsibility to individuals and to committees is necessary.  The Academic Quality and Standards Subcommittee (AQSS) is a subcommittee of the Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC) and has delegated responsibility from ESEC to oversee the quality monitoring and enhancement framework and its implementation, and the University regulations.  Consideration of quality for all PGR programmes is routed through the Postgraduate Research 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 School Report is produced by the Doctoral Programme Director to (1) reflect on research degree provision; (2) share good practice and identify issues of concern; and (3) comment on plans for enhancement in the coming year.  The Report is expected to provide a detailed reflection and evaluation of the School's research degree programme(s).  To aid completion of the Report, a data snapshot is provided by the Doctoral College and by the Centre for Higher Education Practice.  Additional data should be sourced from within the School and/or Faculty.

The Faculty Director of the Graduate School's Commentary shoudl reflect, a the level of the Faculty, on (1) recruitment, admission and student numbers; (2) progression monitoring and review, examination and completion; (3) the student experience; and (4) training and professional development for students and staff.  A commentary on any Faculty-specific activities that have been delivered in support of the student experience should also be included.

The Faculty Action Plan is completed by the Faculty's PGR annual monitoring group.  Section 1 should list the concerns and good practice reported on the Faculty Action Plan for the previous reporting period and should identify the progress made and/or the outcome achieved.  Section 2 is informed by the School Reports and the Faculty Director of the Graduate School's Commentary for the current reporting period.  Good practice and issues of concern requiring action should be listed, together with timnescales/deadlines for completion.

The Faculty's PGR annual monitoring group is asked to: (a) confirm that there has been a sufficiently detailed evaluation of all PGR programmes for the reporting period; (b) confirm that, for the reporting period, the quality and standards of the Faculty's research degree provision can be assured; and (c) confirm that improvement and enhancement across the Faculty is driven through the Faculty Action Plan. 

The School Rreports, the Faculty Director of the Graduate School's Commentary and the Faculty Action Plan should be approved by the Faculty Graduae School Subcommittee before being submitted for review by a scrutiny group of PGR QME Subcommittee.  This group will produce an Institutional Overview Report for consideration by PGR QME Subcommittee and submission to AQSS. Overall responsibility for monitoring each Faculty's progress against their Faclty Action Plan rests with the Doctoral College Board. 

Templates to support the annual monitoring process are available from QSAT. The Annual Monitoring Portal sets out further information regarding the process.

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.

Overall responsibility for monitoring the Faculty's progress against the requirements and recommendations set out in the Review Panel Report rests with the Doctoral College Committee.

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