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The University of Southampton
Quality HandbookPostgraduate Research

Quality monitoring

Postgraduate research programmes, as taught programmes, are subject to regular scrutiny processes.  These involve an annual system of reporting, and periodic reviews of postgraduate research activity.

Annual Reports

The annual reporting process forms part of the University’s evidence in assuring itself and outside agencies of the quality of postgraduate research education and provides an opportunity to reflect on its current provision and consider enhancements for the following year.

The Doctoral Programme Director writes an Annual Report on Research Degree Provision for each doctoral programme reflecting on the delivery of the programme during 1 October to 30 September.  A separate Collaborative Provision Annual Report - PGR Programmes is required for those programmes which are delivered collaboratively. A sub-group of the Faculty Graduate School Committee will then review the annual reports and agree an action plan for improvement and enhancement of the Faculty's doctoral provision for the next reporting period. 

See here for further information on the University's annual monitoring processes.


Periodic Reviews

To accompany the postgraduate research annual reporting process there is a system of periodic reviews of postgraduate research student provision. The purpose of the periodic review is to comment on the compliance of a Faculty with the University’s Regulations for Research Degrees and Higher Doctorates, identify and promote the sharing of good practice, and to consider changes to provision which will enhance the student experience. Reviews take place every five years (or more frequently if considered appropriate by Academic Quality and Standards Committee.

Usually, there is one review per Faculty, apart from the Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences which has two reviews: one looking at the Professional Doctorates, and one to look at the rest of the postgraduate research provision. There will also be a periodic review of the Researcher Development and Graduate Centre. This brings the total number of reviews to 10 over any five year period. A full guide for Faculties on the Periodic Review of Postgraduate Research Programmes process can be found in the procedures for the periodic review postgraduate research programmes.

Review Panel

The Review Panel will comprise:

  • At least two senior University of Southampton academics from outside the Faculty being reviewed (these should be an Associate Dean and a Faculty Director of the Graduate School). One of these roles, usually the Associate Dean, will act as Chair.
  • An External Adviser, with knowledge and experience of postgraduate research issues at another institution, and where possible, with knowledge of some of the disciplines under review. The External Adviser should not have acted as an External Examiner for the University of Southampton within the last five academic years.
  • A Faculty Academic Registrar (from outside of the Faculty being reviewed)
  • A member of the Quality, Standards and Accreditation Team (who will act as secretary)
  • At least one PGR student from the University, but from outside of the Faculty being reviewed.

To ensure a fair split of reviews amongst staff members, it is preferable for the panel to be selected taking into account previous staff involvement in Periodic Review of Postgraduate Research Programmes panels. See the ‘Periodic Review of Postgraduate Research Programmes panel membership’ document for the latest staff involvement in panels.

Prior to the Review

Prior to the Review, the panel will receive:

  • Annual Reports on Research Degree Provision from the faculty under review for the past five years
  • Relevant committee information relating to the governance of research degree provision in the Faculty
  • Sample admissions forms and details of the admissions process for research programmes
  • Doctoral Programme Profiles for all research degrees
  • Information about training and development opportunities given to research students
  • Results from the PRES, evaluation results from PGR activities, and any other relevant data on the student experience
  • Data on the number, progression, completion and award of PGRs in the past five years.
  • The Collaborative Provision: Annual Reports on any collaborations related to PGR activity
  • Sample minutes of SSLCs or equivalent
  • Information and handbooks for supervisory staff
  • Information and handbooks for PGR students
  • Any relevant Faculty policies on PGR related activity, for example space allocation, supervisor workload allocation, etc.

This material will be sent to the review panel electronically at least three weeks in advance of the review meeting. The panel may request additional information or clarification prior to the review. Assessors will review the information supplied and conduct a review visit.

Review visit and Report

A review will typically take a day, or part of a day, and will, for faculty reviews, include as a minimum:

  1. Meeting with Student and Academic Administration staff involved in PGR administration
  2. Meeting with a representative sample of PGR students, including any collaborative students (this may be arranged through Skype or videoconferencing).
  3. Meeting with the Graduate School Directorate and Faculty Staff involved in the management of Postgraduate Research (for example, roles identified at discipline level).
  4. Meeting with a representative selection of members of supervisory teams.

The Periodic review of the RDGC will follow a similar schedule, including student representation, with adjustments made to reflect the activity of the RDGC. This will be at the Chair’s discretion.

The panel’s purpose is primarily to report to FPC and AQSC on the faculty’s compliance with the University’s Regulations for Research Degrees and Higher Doctorates. The report will also contain any recommendations for the Faculty and endorsements for good practice. A suggested template for the report is available.

A Periodic Review of Postgraduate Research Programmes Follow-up Questionnaire will be distributed by QSAT to panel members and staff following the Periodic Review of Postgraduate Research Programmes, which will inform enhancements to the process.

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