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Quality Promotion Office

DCU Quality Promotion Office Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs are grouped under the following headings:

 1. General Questions

What is the quality review process at University College Dublin?

The overall aim of the quality review process at DCU is on ongoing improvement.  Under the terms of the Universities Act (1997) the University and its constituent units must undergo cyclical internal quality review – typically every 7-8 years.  The key stages of internal quality review are the preparation of a Self-assessment Report (SAR) by the Unit under review; a site visit (typically 2-3 days) and consideration of the SAR by a Review Group; publication of a Review Group report incorporating recommendations for improvement; and preparation by the Unit of an improvement plan to address the recommendations.  A progress review meeting is held approximately one year after the publication of the Review Group Report to consider how recommendations have been addressed as outlined in the improvement plan.

Where would I find information and guidance on a unit review process?

Information and guidance on the review process is contained in the Background & Guidelines document and is available on the DCU Quality Promotion Office website at http://www.DCU.ie/qpo or directly from the DCU Quality Promotion Office at 7008411.

 2. Questions from units

When will my unit be reviewed?

Each unit within the University will be reviewed on a 7-8 year cycle.  A timetable for review is agreed by the Quality Promotion Committee (QPC) is a sub-committee of the University’s Executive Committee, which may occasionally be revised.  The current schedule for review may be viewed on the DCU Quality Promotion Office website (www.DCU.ie/qpo).  From time to time thematic reviews are undertaken and this may also involve the participation of some unit(s). 

Can the quality review date of my Unit be changed?

As the review schedule is agreed for a 7-8 year cycle it is only in exceptional circumstances that a unit review date may be changed, for example, accreditation visits or organisational restructuring.  Requests to change the year that a review is scheduled to take place should be made in writing to the Academic Council Committee on Quality via the DCU Quality Promotion Office.

How long does the Quality Review process take?

The review process is divided into five key stages - typically:

Stage 1:               Ten months (Pre Review Site Visit) – Initial briefing meeting for the Head of Unit by the DCU Quality Promotion Office ; establish a review co-ordinating committee; preparation of the Self-assessment Report (SAR); collate supporting documentation.

Stage 2:               One month (Pre Review Site Visit) – Submission of the SAR for consideration by the Review Group and site visit timetable prepared.

Stage 3:               Site Visit – typically over 3 days.

Stage 4:               Eight weeks (Post Review Site Visit) – Review Group Report finalised; Unit under review then has a further 12 weeks to prepare a quality improvement plan (QIP).

Stage 5:               18 months (Post Review Site Visit) – Unit prepares a progress report regarding the implementation of the QIP.  A Progress Review Meeting is held to consider the Progress Report; typically chaired by the Registrar and Deputy President.

What is the length of the Self-assessment Report?

The Self-assessment Report (SAR) should not be a lengthy document.  Typically it should be no longer than 30 pages excluding appendices.  The focus of the report is to act as a basis for dialogue between the unit and the Review Group, and the emphasis should be on critical self-evaluation of how effective and successful the unit believes the various aspects of its provision to be, including its mechanism for ongoing routine quality monitoring.

How are reviewers selected?

A typical review group might include:

  • Two senior DCU staff Internal members will be drawn from the Quality Promotion Committee (rapporteurs) and senior members of staff who are not directly involved with the reviewed Area.
  • Two external experts in the discipline, chosen from a list of at least six nominees supplied to the DCU Quality Promotion Office by the unit co-ordinating committee. 

It should be noted that the number of reviewers may vary, due to the size and diversity of the unit under review, however, the number of internal DCU members will not exceed the number of external members.  Any working relationships with the proposed externs should be declared and both genders should be represented on the nominee list.

The list of proposed reviewers will be considered and approved by a sub-group of ACCQ and the relevant College Principal/Vice-President.  Additional reviewers may be added or considered.  The final selection will be independent of the unit under review.

Is it possible to have more than two extern members?

The number of extern members may vary due to the size and diversity of the unit under review, but it is also subject to budget constraints pertaining at the time.  However, the norm is two externs and any requests for additional externs should be discussed with the DCU Quality Promotion Office.

Can we propose our current extern examiner as a Review Group member?

No, it is not possible to propose the current extern examiner.  External Reviewers should not normally have had close association with the unit during the previous 4 years.

Can I contact the Review Group during the review?

To ensure the integrity of the independent review process, any essential contact with the Review Group should be conducted through the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  Travel and accommodation arrangements, briefing material, Self-assessment report and site visit documentation are the responsibility of the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  This includes post site visit contact until the Review Group report is finalised.

Can I see another Unit’s Self-assessment Report?

No.  The Self-assessment Report is the main vehicle through which the unit conveys information about itself.  In order to encourage a critical self-evaluation the SAR remains confidential to the unit, University Senior Management, the Review Group and the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  The report should be self critical, full and frank, not attempting to hide problems and identifying strengths.  It should also be developmental, identifying possible scenarios to improve provision within the unit.  Guidance and prompts to consider in preparing the report are outlined in Appendix three of the Guidelines for Internal Periodic Review.

What is the composition of the Unit Quality Co-ordinating Committee?

Insofar as it is possible, the co-ordinating committee should be representative of the key staff groupings within the unit under review, for example, academic / research / administrative  /technical / and other staff.  The Head of unit should be a member but not necessarily chair the committee.  In a school review a student should be included, preferably a postgraduate student.  The committee should be operational and not too large. 

I am a member of staff - what is my role in the process?

As a member of staff you should be familiar with the quality process and participate and contribute as required, to the preparation of the SAR; the site visit and the unit review process generally.  Each staff member should make themselves available for the site visit and subsequent implementation of review group recommendations.  In a larger unit it is unlikely that all staff will be timetabled to meet with the Review Group.

My unit is undergoing external professional accreditation.  Can this report be submitted as the self-assessment report?

Typically, documentation developed as part of external accreditation is focussed at programme level including structures, curriculum, assessment and supports.  Internal Quality Review (as required by the Universities Act 1997) is much wider in scope.  On a case by case basis, however, documentation developed for external accreditation purposes may be recycled for internal review – the suitability of pre-existing documentation should be discussed with the DCU Quality Promotion Office at an early stage of the quality review process.

Note: typically, it is a pre-condition of professional accreditation that a programme and/or unit can provide evidence of having adhered to internal quality assurance procedures.

My School is developing a new collaborative programme. What steps should be taken prior to submission to the University’s committee(s) for formal approval.

A formal process is in place for developing new programmes which also incorporates procedures and guidance for new and existing collaborative programmes.  This is contained in the document DCU Programme Development, Approval and Review Framework available from Academic Secretariat.  Advice is also available from the DCU Quality Promotion Office.

What supports are available to the Unit under review?

The DCU Quality Promotion Office provides ongoing support for Units throughout the process and a dedicated individual is available to support, advise and facilitate unit heads and co-ordinating committees during the review process and SAR preparation.  DCU Support Units, such as the Library, Institutional Research, DCU Registry, DCU Research, DCU HR are also available to provide data and/or meet with the Review Group.

Where do I go within the University for statistical data?

Statistical data enquiries should in the first instance, be directed to the Institutional Research Analysist, Karen Johnston on 7008634 or Karen.Johnston@dcu.ie.

How is the date of the site visit determined?

The site visit date is determined by the unit under review in consultation with the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  It should be organised early in the preparatory stages of the review process, to facilitate the organisation of review groups and to ensure all staff members, students and stakeholders are available to meet the review group.

What is a typical site visit timetable and who meets with the Review Group?

The site visit timetable typically takes place over a two/three day period.  The Review Group will meet with unit staff, College Principal/Vice-President, relevant University support staff, students (undergraduate and postgraduate), employers and any other relevant stakeholders.  A typical site visit timetable is available on (www.DCU.ie/qpo).

Who is responsible for organising the site visit timetable?

The DCU Quality Promotion Office provides a timetable template for the site visit – if necessary, and following agreement by the DCU Quality Promotion Office, the timetable may be modified on a case-by-case basis.  The unit under review, in consultation with the DCU Quality Promotion Office, is responsible for organising the staff/student/stakeholder groups to meet with the Review Group.  A draft timetable should be available for discussion approximately 4 weeks before the site visit, to allow for adjustments and notifying staff and students.  The Review Group may also review the timetable and request changes following receipt of the SAR.

Who organises refreshments and meeting room(s) for the Review Group?

Refreshments and meeting rooms are organised by the unit in consultation with the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  This cost is covered by the DCU Quality Promotion Office.

What happens after the site visit is completed?

Following completion of the site visit, the Review Group will finalise the draft of the Review Group report (prepared prior to departure).  This normally takes about 8 weeks and the report is forwarded to the DCU Quality Promotion Office by the Chair, with agreed sign-offs by each member of the Review Group.  It is then forwarded to the Unit to note any factual errors and/or propose a short response to the report.  The report is then finalised and copies of the report are forwarded to the Unit under review, the President, Registrar and relevant University Officers, the Review Group members and any other persons authorised by the President/Registrar.

Review Group reports will then be considered by the relevant University committees: academic units (SMT Academic); Support units (SMT Executive).  A summary of the Report will also be considered by DCU Governing Authority.  A report of review outcomes is also made to QPC.  The Unit then moves into the follow-up stage and implementation of the Review Group recommendations.  A Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) is developed by the unit, which sets out how each of the recommendations in the Review Group Report is to be addressed.  The DCU Quality Promotion Office will provide a template for the QIP.

How are the Review Group recommendations addressed?

Completion of the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) should be undertaken in consultation with the Quality Office, and the College Principal/Vice-President.  This is normally completed 8 weeks after the Review Group report is finalised.  All recommendations must be addressed as provided under the QIP format i.e. recommendations already implemented, recommendations to be addressed in the coming year, longer term goals to be implemented over five years, and those recommendations which are considered impractical or unreasonable to implement.  The QIP is considered by a subgroup of QPC and includes a member of the Review Group.  Implementation of the QIP is reviewed through a progress report and follow-up meeting. 

When will the Unit have to prepare a Progress Report?

The Progress report is normally prepared 12 months following the Quality Improvement Plan being finalised and approved by a sub-group of QPC.  However, the ACCQ may (if circumstances require it) revise and recommend a shorter time period for submission which will be communicated to the unit.

The Progress Review meeting is typically chaired by the DCU Registrar and Deputy President and includes a member of the Review Group and QPC; College Principal/Vice-President and 2-3 members of the unit. 

 3. Questions from students

What is my role in the quality review of DCU units?

Students may be involved at several stages of the review process.  A student representative, for example, participates as a member of the Unit Co-ordinating Committee which prepares a School self-assessment report.  Feedback from students should be incorporated into the preparation of the report.  Students are invited to meet with the Review Group during their site visit and to comment on all aspects of their student and learning experience.  This may involve commenting on the curriculum, accessibility of staff, teaching and assessment methods etc.  Students also have an opportunity to view the findings of the Review Group following publication of the report.  Units may also choose to involve a student representative in the quality improvement plan process.

As a student within the University how can I take a proactive role in the quality review process?

Active student participation in the review process can be undertaken in a variety of ways: through participation in staff-student committees; University or unit feedback surveys or focus groups; becoming a class representative; through participation on the unit’s co-ordinating committee; and/or meeting with the Review Group during the site visit.

What is my involvement during the quality review site visit?

Students meet with the Review Group during their site visit and this normally takes place on the second day of their site visit.  Generally the Review Group will meet with representatives from various stages of undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  Former students may also meet with the Review Group.  Meetings are generally 30 minutes in length and the focus of the discussion typically covers all aspects of the students’ experience of studying at DCU.  A briefing document will be provided to students by the DCU Quality Promotion Office via the unit.

What questions will the Review Group ask?

The Review Group will read the Self-assessment Report provided by the Unit, which will contain student feedback as part of its discussion.  The Review Group uses the site visit to verify and discuss the content of the SAR report.  Therefore the questions asked may vary, but should cover areas such as registration, teaching methods, examinations and assessment, student support facilities, research methods, staff accessibility, etc..

 4. Questions from external stakeholders

As an external stakeholder what is my role in the quality review process?

As part of the self-assessment Report (SAR) preparation, the views of external stakeholders may be sought, for example, employers, accreditation or professional bodies.  The Review Group may wish to meet with these stakeholders to discuss how the students/graduates meet the needs of the various stakeholders or to explore any issues/concerns of the stakeholders; whether the views of the stakeholders are sought and/or taken into account when programmes are revised; or what mechanisms are in place to facilitate liaison between the unit and stakeholders.

 5. Questions from Review Group members

How are Review Group members selected?

A typical review group might include:

  • Two senior DCU staff, one of whom acts as rapporteur and the other as senior staff member.
  • Two external experts in the discipline, chosen from a list of at least 12 nominees supplied to the Quality Office from the unit co-ordinating committee. 

It should be noted that the number of reviewers may vary due to the size and diversity of the unit under review, however, the number of internal DCU members will not exceed the number of external members.  All relationships with the proposed extern reviewer should be declared.

The list of proposed reviewers will be considered and approved by a sub-group of QPC and the relevant College Principal/Vice-President.  Additional reviewers may be added or considered. The final selection will be independent of the unit under review.

What is the role of the Review Group member?

The responsibilities of reviewers include:

  • reading and analysing the Self-assessment Report prepared by the School and any other documentation sent in advance of a review (it should be noted that the Self-assessment Report is confidential to the Review Group)
  • preparing initial points on the advance documentation for circulation to Review Group members prior to the review site visit
  • participating in a review visit to the University in order to gather, share, test and verify evidence
  • drawing conclusions, making recommendations and judgements on the academic standards achieved and the quality of the learning opportunities provided
  • preparation and completion of the allocated draft sections of the Review Group Report and commenting on the overall draft of the Review Group Report, as agreed with the Chair
  • respecting University protocols on Confidentiality, and Dignity and Respect
  • being available for the whole period of the review site visit and committing to complete all processes of the review once they have embarked on it

Reviewers will evaluate the Self-assessment Report provided by the School, for example:

  • curricular contents and their suitability for achieving the intended learning outcomes
  • the assessment processes designed for the pathways and whether they are suitable to assess the intended learning outcomes
  • the overall standards of pathways and the procedures used for their maintenance and enhancement
  • the management of research and the quality of the research activity
  • overall student achievement, including progression to employment; the contributions made to student achievement by the quality of teaching; opportunities for learning; the academic support provision; and learning resources and their deployment (including staffing arrangements)
  • the teaching delivered by staff and how it contributes to learning by students and helps achieve the intended learning outcomes
  • the admission, induction and progression of students in the pathways and the academic support provided
  • the available learning resources and their use in supporting the pathways and the achievement of the intended learning outcomes
  • the procedures used for the maintenance and enhancement of standards and quality

What skills do I need as a reviewer?

Skills include the ability to:

  • conduct meetings and interviews with staff, students and external stakeholders
  • write succinctly and coherently
  • meet tight timescales and deadlines
  • work effectively as a member of a team
  • work courteously and professionally
  • maintain confidentiality
  • communicate electronically, including emails, attachments and word processed documents and files

How is the date of the site visit determined?

The site visit date is determined by the unit under review in consultation with the DCU Quality Promotion Office.  It should be agreed early in the preparatory stages of the review process to facilitate the organisation of review groups and to ensure all staff members and stakeholders are available to meet the review group.

Who will organise my accommodation and flights?

The DCU Quality Promotion Office organises accommodation and flights for the site visit in consultation with the extern reviewers.  The DCU Quality Promotion Office will co-ordinate this following confirmation of the Review Group membership.

To whom do I submit my expenses?

Expenses should be forwarded to Fiona Dwyer, DCU Quality Promotion Office, Room 153, Albert College Extension, Glasnevin Campus, Dublin 9. 

When will I receive documentation for the review?

Initial information about the quality review process will be forwarded to the Review Group members with the invitation to participate in the unit review.  Further information on the process and Self-assessment Report will be forwarded approximately one month prior to the site visit.  Additional information may be provided at the briefing meeting immediately prior to the commencement of the review site visit.

What is the role of the Review Group following the site visit?

The role of the Review Group is to prepare a Review Group report for submission to the DCU Quality Promotion Office no later than 8 weeks following the site visit.  Typically, each reviewer will have responsibility for a section(s) of the Review Group Report.  When the Review Group Report is finalised (with a response from the Unit attached) a copy of the final report will be forwarded to the Review Group members.  The Chair of the Group normally considers the Quality Improvement Plan in conjunction with the DCU Quality Promotion Office and Academic Council Committee on Quality to ensure that the recommendations are being addressed appropriately.  The Chair also participates in the Progress Review meeting to review implementation of the Review Group Report recommendations, approximately 18 months post review site visit.

(note: the term ‘unit’ is used throughout to refer to a School, College, Research Institute, Support unit, etc.) General Questions