FAQs on Quality Reviews

What is the quality review process at Dublin City University?

The quality review process at DCU aims to promote and develop a culture of quality in all the universities core activities. It has been developed in line with the statutory requirements for universities, as set out in the Universities Act (1997), which is the legislative basis for quality throughout the Irish University sector, and the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012. The processes for quality reviews at DCU are further aligned to the standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the published guidelines of Qualifications and Quality Ireland (QQI), and are continually reviewed and further developed based on national and international good practice.

The externally led quality review process of DCU academic and professional support areas at DCU are a core aspect of a broader quality assurance and enhancement structure at DCU.   These review are conducted within academic and professional support areas on a cyclical basis, typically once every seven years.

When will my unit be reviewed?

Units are generally reviewed every 7-8 years.  The timetable for DCU quality reviews is approved by the DCU Quality Promotion Committee and the current schedule is available on the DCU Quality Promotion Office website, https://www.dcu.ie/qpo/documents.shtml

If you have any questions regarding the quality review schedule, or a request to review the current cycle, please contact the Quality Promotion Office on (01) 700 8411

How long does the Quality Review Process at DCU take?

The quality review process takes around 12 months in total and has four key stages:

Stage 1: Self-Assessment.  This generally begins 10 months prior to a Peer Review Visit.  The process begins with a series of briefings and training led by the Quality Promotion Office, and the identification of a Peer Review Group  expert panel.  Self- assessment is led by the Area under review and is generally completed in the six months prior to the Peer Review visit.  The completed self-assessment report is submitted 4 weeks prior to the Peer Review Group visit
Stage 2:
Peer Review Visit.  This visit generally happens over a 3 day period.  During the visit, staff from the area, students, and other internal and external stakeholders will meet the Peer Review Panel.  The visit concludes with the presentation of the Peer Review Group’s initial findings by the Peer Review Group.  The final peer review group report is submitted to the Quality Promotion Committee 3 weeks after the Peer Review Group visit.
Stage 3  Quality Improvement Planning. After receipt of the final Peer Review Group Report, the Area under review develops a Quality Improvement Plan, and a response to the peer review group report.  This process takes 2-3 months.  During this time, the university’s Senior Management Group (SMG) also reviews the Peer Review Group report, and prepares a response to university level recommendations.  This stage of the review process ends with the follow-up meeting, which takes place 4-5 month after the review visit.
Stage 4:  Publication. After the follow-up meeting and agreement of the final Quality Improvement Plan, reports are circulated to the DCU Executive Committee and DCU Governing Authority prior to publication on the DCU website.

Where can 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://dcu.ie/qpo/documents.shtml.  If you cannot find the information you are looking forward, we would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.  Please contact (01) 700 8411.

How does the university select external peer reviewers?

The composition of the Peer Review Group will reflect the size, character and structure of the Area or theme under review. As a general rule, the PRG will have internal and external members, with a majority of external members.  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; external members will be drawn from senior leaders in relevant academic disciplines or areas nationally and internationally, as well as a senior member from outside Higher Education.

Areas under review will be asked to suggest suitably qualified candidates to be members of the Peer Review Group.  In making their suggestions, Areas are asked to consider senior leaders in their discipline or professional support area, having regard for the range of academic disciplines or areas of responsibility within their Area, as well as gender balance.  Areas should be mindful not to suggest individuals with whom the Area or the university has had formal relationship with in the last 5 years (e.g. external examiners, research partners, project collaborations).

How is the date of the Peer Review Group visit established?

Dates for the Peer Review Group visit are agreed between the Quality Promotion Office and the Area under review.  This is agreed at the start of the process, and is generally scheduled 10-12 months prior to the visit. Peer Review Group visits are generally scheduled over a 3 day period on Wednesday to Friday during term-time.

Who is responsible for travel, accommodation and other arrangements for the Peer Review Group?

The Quality Promotion Office makes all travel, accommodation and catering arrangements for the Peer Review Group for the visit.

Who is responsible for the Peer Review Group Schedule?

The detailed structure and timetabling of the visit should be organised by the Chair of the Area’s Quality Committee in consultation with the Quality Promotion Office. The timetable should be agreed four weeks prior to the visit. Students, employers and other users of the Area who will meet the review group will be selected beforehand by a consultation process involving the Director of Quality Promotion and the Area’s Quality Committee. Sample timetables are available from the Quality Promotions Office website (ADD LINK).  Advice and support on the Quality Review timetable is also available from the Quality Promotion Office.

All staff and students should be informed that the visit is taking place. All staff in the Area should be afforded an opportunity to meet with the members of the PRG in private or in groups, as they wish and as the timetable allows.

I am a member of staff in the Area under review- What is my role in the visit?

During the PRG visit you may be invited to participate in a meeting with the peer review group.  During the visit, you may be asked questions about the Area and its activities, as it relates to your role.  Staff are encouraged to engage fully with peer review group members during these meetings.

In addition to scheduled meetings, staff within an Area are also afforded an opportunity to meet with the peer review group during an open session which is scheduled within a review.  Information on the timing of this session may vary, and should be confirmed with the Area Review Committee prior to the visit.

I have been invited to attend a meeting with the Peer Review Group for another Area under review- how should I prepare?

Staff from across the university are often asked to participate in Peer Review Group visits. For academic staff, this may be the visit of an Area with which your school has research partnerships, an Area shares the delivery of modules within a programme, or a professional support Area with which you have regular interaction.  Staff in professional support units may be asked to represent their area in discussing the support services that are provided to the Area under review.

These meetings do not have a formal agenda, so staff should be prepared to answer questions on  their relationship with the Area under review, relevant supports as they relate to the Area under review, how work between your Area and that under review is managed and prioritised.  As the discussion may be wide-ranging, there may be occasions where you have to verify information to the Peer Review Group following the meeting.  This can be co-ordinated through the Quality Promotion Office.

I am a student and I have been asked to attend a meeting with the Peer Review Group- how should I prepare?

As a student you may be asked to participate in a meeting within the Peer Review Group during a Quality Review visit. This is most likely to be for the School or Faculty who manage your academic programme at DCU, or a professional support unit that you interact with as part of your student life.

It is likely that the Peer Review Group will ask you questions about your experiences at DCU, in particular your interactions with the Area under review.  Students are encouraged to engage fully with the Peer Review Group during their visits.  Your experiences form an important part of the Peer Review Group’s understanding of quality assurance and ongoing improvements in the Area.

Who Attends the Exit Presentation?

All staff from the Area under review are invited to attend the exit presentation at the conclusion of the peer review visit.  The exit presentation is an opportunity for the peer review group to provide information on main themes and recommendations from the review.  As the exit presentation is for information purposes and prior to the completion of the final report, there is not an opportunity for questions and commentary from DCU staff during the presentation.

How long after the visit, does the Area receive the Peer Review Group Report?

A pre-final draft of the Peer Review Group report is provided to the DCU Quality Promotion Office three weeks after the conclusion of the Peer Review visit.  This report provided to the Area Head and Area Review Committee for a period of one week, at which time the Area may request changes to the report based on factually based errors within the report.  Suggested changes are then considered, and necessary edits made prior to the completion of the final Peer Review Group Report.

Is the Peer Review Group Report circulated?

The final Peer Group Report is sent to the Head of the Area by the Quality Promotion Office, who also circulates the report to members of the university’s senior management team and the university Quality Promotion Committee.  It is recommended that the final peer review group report be subsequently circulated to all staff within the Area under review for information and discussion on quality improvement planning.

Where are Peer Review Group Reports Published?

Upon completion of the quality improvement planning process, and consideration of the outputs of the process by the DCU Governing Authority, the Peer Review Group Report, and the Area Quality Improvement Plan are published on the Quality Promotion Office website at the following link: http://www.dcu.ie/qpo/published-reviews.shtml

 Quality Improvement Planning

How long does the Quality Improvement Planning take?

Quality improvement planning occurs over a period of 2-3 months within the Area after the receipt of the final Peer Review Group Report.  During this time, the Area will be required to respond to the recommendations of the Peer Review Group, and develop a 1 year and 3 year action plan to outline their quality improvement plan in light of the recommendations.

Who is involved in Quality Improvement Planning?

Generally quality improvement plan is led by the Head of the Area under review, and will include staff from across the Area, either those previously leading the self-assessment phase of the review, or a separate quality improvement committee.

During the quality improvement planning phase of the review, the university’s senior management also reviews the peer review group report, and the draft improvement plan from the Area.  Based on this, the university provides additional input and commentary on the Quality Improvement Plan.

What is the Follow-up Meeting and who attends?

The follow-up meeting occurs 4-5 months after the Peer Review Visit, and at the conclusion of the Quality Improvement Planning process.  The meeting is chaired by the DCU Deputy President, and is normally attended by the Head of an Area under review, one external member of the Peer Review Group, one internal member of the Peer Review Group (usually the rapporteur), and the Director of Quality Promotion and Institutional Research.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and agree the final Quality Improvement Plan.

What are Prioritised Spending Requirements?

As part of the quality improvement planning process, the Area under review also has an opportunity to apply for additional funding to support the implementation of specific projects identified within the Quality Improvement Plan.  These are considered by the university Quality Promotion Committee and the Budget Committee of the University Executive, having regard for the resources available to the University for quality improvement purposes.


Who is involved in the Self-Assessment Phase of the Review?

The Self-Assessment phase of a quality review is led by the Area Quality Committee, whose membership should be drawn from staff within the Area under review.  The Committee lead co-ordinate self-assessment activities, including the use of evidence-informed approaches to self-reflection and assessment, leading to the development of a Self-Assessment Report (SAR).

While the self- assessment process is led by the Area Quality Committee, all staff within an area should be kept informed about the process, and where appropriate, invited to participate in self-assessment activities and reflection.  The Quality Promotion Office encourages units to include the views of students during the self-assessment process, either as a member of the Area Quality Committee, or a key stakeholder for consultation during the process.

More information on the suggested structure of an Area Quality Committee can be found in the Background and Guidelines document for staff at https://www.dcu.ie/qpo/documents.shtml

How long is 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 purpose of the SAR is to provide a succinct, but comprehensive and reflective statement and critical analysis of an Area’s activities.

In line with good international practice and in agreement with sectoral policy, the University does not disseminate the self-assessment report more widely. We consider that in retaining the confidentiality of the self-assessment report to the PRG and university management, the report enables and supports the aims of self-assessment in identifying of difficult issues and allows for greater openness and candour in Area self- reflection.

Where can I find information to support Self-Assessment?

The process encourages Areas to use an evidence-informed approach to self-assessment.  Areas should use, where possible, existing data, previous reviews, existing student surveys, as well as national or international benchmarks where appropriate to support the analysis of the Area.  At the start of the process, the Area under review will receive a statistics pack from the Institutional Research and Analysis Officer, which will include a wide range of student statistics information and student survey results.  Particularly for academic areas, the QPO notes that statistical reports generated by Guru™  is a useful tool to support analysis as part of a quality review.

During the period of self- assessment, the Area under review are encouraged, and supported by the Quality Promotion Office and Institutional Research and Analysis Officer, to conduct research to gather information on  the effectiveness of their activities.  This may include surveys, focus groups, benchmarking, or statistical analysis of data.  Areas may also use the self-assessment period as an opportunity for team away-days and planning events.  A small amount of funding is available to the Area by the Quality Promotion Office to cover costs associated with these activities.

How can information from other reviews be used as part of Self-Assessment?

The DCU Quality Framework is structured to align Area reviews with other reviews of teaching, research and professional standards at DCU.    It is unlikely, given the specific scope of Area reviews, that material generated through other review processes can be substituted for the self-assessment process. However, the self-assessment should include a reflection on progress made in relation recommendations or requirements of other reviews, as evidence of ongoing monitoring of continual quality enhancement within the Area.