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The 2005 Review of Academic Departments

The major advantage of such a comprehensive exercise (whereby all departments are reviewed simultaneously), is that the review committee is able to view all departments in a similar internal and external context and evaluate their plans and resource requirements against the same criteria. The allocation of resources is thus undertaken from a holistic perspective and the needs of each department and faculty are weighed against each other and against the wider mission and goals of the University. However, the institution is aware that this achievement is
only possible because of its small size and that the major disadvantage of this approach is the intensive time commitment required of the members of the review panel. Apart from reading the approximately 2000 pages of self evaluation documentation as well as external assessors’
reports, student input and teaching and learning comments from the ADC, members of the review panel spent about 100 hours in the departmental review presentations and in the preparation of recommendations. The Committee met on 22 occasions in the space of 6 weeks during March and April 2005. The ViceChancellor was present at every one of these meetings which is a prime example of the ‘handson
policy’ followed by the University’s senior management in monitoring quality. In addition to the universitywide review process, some deans undertake further analyses of their faculties, evaluating statistical evidence and discussing the particular challenges faced by departments within the faculty (see Faculty of Science example).

The major outcomes of the 2005 Academic Review exercise are summarized below as evidence of how the process is used to enhance quality across the institution:
i) Additional posts will be allocated to departments with unacceptably high student/staff ratios.
ii) One department will undergo an external review in order to address concerns raised during the internal review.
iii) One department will undergo a further internal review in order to consider the best way of strengthening current academic offerings within the department.
iv) One department will revise and resubmit its selfevaluation
report which was found to be lacking in several respects by the Review Committee.
v) Several departments will receive additional resources in the form of increased running grants, equipment or support staff in order to maintain satisfactory levels of quality.
vi) Complaints raised by academic departments regarding support services will be attended to and the actions taken reported on through the committee system.
vii) The issue of academic salaries will be considered further as a University priority.

The ViceChancellor ended each academic review presentation by asking the department two questions:
a) Has this exercise been of value to your department?
b) What is the most appropriate time period between review exercises, or should there be no formal internal review or planning exercise?
Without exception, and despite several grumbles during the process and in the documentation, every department indicated that the selfevaluation
exercise had been worthwhile. In addition, all departments felt an internal review and planning exercise was essential and the majority agreed that every 5 years was the most appropriate interval. However, this is not to imply that the introduction of formal quality assurance
systems and procedures has not adversely impacted on the collegiality and quality of academic life. While the selfevaluation process provides an invaluable insight into the heart of the institution and significantly aids the decisionmakers in resource allocation and enrolment
planning, the ultimate effect on student learning and the quality and quantity of research remains to be seen. Before embarking on the next academic review the planners will need to explore other possible models and make appropriate recommendations to the University’s Senate and Council on the most suitable route for Rhodes University.

Last Modified :Tue, 09 May 2017 14:14:05 SAST