Policy Corporate Governance Reviews of Organisational Units and Thematic Areas - Policy and Procedures

Reviews of Organisational Units and Thematic Areas - Policy and Procedures

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To specify the University’s purpose and requirements for the conduct of Organisational Unit and thematic reviews.


This policy applies to all staff with direct responsibilities for the conduct of an Organisational Unit or thematic review.


Organisational Unit – a  Division or other functional area as identified for review purposes, for example, the Centre for Education and Enhancement.

Organisational Unit Head the Divisional Deputy Vice Chancellor or designated senior management position for the Unit under review.

Policy and Procedures

1. Purpose

JCU conducts Organisational Unit and thematic reviews as part of its commitment to the philosophy of quality enhancement that moves beyond compliance and attaining standards (assurance) to participative and critical self-evaluation and improvement.  The conduct of these reviews incorporates the eight principles that underpin JCU’s Quality Enhancement Framework:

  1. Aligning our activities with the University Intent, purpose and values;
  2. Encompassing the four dimensional cycle of ‘approach, deployment, results and improvement’ (ADRI);
  3. Encouraging a culture of self-reflection and peer review so that strengths and weaknesses may be identified and addressed;
  4. Collaborating with our colleagues across boundaries;
  5. Embracing a student focussed approach where student participation and feedback informs all phases of the quality cycle;
  6. Actively engaging with the community to meet its needs;
  7. Using evidence based practice, informed by scholarly review, and utilising quantitative and qualitative data for effective decision making and strategy evaluation; and
  8. Identifying and using relevant internal and external benchmarks and good practice to set goals and strive for improvement.

The reviews are designed to provide opportunities to Organisational Units and the University that include:

  • Building a culture of critical self-reflection and continuous improvement;
  • Self-identification and peer affirmation of strategies that have or will improve performance;
  • Peer affirmation that there are structures and processes in place that facilitate a cycle of continuous improvement towards intended outcomes;
  • Verification that there is measurement of outcomes and follow up of strategies and of recommendations arising from previous reviews, ensuring ‘closing of the loop’;
  • Consideration of the nature and effectiveness of benchmarking activities;
  • Assessment of the Organisational Unit’s engagement with its stakeholder community; and
  • Identification and University acknowledgement of good practice.

Thematic reviews are undertaken to consider University priority issues and processes that span some or all JCU Organisational Units. Examples of thematic areas could include student support, flexible delivery, research-teaching nexus, etc.

2. Schedule of Reviews

Every Organisational Unit will be reviewed once every four to five years.  Thematic reviews will be conducted on an as-needed basis according to University priorities and workload capacity across the institution.

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate is responsible for the production of the four to five year schedule of Organisational Unit and thematic reviews.  The schedule is reviewed and confirmed annually by the Vice Chancellor.

3. Organisational and Budget Responsibilities

Overall responsibility for the review process rests with the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources.

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate is responsible for the overall coordination of review processes and does this in consultation with the area under review.

Organisational Unit Heads are responsible for the timely: nomination of a review coordinator who can act as the primary liaison point with the Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate in the conduct of the review; nomination of suitable review timing, Review Panel members and review participants; preparation of a reflective self-assessment portfolio; and response to Review Panel requests for further information.

Certain other responsibilities are set out under relevant sections below.

The costs of the Review Panel (travel, accommodation, catering, etc) are negotiated between the Organisational Unit under review and the Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate.  Organisational Units are responsible for any costs associated with the preparation of their portfolio and review participation.

4. Review Elements

The key elements of Organisational Unit and thematic reviews are:

  • Agreed Terms of Reference;
  • Reflective analysis portfolio;
  • Independent Review Panel;
  • Written submissions;
  • Review visit and active engagement with stakeholders;
  • Review report; and
  • Follow-up action and accountability.

4.1        Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference for each review are agreed with the Organisational Unit/key parties involved and approved by the Vice Chancellor. The terms of reference guide the development of the portfolio, the conduct of the review visit and the preparation of the review report.

The Terms of Reference will vary as appropriate for each review but may include some or all of the following as key areas of strategic importance for the University:

  • Leadership and planning;
  • Teaching and learning;
  • Research and research training;
  • Contribution to the ‘Student Experience’;
  • People and culture; and
  • Collaboration and engagement.

Each Term of Reference will require an appraisal of current performance in supporting the University’s objectives and future opportunities and strategies for improvement.  All relevant campuses/entities are encompassed in this appraisal.

The Vice Chancellor will set the Terms of Reference according to internal or external circumstances specific to the area under review.

4.2        Reflective Analysis Portfolio

For Organisational Unit reviews, the submission of the reflective analysis portfolio is the responsibility of the Unit Head, with preparation completed in consultation with relevant staff.

The portfolio should be submitted to the Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate approximately two months prior to the review visit so that the Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate can provide advice on any editing or supplementary information required prior to forwarding to the Review Panel.

The format for the portfolio should include:

  • an overview of the Organisational Unit;
  • current and future performance of the Unit within the terms of reference; and
  • relevant appendices and supporting material.

The portfolio should address each Term of Reference in the context of:

  • The Organisational Unit’s approach to aligning with and supporting the University goals;
  • The Organisational Unit’s current performance and future aspirations and strategies to achieve these goals;
  • Measures of the Organisational Unit’s success and mechanisms for monitoring, reviewing and improving its performance; and
  • An assessment of strengths and areas for further improvement and proposed strategies to achieve this.

The portfolio structure should thus demonstrate use of the University’s Quality Enhancement Framework principles (including stakeholder feedback and other quantitative and qualitative data, benchmarking and collaboration) to further enhance the delivery of its services.

Preparation of the portfolio should be a consultative and collaborative process within and beyond the Organisational Unit, providing the opportunity to consider issues that might otherwise be overlooked within the daily routine.

The portfolio should be kept as concise as possible to maximise its value to the Review Panel, with appendices and supporting material minimised.

The Review Panel may also request additional evidence and documentation, either prior to or during the review visit, to assist in making judgements on performance and direction.

4.3        Independent Review Panel

An Organisational Unit Review Panel consists of approximately five members appointed by the Vice Chancellor as follows:

  • A member of the University Council as Chair;
  • At least two members external to the University who are distinguished in a relevant academic or professional field, with at least one ideally having international standing in that field;
  • A member of the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee; and
  • An authorised officer of Quality, Planning and Analytics.

Thematic Review Panel membership will be determined in consultation with key stakeholders according to the area under review and will include one or more members external to the University who are distinguished in a relevant field.

The following characteristics are taken into account to ensure an appropriate balance of membership on each Review Panel:

  • Considered to have impartiality/objectivity;
  • Considered as an expert in at least one of the areas concerned and where possible expertise which spans a range of the Organisational Unit’s responsibilities;
  • Regarded as a leader; and
  • The ability to comment on good and best practice from a national and/or international perspective.

The Organisational Unit Head has the opportunity to recommend Review Panel members considered to have particular expertise of relevance for the review.  Final approval of all Review Panellists is by the Vice Chancellor.

The Review Panel has designated responsibility for providing:

  • an objective assessment of the Organisational Unit’s current performance; and
  • commendations, affirmations and recommendations that support and enhance the Unit’s future plans.

The Review Panel achieves this by considering the Unit’s portfolio and other supporting documentation and validating and expanding on this information through the review visit meetings.

4.4        Written Submissions

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate issues invitations to all students and staff, including the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, and external stakeholders as practicable, to provide written submissions to inform the Review Panel’s consideration of the terms of reference.  Copies of written submissions are provided to the Review Panel and to the Head of the Organisational Unit for response as appropriate.

4.5        Review Visit

The Review Panel conducts a review visit of approximately three to four days, depending on the size and complexity of the area under review.  The visit comprises a series of meetings with senior managers and staff, both internal and external to the area under review, and with students and key external stakeholders as relevant. The Review Panel will typically visit both the Townsville and Cairns campus as warranted by the area under review.

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate consults with the Organisational Unit Head and the Vice Chancellor to set the dates for the review visit.  The Organisational Unit Head is responsible for ensuring key Unit staff will be available for the review visit.

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate prepares a draft program for the review visit in consultation with the Organisational Unit and the Review Panel.  The final program is set by the Review Panel Chair.

The Organisational Unit is responsible for nominating review participants including Unit staff, other University staff with links to the Unit’s work, key external stakeholders and students.  The Review Panel will decide the actual parties it wishes to consult. The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate will issue invitations to all proposed participants and will liaise directly with them to support their attendance.

The first day of the review visit will typically include initial meetings with the Vice Chancellor, Unit Head and senior Unit staff.  The final day of the review will focus on resolving the Review Panel’s main findings.  The Review Panel will conclude the visit with meetings to summarise these findings with the Vice Chancellor and then the Head (and other senior staff if desired) of the Organisational Unit.

4.6        Review report

The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate is responsible for drafting the review report from the agreed conclusions of the Review Panel.

The review report discusses the success of the Organisational Unit according to the review terms of reference.  The Review Panel’s key findings are presented as commendations for achievements and good practices and affirmations and recommendations for further action.

The draft report is circulated to all members of the Review Panel for comment and agreement.

The agreed report is then forwarded to the Head of the Organisational Unit as a penultimate draft for comment on factual accuracy.

The final version as approved by the Panel Chair is forwarded to the Vice Chancellor and the Organisational Unit Head.

Where possible, the report of the review is finalised within eight weeks of the review.  It is recognised there may be extenuating circumstances where this process may take longer.  The Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate will communicate any delays to the Organisational Unit and the Vice Chancellor.

4.7        Follow-up action and accountability

Within two months of receipt of the final review report, the Organisational Unit’s response and action plan is submitted along with the report for consideration by the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee.  In the case of reviews concerning Faculties or academic issues, the response, action plan and report will also be submitted for consideration by Academic Board via Education Committee.

A progress report on the action plan is required thereafter on an annual basis until all actions are completed or integrated into the planning cycle.  Progress reports are submitted to the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee and to Academic Board as appropriate.  Actions should be integrated into the Organisational Unit plan and, where appropriate, the University plan and/or other Organisational Unit plan(s).

5. Indicative Timetable for Organisational Unit Review



Terms of Reference, Review Panel composition and review process discussed and agreed by Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate, Organisational Unit Head and Vice Chancellor

Director of Quality, Planning and Analytics briefs staff on review process including Terms of Reference and Review Panel composition

Organisational Unit commences self-assessment and planning processes in order to start preparing portfolio

Six months prior to review visit

Director of Quality, Planning and Analytics invites submissions from students, staff and external parties

Two months prior to review visit

Organisational Unit Head submits portfolio to Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate

Written submissions due to Quality, Planning and Analytics Directorate

Six weeks prior to review visit

Portfolio and written submissions sent to Review Panel members

Five weeks prior to review visit

Briefing of Panel Chair

Four weeks prior to review visit

Preliminary Review Panel meeting (video/teleconference)

Review visit program confirmed

Additional information requested

Three weeks prior to review visit

Additional information provided to Review Panel

One week prior to review visit

Review Panel conducts interviews on campus

Review visit (approx three days)

Final draft review report to Organisational Unit Head for factual check

Within six weeks of visit

Review Panel submits its final report to the Vice Chancellor and Organisational Unit Head

Within eight weeks of visit

Organisational Unit submits final report, response and action plan to the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee and, in the case of division/academic area reviews, Academic Board via Education Committee

Within two months of final report

Organisational Unit Head submits an action plan progress report the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Committee and, in the case of division/academic area reviews, Academic Board via Education Committee

Twelve months after initial action plan and annually thereafter until actions completed/integrated into Organisational Unit Plan

Related documents, legislation or JCU Statutes

Quality Enhancement Framework


Approval Details

NOTE: Printed copies of this policy are uncontrolled, and currency can only be assured at the time of printing.

Policy DomainCorporate Governance

Policy Sponsor

Vice Chancellor

Approval authority


Date for next Major Review


Revision History

Version no:

Approval date

Implementation date





Minor amendments to align with current organisation structure and current delegation practice

Quality, Standards and Policy Officer



Policy sponsor and approval authority amended to reflect Council approved Policy and Delegations Framework

Quality, Standards and Policy