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Academic review

Annual Academic Review is a process that all academic staff (except those on probation) are required to participate in.

It takes the form of an informed and constructive meeting between an academic and their Head of School (HoS) or delegated line manager*, where appointed within the School, or reviewer from the panel (see section 4), to review achievements, workload, plans (including research and teaching and learning), and the support and development required from the school/faculty. (*A delegated line manager, where appointed within a School, will take on some specified line management responsibilities on behalf of the Head of School.)

The review process is forward looking, supportive and enables effective individual planning, within the context of the school/faculty, and longer term career planning.

Our guidance for researchers explains how Academic Review can be used to support career development and planning for promotion applications.


Birkbeck values its staff and recognises that its success depends on their performance, ongoing development and engagement with its mission, values and future plans. A key approach to supporting staff performance, motivation, planning, and engagement with the College is the annual Academic Review discussion. The Academic Review underpins our People Strategy.

2.0 AIMS

The Academic Review Scheme provides a forum for an informed and constructive meeting, on an annual basis, between an academic and their HoS, delegated line manager, where appointed within the School, or reviewer from the panel (see section 4). The annual conversation provides an opportunity to review achievements, workload, plans, as well as the support and development required from the school/faculty. The Review process is forward looking, supportive and enables effective individual planning, within the context of the school/faculty, and longer term career planning.

Review is part of an ongoing dialogue between an academic and their HoS or delegated line manager. It should not be seen as a replacement for the usual day-to-day meetings and discussions. It sits alongside other processes to support individual career development such as mentoring. It is also important that when issues arise, for both HoS/delegated line manager and academics, they are dealt with promptly and not left until the Academic Review discussion.

The annual review meeting and the preparation of the Academic Review form provide an opportunity for an academic to undertake an initial self-review and to develop plans relevant to their career pathway (Research and Teaching, or Teaching and Education), using the review form as a guide.

And at the meeting to:

  • discuss achievements and main activities over the past year
  • review plans
  • explore and assess workloads, referring to other sources of information, as appropriate
  • discuss any difficulties and explore ways of overcoming them
  • explore career development, aspirations, plans for applying for promotion, as appropriate
  • agree support and development that the school, faculty or College could offer (e.g. mentoring, delegated activities, briefings, courses)
  • discuss support needs for effective working, for example this may include reasonable adjustments, flexible working, new ways of working, changes in technology, or changes needed going forward
  • receive considered feedback and recognition of achievements, progress, plans and contribution based on the paperwork and discussion.


All academic staff, except those on probation, are required to participate in the scheme, this includes those on a fixed-term contract of at least a year. There is a separate process for staff on probation. However, academic staff on probation can request an Academic Review as this provides the opportunity for a formal structured discussion with their HoS, delegated line manager or reviewer from the panel. 

4.0 head of school AND OTHER REVIEWERS

Heads of School will oversee and manage the Academic Review process within their school to ensure consistency and a high quality and fair process. Furthermore, their oversight, as a school line manager, is essential to enable effective exploration of Academic Review outcomes for individual academics within the school/faculty context.

Whilst the HoS or delegated line manager will normally undertake the Academic Review with each member of academic staff, it is recognised that there may be a range of circumstances where it is appropriate for the HoS to delegate reviews to another trained reviewer. Therefore each HoS will have agreed, with their Executive Dean (ED), a panel of reviewers to undertake delegated reviews within their school. The HoS and selected colleagues will undertake the training to participate in the process (see 7.0 Academic Review training and People Management training).

All HoS will have access to the completed Academic Review forms. Please see section 5.5 regarding access to forms.


The role of a reviewer is central to the Academic Review process. Each reviewer will need to ensure that they undertake fair, thorough and high quality reviews which allow full exploration of matters of interest and concern for academics. When constituting the panel of reviewers, equalities and the workloads of potential reviewers should be taken into consideration, as well as other matters. Membership of the school panel of reviewers will be seen as part of an academic’s usual school responsibilities and academics may be expected to participate in a panel from time-to-time, on a rotational basis. Further, becoming a school reviewer may be a developmental opportunity for some staff and as such support and mentoring should be provided by the HoS, as well as participation in a review briefing.

Details of each school’s panel of reviewers will be publicly available to all academics within the school and accessible by the ED and Director of Operations.

At the start of the review process, a HoS will outline the timescales for the process in the school and provide a list of the panel of reviewers to all academics. They will suggest a discussion, either face-to-face or by telephone, with each academic about the person to undertake their review and this will be an opportunity to explore any preferences that an academic may have for whom conducts the review in the current round. It is expected that both parties will make themselves available for a discussion in a timely way so that the school process can run effectively. The reviewer, if not the HoS or delegated line manager, will normally be drawn from the school’s panel of reviewers for that round. The discussion is also an opportunity for an academic to voice any particular issues about the process for them and to ask questions. It is not expected that the discussion will be protracted.

Following the discussion, the HoS will make a decision at a school level about an academic’s reviewer and this will be communicated in a timely way so that academics can participate in the process. In handling the review process across the school the HoS will also consider practical matters such as a reviewer’s availability, a reviewer’s workload in terms of undertaking reviews and balancing duties across the panel. The HoS role is to ensure equity, fairness and consistency in both the operation of the process and in the distribution and allocation of roles, activities and responsibilities. Therefore, it is important that all academics have a discussion with the HoS even if they will not be undertaking the review meeting.


There is the right for an academic to appeal to the ED, or their nominated deputy, to change the reviewer. The ED, or their nominated deputy, will make the final decision about a reviewer.



A central part of the Academic Review is the conversation between the HoS/delegated line manager/delegated reviewer and academic. To support the conversation, there is an Academic Review form which can be used to aid the discussion. The Academic Review form is also used to formally record the outcomes of the meeting between the HoS/delegated line manager/delegated reviewer and academic.

There are two forms, one for each career pathway. Each form comprises Part A and Part B:

Part A is a summary of achievements and main activities. In schools where there is paperwork to support research interviews, for staff on the Research and Teaching pathway, HoS have the flexibility to ask colleagues to use this paperwork. Part A (Research and Teaching) of the Academic Review form should be updated with any subsequent activity; appending the research interview form. Details of the Research Mentor and date of this meeting should be added to the form. Academics would need to fully complete the other sections of the form.

Part B is a tool for self-review and planning, including career planning, by an academic.

There are spaces for comments by the reviewer/HoS after the meeting and final comments by the academic.


Reviews can take place at any time throughout the year as agreed by the HoS and Executive Dean (ED), with a deadline of the end of the autumn term.

HoS will initiate the process within their school. A HoS and their delegated reviewers will offer and agree dates with each academic for a review. It is important that both the HoS/delegated reviewer and academic allow sufficient quality time to prepare for the meeting; three weeks is the recommended timescale for preparation. The form will guide preparation. If there are any further agenda items, then these should be agreed by the HoS/delegated reviewer and academic prior to the meeting.

Before the annual Academic Review the academic should meet with their mentor.

An academic should complete the form (Parts A and B) relevant to their career pathway and submit it to their HoS/delegated reviewer at least seven days before the review meeting.


Both the HoS/delegated reviewer and academic should allow sufficient time for the annual review meeting and it should be at a convenient time for both parties. The discussion should be supportive and encouraging and conducted in a calm atmosphere. It is important that there are no interruptions and that both the HoS/ delegated reviewer and academic are able to give their full attention to the discussion.


Under the scheme there is the option for a shorter form of Annual Review meeting which will last around 15-20 minutes, with the agreement of both parties and HoS. An updated form should be completed with the data in Part A refreshed and a brief self-reflective commentary about activity and plans in Part B. The gap between a full review and the shorter version should be no longer than two years.


HoS/delegated line managers will have access to all completed Academic Review forms for those staff for which they have management responsibility. If Academic Review meetings are delegated, the HoS may have a follow-up meeting with an academic and their reviewer. The review process will only be complete when the HoS has either had the follow-up meeting and/or signed the Academic Review form.

It is essential that follow-up actions identified in the Academic Review are carried out and fed back to the academic, reviewer and HoS and with agreement other relevant parties. Reviewers and academics should raise significant issues with their HoS.

HoS are required to communicate broad themes from the school's reviews (e.g. support required, development needs) in an aggregate format, and anonymously, to the Executive Dean at the end of the review period. This is to inform school planning and development activities.


Part A of the form is routinely available to the ED, Director of Operations, HoS and reviewer, if different from the HoS. Part B can only normally be accessed by the HoS and reviewer. Part A and Part B should be securely stored by the HoS and the academic should keep a copy of the document for their records.

The Academic Review form will be held by the school and faculty for three years. New HoS and new reviewers will have access to the last Academic Review form.


Forms (Part A and Part B) are to be saved by the HoS within a password-protected folder on a College shared electronic drive, which will only be accessible by the HoS. Only the final agreed form (or latest version) should be retained. Email copies of completed and agreed forms should not be saved within HoS, or reviewers, email inboxes.

For printed copies of forms, it is recommended that these are either kept securely in a locked cabinet, or locked drawer, accessible by the HoS only. The forms should be kept for three years before being destroyed. Only one version of an individual’s agreed annual Review form should be retained.


Organisational Development (OD) will offer Academic Review training for reviewers and all reviewers are required to attend the training before carrying out a review. There are also a number of People Management events to support HoS and the reviewers.



Any academic applying to annual staff review panels (academic) will need to confirm that they have completed the forms and had a review, which has been signed by their HoS, in the last 12 months. An academic at their own discretion may choose to attached Part A and/or Part B of the form to the application.


Academic Review is optional for staff on probation. Academic staff on probation can request an Academic Review (see 3.0 Eligibility). The first Academic Review should happen one year after completion of probation.


Academics that are on a leave of absence of one term, or more, during the annual department round, will be invited to attend an Academic Review. An academic on an external secondment should also be invited to attend an Academic Review.


The HoS should invite those academics on adoption leave, maternity leave, parental leave and shared parental leave, during the annual departmental round, to participate in the Academic Review outlining the benefits. This should be part of the ‘Keep in Touch’ days.


Academics returning from sickness should be invited for an Academic Review as soon as it is practical, if they have missed a round, in accordance with the Sickness absence policy.


If an academic leaves, the last completed Academic Review form should be sent to Human Resources, marked confidential, for retention on their personnel file. This will form part of leaving procedures and HR will initiate that process.


Concerns from an academic about the review process should be first discussed with their reviewer and their HoS. It is expected that most concerns and disputes will be resolved at this level.

If disputes cannot be resolved by the HoS then matters may be raised with the ED, or their nominee. The final decisions about reviewers are made by EDs. An academic has the final opportunity to comment on their Academic Review form, following a HoS comments.


Academics and reviewers are encouraged to seek support and advice in the first instance from their HoS.

Advice and support is also available:

  • for academics from their HoS/delegated line manager and also HR Business Partners and Organisational Development
  • for reviewers from their HoS, HR Business Partners and Organisational Development.

October 2023