Skip to main content

Academic review and PDR guidance for researchers

How can my Academic Review or Progress and Development Review support my career development?

Can I use my Academic Review or Progress and Development Review to improve my prospects for promotion?

Many researchers working in universities change direction over the course of their career. As an academic you might want to progress from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, Reader, then Professor. As a member of research staff you might want to build such a career in academia, or a totally different career outside.

In order to move to the next stage in your career you need to be able to demonstrate that you have the skills, experience and performance to operate at that level, or in that area.

Your annual Academic Review (for academic staff) or Progress and Development Review (PDR) (for research or professional and support staff) is your opportunity to discuss your career ambitions with your line manager and to plan your development in a way which is synergistic with the needs of your career, school and prospects for promotion. Implementing your plan to make a suitable and timely application for promotion, or a change in career path is a process which can take several years.

If you want to be more strategic and use your Academic Review/PDR to support the development of your longer-term career path then you need to identify what that next stage in your career will be and what you need to do to get there.

Academic staff

For academic staff, your Academic Review is the forum through which to reflect on your overall career development, including aims for applying for promotion to a different career stage. You can use your review to plan your strategy for how you will make that transition in a few years’ time, including being well placed to make an application for promotion. The College’s Academic panels procedure and guidance provides basic information on promotion to each level, and the key criteria used in the assessment are defined. You can thus use your Academic Review to discuss with your Head of School how these criteria should be interpreted in the specific context of your discipline, and to define what you need to do in order to demonstrate the necessary levels of expertise in each of these areas.

Using the evidence from Academic Review, you can work with your Head of School or reviewer to plan your activities over the next twelve months (and the next 3-5 years) to allow you to meet the promotion criteria at the required standard and thus be better placed to apply for promotion. The retrospective review paperwork provides a one-stop shop to record all the information you might want to use in a subsequent promotion application.


For research and professional staff, the process is essentially the same - your PDR is an opportunity to agree personal goals for the next year, with an eye to where you want to be in 3-5 years’ time.

The process is also about ensuring that an appropriate level of support is provided when necessary, especially if you are looking to move outside the HE sector.

When considering your objectives and professional development you should consider:

  • your immediate project goals and milestones
  • any research outputs that you wish to develop (both with and if appropriate, independently from your supervisors)
  • whether you should be looking to write an application for research funding
  • any responsibilities you would like to take on to supervise, or mentor the development of more junior colleagues and PhD students
  • any conferences you would like to attend
  • any networking activities you would like to undertake (within and outside Birkbeck); and
  • any teaching, training or delegated responsibilities you would like to undertake if possible.

You should also consider if there are any training courses that you should consider if you wish to develop a specific career outside academia. You can use your PDR as an opportunity to discuss these with your supervisor/line manager.

October 2023