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Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of Interest

Generally, UL has a policy of not appointing persons as reviewers where there is any foreseen possibility of conflict of interest. Even the appearance of conflict of interest, where none exists, can damage the credibility of the person selected and the evaluation/review process.

The information listed on this page is given to illustrate examples and these examples are not intended to comprise an exhaustive list of situations where a conflict of interest might arise. 

The information on this page should be read in conjunction with University of Limerick’s policy for Conflicts of Interest available on the University's Official Policy Hub

UL's Policy for Conflicts of Interest

Information for Quality Review Group (QRG) members considering participation in a Quality Review at the University of Limerick

The Director of Quality, or nominee, consults with the unit being reviewed and/or independently identifies potential candidates. The Director of Quality, or nominee, takes due diligence in relation to the suitability of all potential QRG members. Once satisfied with the calibre, impartiality and independence of the potential candidates, the Director of Quality makes recommendations on the composition of the QRG to the relevant senior manager (Provost & Deputy President, Vice President Research or relevant Chief Officer). The Quality Support Unit will contact any potential QRG members to gauge their interest and availability in participating in a Quality Review. Potential QRG members are requested to complete a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Validation form, details of which are outlined below. Appointments to the QRG are made by the Provost & Deputy President or relevant Chief Officer. Once appointed and prior to the visit, any necessary communication between the unit and members of the QRG must be facilitated by the QSU.

 

Independence could be compromised, or perceived to be compromised, for the following groups:

  • Current or previous post holders within the unit under review (e.g. employees, consultants, guest lecturers/trainers, external examiners/authenticators, research supervisors and such like).
  • Former employees, governors, directors and consultants of the unit under review. These individuals are not normally eligible to serve as members of a quality review group.
  • Persons who have had long-standing service, or who are retired from their employment with the unit under review. Normally these individuals should not participate in any quality review group for the unit under review.
  • Collaborators in joint projects (including research initiatives) involving the unit under review. Where the review coordinator is concerned regarding existing minor collaborations in a particular field of study or at any institutional level, they should consult the Director of Quality for an adjudication on suitability.
  • Persons who have a potential future conflict of interest.
  • Persons with family or other relationship with any members employed by or attending the unit under review might have a conflict of interest. They should inform the unit under review and the Director of Quality prior to involvement in the review process, so that an appropriate judgement can be made as to the advisability of the individual’s involvement.
  • Persons with direct financial interest of any sort, including the holding of shares in a company associated with that unit under review. In the case of a private, for-profit unit under review, no quality review group member may have a direct financial interest of any sort, including the holding of shares in a company associated with that unit under review.
  • Direct competitors in a particular industry or professional environment or in a specific geographical location may have a conflict of interest, but will not automatically be deemed to be conflicted.

QRG responsibility to declare a conflict of interest

Since cases can arise where the possible appearance of a conflict of interest is not generally known, the primary responsibility for disclosing such a possibility rests on the prospective Quality Review Group (QRG) member.  

Prospective QRG members are required to declare any relevant interests and potential conflicts of interest prior to appointment. If there are no relevant interests or conflicts this should be declared. A statement indicating that each member of the QRG has declared no conflict of interest will be included in the published QRG report.

In addition, the unit under review will be informed of the intended QRG by the QSU and asked to declare any potential conflicts of interest prior to appointment of the panel.

Where a QRG member’s potential conflict of interest emerges after appointment, they should inform the QSU immediately and inform the QRG chairperson.

Should the unit under review become aware of a conflict of interest after the QRG has been appointed it should inform the QSU immediately and inform the QRG chairperson.

In such cases, the Director of Quality will rule on the continuing eligibility of the QRG member. 

All quality reviews will be conducted using independent reviewers (QRG) that satisfy the following criteria:

  • Each QRG member will be objective and independent of the university and the unit under review e.g. free of conflicting interests.
  • Any related interests must be declared by the QRG member and will be published as part of the QRG report.
  • The QRG must be competent to make recommendations on the unit being reviewed. Competence means the capacity to make judgements against the applicable quality review process guidelines.
  • Typically, QRGs will have expertise in the unit’s discipline area (with the exception of the Chairperson) and in generic areas including pedagogy, assessment, quality assurance and all the other areas outlined in the approved quality review guidelines. The university will exercise its judgment as to the number of reviewers that may be required in respect of the unit under review and the competences required having regard to the particular unit and the relevant terms of reference for the review. All QRGs will include a student member(s) and will be composed in compliance with ESG standard 2.4.
  • A briefing session on the requirements of the review and the expected mode of engagement with stakeholders will be provided to the QRG in advance of the quality review main site visit[1].

A QRG member who feels that they do not have the competence required to evaluate the unit should not accept an invitation to act in this regard. If a conflict of interest occurs following the acceptance of an invitation, the reviewer should inform the QSU without delay

 

[1] In exceptional circumstances, a combination of an alternative enhanced desk review and online meetings may replace the main site visit. This alternative arrangement must receive prior approval from the university’s Quality Committee.

The QSU will:

  • share QRG biographies with staff of the unit under review, other members of the QRG and with the Provost & Deputy President. QRG names, roles and biographies will be included in the QRG report that will be published online on the QSU website.
  • retain QRG contact details on the QRG master database on SharePoint for the duration of the quality review cycle.
  • request and retain further personal information (PPSN for Irish residents, bank account details and date of birth) for the purposes of processing honorarium claim forms for the QRG. Once the honoraria have been processed, the QSU will delete this information. The university’s finance division may retain this information, if required for audit purposes for the duration specified by the Irish Revenue.

All QRG members must sign the following Confidentiality Clause prior to the Quality Review:

  • The documentation relating to the quality review process will be made available confidentially to QSU staff and the QRG. It should be noted that UL is subject to the Freedom of Information legislation and records are subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • All documentation relating to the quality review should be treated as confidential. Documentation will be stored on the University of Limerick’s SharePoint site in a folder created by the QSU. Confidential Information may not be used, reproduced, transformed, or stored on a computer or device that is accessible to persons to whom disclosure may not be made.
  • It is recommended that the QRG do not download and store local copies of confidential information on their devices. Notwithstanding, at the end of the quality review, each QRG member must:
    • Return all Confidential Information to the QSU and will not retain any copies of this information
    • Destroy of have destroyed all memoranda, notes, reports and other works based on or derived from the Confidential Information and
    • Confirm to the QSU that such materials have been destroyed or returned, as the case may be.

All QRG members must sign the following GDPR Agreement with the University:

This agreement (“Agreement”) is made between the University of Limerick and {NAME OF QRG MEMBER} (the QRG member). UL and the QRG member have agreed to enter into this agreement for the purposes of ensuring compliance with Data Protection Legislation, inter alia, Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council (General Data Protection Regulation) (hereinafter “the GDPR”). Terms used herein are as defined in the GDPR unless otherwise defined.

The QRG member processes data on behalf of UL for the purpose of the quality review of the unit, to inform, for example, the review of the effectiveness of unit under the approved quality review process guidelines. For the purposes of the Agreement, this shall be referred to as the Review.

UL and the QRG member have agreed that the QRG member is a processor as defined in Article 28 of the GDPR as he/she carries out processing of data on behalf of UL. UL is a controller of the data for the purposes of the GDPR.

This Agreement is limited to personal data provided by UL to the QRG member and to personal data provided by the relevant unit under review to the QRG member and to personal data duly shared between reviewers/reviewers, for the purposes of a Review, (hereinafter “the data”).

This data may include:

(a) Personal data of unit under reviews;

            (b) Personal data of members of staff of unit under reviews;

            (c) Personal data of enrolled learners, prospective learners or graduates of unit under review.

This data should not be used by the QRG member for any other purpose other than the carrying out of the Review. The QRG member shall not transfer personal data to a third country or an international organisation (as defined in the GDPR), unless required to do so by Union or Member State law, in such a case the QRG member shall inform UL of that legal requirement before processing.

The QRG member understands that he/she is bound by the terms of the Confidentiality Clause in this agreement.

The QRG member shall not engage another processor for the processing of the data without prior specific written authorisation of the University of Limerick as per Article 28.2 of the GDPR. For the avoidance of doubt, UL hereby gives prior specific written authorisation to the QRG member to share the data with the other QRG members engaged in the specific Review, and this Agreement applies equally to all data received by the QRG member from fellow QRG members in relation to the Review.

The data held by the QRG member for each Review should be deleted at the end of each Review, unless otherwise instructed in writing by UL. Any hard copy data shall be shredded; if shredding facilities are not available to the QRG member then they shall be returned to UL.

The QRG member will implement appropriate technical and organisational security measures to protect the personal data in his/her possession. The QRG member will ensure that these measures comply with the requirements of the GDPR.

As required by Article 33(2) of the GDPR, the QRG member will inform UL of any personal data breach without undue delay. The QRG member will cooperate with any enquiries or investigations by the Data Protection Commissioner. The QRG member will assist UL in ensuring compliance with UL’s obligation to respond to requests for exercising the data subject’s rights laid down in chapter III of the GDPR. The QRG member will cooperate fully with UL to ensure compliance with the obligations of UL pursuant to articles 32 to 36 of the GDPR.

The QRG member will make available to UL all information necessary to demonstrate compliance with the obligations laid down in this Article and allow for and contribute to audits, including inspections, conducted by UL or another auditor mandated by UL.

This Agreement terminates at the same time as the agreement between UL and the QRG member in relation to the Review. Notwithstanding the expiry or termination of this Agreement for any reason, the provisions of this Agreement shall continue to apply to any personal data in the possession of either party, which was covered by the agreement.

This agreement shall be governed by Irish law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Irish courts.

All QRG members must make the following declarations before undertaking the quality review:

  1. I wish to declare the following interests and understand that this declaration will be included in the review report: {List Potential Conflicts}
  2. I have read the above and confirm that I do not have any conflicts of interest in participating in the quality review of the {Unit to be reviewed} at the University of Limerick.
  3. I understand that the quality review documentation and materials are confidential and must (along with any copies made) be returned to UL or destroyed once the QRG report has been finalised.
  4. I understand that application materials are provided for evaluation purposes only and must not be distributed or used for other purposes. This applies equally to any copies made for evaluation or back-up purposes.
  5. I further understand that all communications concerning the review process are confidential and that the publishable outcome of the process is the Quality Review Group Report.  
  6. I understand that UL is subject to the Freedom of Information legislation and UL records are subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
  7. I acknowledge that I have read and understood the GDPR Agreement included above and as a condition of my engagement as a QRG member by signing here I agree to be bound by its terms.