Skip to main content

Performance Development Review (PDR)

PDR conversations are a great opportunity to pause, reflect and begin to think about the next steps, as well as making time to consider wellbeing and to recognise current and future work.  The following pages contain information that can support everyone involved in PDR conversations.

A review of PDR process, systems, recording methods and protocols is being undertaken in 2023. Please see the tab below for further information and updates.

The ePDR system has permanently closed. Please view the information on this page and the ‘Training Guides, Record tab’ for advice about recording your PDR conversations going forward. Any queries please email

PDRs at the University of Exeter

In order to develop as an organisation and ensure that staff feel invested in, PDR conversations need to create a continuous culture of openness and inclusivity.  The University encourages a coaching style for PDR conversations that allows managers (reviewers) and staff (reviewees) to set appropriate systems that support local working patterns and needs but also creates the space for continuous dialogue.  The following policy and guiding principles set out the overall approach towards PDRs.

PDR Policy

University of Exeter staff should conduct PDR conversations in line with the following:

  • Reviewers and reviewees should agree how and when PDR conversations will be conducted and recorded adhering to any local Faculty or Department guidance.
  • As a minimum two dedicated PDR conversations should happen per year.
  • Conversations should include, as a minimum:
    • Discussions about progress and performance against the requirements of the role/post for which the reviewee is employed.
    • Discussions about expectations for the coming year. 
    • Discussions about development, wellbeing and work environment.
  • Confirmation of conversations: the University may request confirmation, once a year, that each member of staff has had the opportunity to engage in a PDR conversation.  No details of conversations will be requested, conversations are confidential between reviewer and reviewee and information is only to be shared if agreed by both parties.

Guiding Principles

Beyond the policy requirements set out above the University offers ‘guiding principles’ for reviewers and reviewees to work within.  This allows colleagues in different working situations, with different needs in terms of approach, recording and timescales to better suit local needs:

  1. PDR Conversations should become part of regular catch ups: All colleagues are required to engage with PDR conversations between appropriate reviewer(s) and reviewees within agreed timescales. 
  2. Key themes should be discussed:  Beyond the minimum areas to be discussed as listed in the policy, the following should form the basis of ongoing conversations:
  • Working environment, wellbeing and inclusivity
  • Workload and priorities
  • Completed work (or objectives if appropriate), identifying successes and issues
  • Future work plans and/or objectives
  • Learning and development opportunities and needs
  • Contributions made to the objectives of the Faculty or Service
  • Career development, opportunities and longer term plans
  1. Timescales:  Conversations should be ongoing and continuous.  Faculty, Departments or individuals might have different needs in terms of when it is best to conduct and record these conversations.  Local timescales can be set at Faculty or Department level or it can devolved to local management as long as a minimum of 2 PDR conversations are conducted per 12 month period.
  2. Emphasis on the ‘on-going conversation’: Conducting a quality PDR conversation between a reviewer and reviewee is the most important part of the PDR process.  Conversations should take place throughout the year and can either be scheduled as standalone meetings or form part of regular one-to-ones.  Not all areas need to be discussed at every meeting, however, meetings should be frequent enough to allow all involved the opportunity to discuss the key themes. 
  3. Recording Outcomes: It is advised that the main points and/or actions decided on as part of PDR conversations are recorded so that reviewers and reviewees are able to keep track of objectives, tasks and agreed development/support. Outcomes should be recorded and saved locally with shared access between the reviewee and reviewer(s).  The University will ensure there are a number of suggested options for achieving this (see the Training, Guidance and Forms tab). 
  4. Differential Impact of Covid-19 - In addition to the information on these PDR pages colleagues are encouraged to read through the differential impact information for both Professional Services colleagues and Academic colleagues (under 'Covid-19 Impact and Support') to better understand the effects of the pandemic on careers.


Since March 2020 we have been operating a "light touch" approach to PDRs to allow colleagues to focus on responses to the pandemic, changes to how we work and the Faculty restructuring programme. In March 2022 we also closed the ePDR recording system as it was no longer fit for purpose.

We believe we are now in a position to explore exactly how we want PDRs to work in the future, what recording mechanism could be used and how best PDRs can work for individuals, teams, departments and for the whole university.


A number of strategic review groups were launched in 2022 that have explored a range of topics around Academic and Professional Services work, development and careers. Ideas and suggestions about PDR have also been emerging from other groups, teams, individuals, Departments and Directorates. This has resulted in numerous observations, suggestions and recommendations for the future of PDRs in terms of policy, process, content, recording and delivery.

The PDR Review is being informed by these various sources as well previous research from across the HE sector and comprehensive feedback gathered from delegates attending PDR (and other relevant) training.

Taking Action

A Task & Finish Group, Chaired by Professor Helen Berry, has been formed to investigate the ideas, suggstions and recommendations arising from the above sources, conduct further research and consultations where necessary and begin to explore options for all aspects of the future of PDRs at the University.


The Task & Finish Group will report findings to WICC in late Autumn 2023 with a view to implementing any changes to PDRs by March 2024, subject to any required procurement and integration of systems.

A PDR is a Performance and Development Review.  PDRs complement the more regular reviews and one-to-one conversations that are usually held with line managers.  All colleagues are encouraged to conduct conversations in order to review current and future objectives (workload), as well as having wider discussions around wellbeing and those areas covered by the Positive Working Environment pillars:

The benefits of a PDR for the faculty / professional service include:

  • Improved communications between the faculty/service and the individual
  • Identification and pursuit of common goals, and alignment of individual career goals to faculty/service and University strategies
  • Better planning for learning and development for the individual, faculty / service and University.

Your PDR is an opportunity to:

  • Review your working environment and wellbeing
  • Review your workload and priorities
  • Review the past year, identifying successes and problems
  • Plan for the future, taking into consideration the objectives of the faculty or professional service
  • Identify learning and development opportunities
  • Have ongoing, continuous conversations
  • Understand how you contribute to the objectives of your faculty or service.

The benefits of a PDR for the individual include:  

  • Allows for two-way conversations that can encompass wider topics beyond current tasks such as those listed in the Positive Working Environment.
  • A formal opportunity to review progress and plan for future activity and development
  • An exchange of experience and feedback at both personal and professional levels
  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities
  • Opportunity to suggest improvements and changes
  • A formal record of experience and learning over time.

Conducting PDR conversations remotely should not stop you achieving the goals of your conversation.  You might however need to consider a few additional areas when engaging in PDR activities.  The following are a few areas to think about:

  • Increase the frequency of your conversations:  This doesn’t mean that you have to have more meetings but consider how you might weave PDR conversations into current, planned meetings such as one-to-ones that might usually focus more on tasks.  More frequent appraisals, focused on employee development, can help keep your remote colleagues engaged and working effectively.
  • Focus the conversation: Remember to focus on wellbeing and workload at this time, widen the conversation beyond today’s ‘task list’.  Use the Positive Working Environment Pillars (see the What is a PDR tab) as a guide.
  • Timing:  Consider the best time to chat, when can both colleagues can concentrate and have an honest conversation about how everything is going.

The following article considers some wider areas to reflect upon prior to embarking on remote PDR conversations:

Training exists for both reviewers and reviewees.  All colleagues conducting a PDR with a reviewee must ensure that they have undertaken relevant PDR reviewer training for either professional services or academic staff within the last five years.

Depending upon the staff you are reviewing, you will need to undertake different training.

Staff category

Reviewers of Academic staff

Reviewers of Research only staffReviewers of Professional Services staffFor any Reviewees 

PDR Reviewer training for Academic colleagues

PDR training for Reviewers of Research Staff

PDR training for Reviewers (Professional Services)

PDR training for Reviewees



Workbook for Professional Services

Workbook for Reviewees
Additional Resources

PDR reviewer training for Academic colleagues Slide Pack 2023


PDR Reviewer Training for Reviewers of Research Staff Slide Pack 2023


Performance review articles


Performance Appraisals

Preparing for my review meeting

Making feedback work for you

Templates for recording conversations

Simplified Academic PDR

Detailed PDR Form

Simplified Researcher PDR

Detailed PDR Form 

Simplified Professional Services PDR

Detailed PDR Form

Generic PDR Form

Detailed PDR Form