The External Quality Enhancement Framework

12.1 The UK Quality Code for Higher Education

The UK Quality Code for Higher Education (the Quality Code) has been developed with the higher education community and sets out the expectations that all providers of UK higher education are required to meet.

The Quality Code gives all higher education providers a shared starting point for setting, describing and assuring the academic standards of their awards and programmes and the quality of the learning opportunities they provide. QAA reviewers use it as the main reference point for their review work, including Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR).

The Quality Code is grouped into three parts on academic standards, academic quality and information about higher education provision.  Each of these parts is subdivided into chapters covering specific themes.

Further information is available here.

 

12.2 Enhancement-Led Institutional Review

Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) is QAA's review method for universities and other higher education institutions in Scotland.

The main focus of ELIR is to consider an institution's strategic approach to enhancement, placing a particular emphasis on the arrangements for improving the student learning experience. ELIR also examines the institution's ability to secure the academic standards of its awards.

ELIR reviews are carried out by a team of six reviewers: one student reviewer, one international reviewer, three senior UK-based academic reviewers and one coordinating reviewer.

The institution undergoing ELIR submits a self-evaluation document called a Reflective Analysis (RA). The ELIR team uses this document and initial meetings with staff and students to develop themes for exploration during the review visits. These themes relate to six broad areas of institutional activity:

  • Institutional context and strategic framework
  • Enhancing the student learning experience
  • Enhancement in learning and teaching
  • Academic standards
  • Self-evaluation and management of information
  • Collaborative activity

At the end of the review, the ELIR team produces an Outcome report (covering the overarching judgment, the areas of positive practice and the areas for development) and a more detailed Technical report.

The QAA handbook (third edition) for ELIR can be accessed at:

 http://www.qaa.ac.uk/publications/information-and-guidance/publication?PubID=67

Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) is QAA's review method for universities and other higher education institutions in Scotland. It is one component of the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF), a radical approach to quality assurance and enhancement in higher education introduced in Scotland in 2003.

The main focus of ELIR is to consider an institution's strategic approach to enhancement, placing a particular emphasis on the arrangements for improving the student learning experience. ELIR also examines the institution's ability to secure the academic standards of its awards.

ELIR reviews are carried out by a team of six reviewers: one student reviewer, one international reviewer, three senior UK-based academic reviewers and one coordinating reviewer.

The institution undergoing ELIR submits a self-evaluation document called a Reflective Analysis (RA). The ELIR team uses this document and initial meetings with staff and students to develop themes for exploration during the review visits. These themes concern the institution's approach to managing:

  • Strategic quality enhancement activity
  • The student learning experience
  • The monitoring and review of quality and academic standards

At the end of the review, the ELIR team produces a full report and a summary report of its findings.

The QAA handbook (third edition) for ELIR can be accessed here.

12.3 Enhancement Themes

The national Enhancement Themes aim to enhance the student learning experience in Scottish higher education by identifying specific areas (Themes) for development. The Themes encourage academic staff, support staff and students to share current good practice and collectively generate ideas and models for innovation in learning and teaching.

The current Theme is Student Transitions.  This Theme is an ambitious and comprehensive venture focusing on transitions into, out of and during University.  The work is managed by QAA Scotland along with the Theme Leaders Group (TLG) which is comprised of members from each Scottish higher education institution plus student members.

Further details can be found on the Enhancement Themes website

12.3.1   Student Involvement/Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland (SPARQS)

The Quality Enhancement Framework offers more opportunities for a student voice and participation in institutional quality systems and external review.

Founded in 2003, sparqs is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and managed on their behalf by NUS Scotland and directed by a steering committee with sector-wide membership. Originally named ‘student participation in quality Scotland’ a change to the name was announced in May 2015 to reflect the progress made in the sector since the inception of sparqs.

This service provides support and advice for students, students’ associations and institutions in improving the effectiveness of student engagement in quality processes. It also identifies good practice and advises the SFC and institutions on this.

Further information on SPARQS can be found here.

 

 

12.4 Institutional Responsibility for Subject Review

There is a requirement for institutions to operate a robust system of internal review of subject provision. Subject review at Stirling is incorporated as part of the learning and teaching review process.  The QAA has an annual dialogue with the University on the arrangements and outcomes of internal reviews at the subject level. The University also provides Scottish Funding Council (SFC) with an annual summary report on its internal quality assurance arrangements.

12.5 Public Information Set

It is a requirement for institutions to operate their own robust system of internal subject reviews. HEIs also have a responsibility to provide appropriate information for stakeholders, and the public more generally, on relevant matters about the nature, quality and standards of provision.

12.6 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework supports lifelong learning and can help education providers, learners, employers and the public in general to understand the full range of Scottish qualifications. It shows how the different types of qualifications relate to each other and how they can contribute to improving skills and knowledge.

The SCQF is intended to provide a national vocabulary for describing learning opportunities and thereby make the relationships between qualifications clearer. Entry and exit points and routes for progression within and across the education sector are expressed in terms of credit and level.

Credit in the Framework is defined by the number of SCQF credit points. They quantify the outcomes of learning that are subject to valid, reliable methods of assessment.  The number of points is based on the probable time that an 'average' learner at a specified level might expect to take to achieve the outcomes. They indicate the amount of learning that an 'average' learner needs to acquire, not the actual, or the required, time taken to learn.

The Framework has 12 levels. Increases in level from 2 - 12 relate to factors such as:

  • the complexity and depth of knowledge and understanding
  • links to associated academic, vocational or professional practice
  • the degree of integration, independence and creativity required
  • the range and sophistication of application/practice
  • the role(s) taken in relation to other learners/workers in carrying out tasks

Further information can be found here.

 

12.7 Subject Benchmark Statements

Subject benchmark statements are part of the Quality Code – Part A: Setting and maintaining academic standards. They set out expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. They describe what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the abilities and skills needed to develop understanding or competence in the subject.

Working closely with the higher education sector, QAA has published subject benchmark statements for a range of disciplines to set out clearly the academic characteristics and standards of UK programmes of study. Some benchmark statements combine or make reference to professional standards required by external professional or regulatory bodies in the discipline.

Subject benchmark statements do not represent a national curriculum in a subject area. Rather, they allow for flexibility and innovation in programme design within an overall conceptual framework established by an academic subject community.

They are intended to assist those involved in programme design, delivery and review. They may also be of interest to prospective students and employers, seeking information about the nature and standards of awards in a subject area.

In order to ensure the continuing currency of subject benchmark statements, the QAA initiates regular reviews of their content.

Further information can be found here.

 

12.8 Programme Specifications

A programme specification is a concise description of the intended learning outcomes from a higher education programme, and how these outcomes can be achieved and demonstrated.

The QAA has produced guidelines for those preparing programme specifications.  These guidelines are available here.

Templates for programme specifications (currently under review) are available here.

Form ARO 029a – Undergraduate

Form ARO 029b – Postgraduate

Last updated August 2015 (Revised with reference to QAA guidance on assuring standards and quality and the SCQF framework)

 

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