MEd Academic Practice – My (Quality) Reflections 3

Prior to the second session of the curriculum design module ‘Enhancing the Student Experience through Course Design and Delivery (ESEtCDD)’ as part of the Masters in Education (MEd) in Academic Practice, we were asked to do some pre-reading (in part a little watching for me) of a number of important documents. I began by looking at an overview of the QAA Quality Code, which is owned, maintained and published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and has been developed in consultation with the higher education sector.

I am particularly interested in their guide for assuring quality for international students (I’ll review this another time) in relation to my research into the cultural assimilation of international students into UK (arts) education. It aims to establish a UK-wide set of shared principles that ‘reflect good practice in supporting international students’ experiences, developed with a view to assisting higher education providers in developing an inclusive environment that meets the challenges associated with an increasingly international student body’. This notion of building inclusivity, or an inclusive environment, is something I am extremely interested in developing and establishing for international students at BCU…it’s just trying to work out how to start making it happen and by what methods.

What is the UK Quality code for Higher Education?

  • Designed to assure the academic standards and quality of UK Higher Education wherever the course is delivered, by the QAA with input from colleges, universities and students, through 5 scoping and discussion events; advisory groups of 230 senior higher education staff; consultation from 1,520 academics, students, quality officers and PSRB representatives at 33 consultation events; and 1,380 people and organisations shared their views online.

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What does the Quality Code cover? 

It consists of 3 parts:

  • Part A – looks at the academic standards UK that universities and colleges set and maintain for the award of their academic credit or qualifications;
  • Part B – looks at academic quality and how universities and colleges support students to enable them to achieve their awards;
  • Part C – looks at the information produced by the universities about their academic provision.

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How does the Quality Code work?

  • Each section of the quality code contains an expectation (of which there are 19) that set out what a university and college expect of themselves and each other, and what students and the public can expect of them. Under each expectation there are a number of indicators of sound practice to demonstrate how to meet these expectations.

Quality Code QAA 3

How is the Quality Code used? 

  • Universities and colleges use the Quality Code to help maintain the academic standards of programmes and awards, assure and enhance the quality of learning opportunities to produce information about their Higher Education provision that is fit for purpose. Student representations and student unions use the Quality code in discussions with universities and colleges about how they support students to enable them to achieve their awards. QAA reviewers use the Quality Code to judge whether universities and colleges meet UK expectations for academic standards, quality, enhancement and information.

Quality Code QAA 4

How do we define standards and quality?

  • Threshold academic standards are the minimum acceptable level of achievement that a student has to demonstrate to be eligible for the award of academic credit or a qualification;
  • Academic standards are the standards that individual degree-awarding bodies set and maintain for the award of
    their academic credit or qualifications. These may exceed the threshold academic standards. They include the standards of performance that a student needs to demonstrate to achieve a particular classification of a qualification, such as a first-class honours degree classification in a certain subject or the award of merit or distinction in a master’s degree;
  • Academic quality refers to how and how well the higher education provider supports students to enable them to achieve their award. It covers learning, teaching and assessment, and all the different resources and processes a provider puts in place to help students progress and fulfil their potential;
  • Quality assurance is the process for checking that the academic standards and quality of higher education provision meet agreed expectations.

What are the key values of the Quality Code?

  • Every student is treated fairly and with dignity, courtesy and respect.
  • Every student has the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of their learning experience.
  • Every student is properly and actively informed at appropriate times of matters relevant to their programmes of study.
  • All policies and processes relating to study and programmes are clearly explained and transparent.
  • Strategic oversight of academic standards and academic quality is at the highest level of academic governance of the provider.
  • All policies and processes are regularly and effectively monitored, reviewed and improved.
  • Sufficient and appropriate external involvement exists for the maintenance of academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities.
  • All staff are supported, enabling them in turn to support students’ learning experiences.

Quality Code QAA 5

What doesn’t it cover?

The Quality Code relates to the learning and teaching activities of higher education providers, including research degrees. Among the areas it does not cover are other forms of research activity and non-academic provision such as accommodation and estates management.

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