The consultation was the second phase of the Quality Assessment Review initiated by the funding bodies as part of their respective statutory duties of quality assessment in higher education. The review was designed to be forward-looking and to ensure that arrangements would remain fit-for-purpose for the next decade.
The key consultation proposals were:
- peer review against baseline requirements for the quality of the academic experience at those providers seeking entry to the publicly funded sector
- removal of repeated external re-testing of baseline requirements for established providers, unless there is evidence of a serious problem
- strengthened approaches to a provider’s own review processes
- strengthened governance arrangements
- a strengthened external examining system
- routine monitoring of data and other intelligence by the relevant funding body, and the testing of assurances from a provider
- investigation and action where there is evidence of a serious problem in an individual provider.
There were over 250 written responses to the consultation from across the UK and from a range of stakeholder groups. There were a large number of responses from individual student organisations. Analysis of the responses reveals broad support for the proposals and the general direction of travel, with all questions receiving more ‘agree’ than ‘disagree’ responses. There was clear support in a number of areas, including:
- the proposed principles for future approaches to quality assessment, especially the view that ‘one size’ of quality assessment can no longer ‘fit all’
- the removal of repeated external cyclical review against baseline requirements for established providers, unless there is evidence of a serious problem
- approaches to embedding external scrutiny
- a shift in focus away from a provider’s processes to place student outcomes centre stage
- the use of existing funding body accountability mechanisms to monitor, and to seek and test assurances from, individual providers
- investigation and intervention when things go wrong
- peer review of providers seeking entry to the publicly funded sector, followed by a probationary period for these new entrants.
There were two areas where the difference between those in agreement and those in disagreement was much narrower: the proposals to place more emphasis on the role of a provider’s governing body, and to strengthen the external examining system. This suggests that further careful reflection and adjustment will be necessary.
Respondents also wanted the quality assessment system and the Government’s plans for teaching excellence to be designed and implemented as a single coherent system. HEFCE continues to work closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to achieve this important outcome.
The document sets out the outcomes of an analysis of the written responses to the consultation. It does not set out future policy.
- ‘Future approaches to quality assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Analysis of responses to consultation’ is available.
- The original ‘Future approaches to quality assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Consultation’ is available.