October 2012 | ref: 2012/27
Quality assurance, quality enhancement and the student experience (England and Northern Ireland)
Planning, Governing bodies and Academic boards
Student union officers and student representatives
Quality assurance of higher education in Northern Ireland (Department for Employment and Learning)
Alternative providers of higher education
Other organisations with an interest in the quality assurance of higher education, including employer bodies, professional, statutory and regulatory bodies, Department of Health, the UK Border Agency and other government stakeholders
1. This document reports on the outcomes of, and next steps arising from, the HEFCE consultation ‘A risk-based approach to quality assurance: Consultation’ (HEFCE 2012/11). This consultation on a more risk-based approach to the quality assurance of higher education (HE) in England took place in the summer of 2012.
2. The Government’s higher education White Paper, ‘Students at the Heart of the System’, which was published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in June 2011, invited HEFCE to consult on the introduction of a more risk-based approach to quality assurance, ‘[to focus] the effort of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) where it will have the most impact, and giving students power to hold universities to account.’ (White Paper, paragraph 3.19).
3. The ensuing consultation, which closed at the end of July, elicited 130 responses from across the HE sector. The responses showed strong support for the three key principles which were identified in the consultation document as essential for developing a more risk-based approach to quality assurance, namely:
4. General support was also expressed for our proposal to use the QAA’s existing method of Institutional Review as the basis of building a risk-based approach, given the success of this new method in ensuring rigorous, robust review which fully involves students, but is proportionate in regulatory terms.
5. We were pleased to receive so many responses to the consultation, from a wide range of interests. In addition, the consultation events were well attended, especially by student representatives. The responses we received to the consultation questions showed wide cross-sector agreement on a range of key proposals, including that steps should be taken to:
6. In what follows, we present a package of measures agreed by our Board, which aim to achieve a more transparent, proportionate and risk-based approach to quality assurance which will target the efforts of the QAA where they will have the most impact. We are asking the QAA to review all providers with access to HEFCE funding using a single review method, which can be varied according to institutional circumstances (for example, whether or not an institution has degree-awarding powers). In developing these recommendations, we have taken steps to ensure, not only that enhancement activities continue to comprise a major part of the risk-based quality assurance approach, but that students continue to play a central role in the quality assurance and improvement of their education.
7. In summary:
8. No immediate action is required, but institutions may wish to familiarise themselves with the key recommendations of the risk-based approach set out in this document, ahead of the QAA consultation on a draft handbook for the new approach. The consultation will open in winter 2012, on the basis of HEFCE’s letter of guidance to the QAA on how to take forward this more risk-based approach to quality assurance.
9. The Department for Employment and Learning has considered the findings and recommendations of this consultation, and the implications they will have for the HE institutions in Northern Ireland. They have agreed to implement any changes to the current Quality Assurance process in line with the recommendations, and will work with HEFCE and QAA to agree the way forward. However, as HE provision in further education colleges in Northern Ireland is quality-assured through the QAA’s Integrated Quality and Enhancement Review process, any proposed changes to a more risk-based quality assurance process will not apply to further education colleges in Northern Ireland.
Download the A risk-based approach to quality assurance: Outcomes of consultation and next steps as PDF (279 KB) | Download the A risk-based approach to quality assurance: Outcomes of consultation and next steps as MS Word (454 KB)
Following the publication of this document, we have sent a letter of guidance to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) on taking forward the more risk-based approach. Our guidance is based on the proposals identified in the publication.
|Enquiries should be directed to:||Tish Bourke, tel 0117 931 7219, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org|
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