What should we be learning from the international student experience?

The story of internationalisation of UK Higher Education is an undoubted success. There has been a significant growth in international students coming to the UK and the 2030 target of 600,000 has already been achieved and the work on the international education strategy 2.0 is being conducted by the International Higher Education Commission, Chaired by the rt hon. Chris Skidmore MP. Transnational education (TNE) has been expanding as has the flow of students to spend study time from overseas in the UK and visa versa. This growth in participation and movement gives us the chance to diversify the educational experience and, where this works well, students have the chance to learn from others whose background and experience can provide different perspectives and a source of insight and inspiration.

Research has always operated on an international stage as knowledge development occurs through global communities and research-led teaching has tended to introduce students to developments from around the world. Equally, developments in educational practice, including decolonisation of curricula, have helped challenge and ‘decentre’ singular national perspectives where they have previously existed. Through these changes in who is doing the learning and what is being learned, internationalisation has led to improvements in quality for all.

In addition to these sources of intrinsic value, there are extrinsic forms of value. These include the ‘soft power’ of many graduates from UK HE who go on to play significant leadership roles in government, business and other organisations around the world and as Nick Hillman, CEO of HEPI, shows over a quarter of the world’s countries are headed by someone educated in the UK . International students contribute through the fees they pay and also through their entrepreneurship to the economy of the UK.

Given these many successes, a key question for the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment, and for the whole UK HE community is: What should we be learning from the international student experience? In dialogue with international students from six universities we were told about a range of experiences in UK HE and the welcome they received in the UK more generally.

What are international students expecting and what do they experience?

International students are stepping outside their comfort zone and paying significant sums and their expectations are reasonable and appropriately high. In particular, they expect engaged staff, up to date and research-led curricula and a diverse student population. In addition, they are looking forward to an education that will help them develop the advanced skills, such as critical thinking, analysis and creativity, needed in productive careers. Many are hoping for the placements and experiential learning which can help them exercise and practise advanced skills and knowledge which is part of the promise of many universities.

The students who participated in our consultation were appreciative of staff and their enthusiasm and of relevant learning materials and careers support. However, for some there had been expectations set by recruitment agents and universities themselves that paid work would be more available than it is. While many had found work, it had tended to be in low wage occupations and did not reflect their knowledge and skills sufficiently, particularly at postgraduate level.

The students were also expecting to make connections and build relationships at personal, educational and career levels. They found Students’ Unions, clubs and societies were excellent for personal connections, a feeling of belonging and support. For some there was a risk of spending too much time in societies with membership predominantly from one nation and all found it beneficial to interact in multi-national groupings. Most found classroom interaction to be well managed and there was an effort to mix students in educational activities. In some universities and courses, however, there were fewer opportunities for this if a particular cohort was drawn from a small number of countries. In general, the students found that they had less chance to build connections that would help in their future careers than they had expected.

The primary area where students’ expectations were confounded was with the welcome to the UK. Arrival and pre-arrival in the UK were often less than smooth experiences. Visas were costly, guarantees needed to be provided and insurance and travel add to costs considerably. Similarly, NHS costs are high and the students’ perception was that very few of them used any NHS services. Some that had found the system difficult to navigate and not as welcoming as intended. It is also worth noting that concerns over cost are likely to be heightened for future intakes of international students given the significant increases to visa fees and the health surcharge by Government. Similarly, dealing with banks and accommodation was not straightforward. Increasingly, universities are helping with these matters and Students’ Unions are developing welcome packs on how to navigate UK systems in advance and on arrival.

The lack of good employment opportunities was significant. It is a popular misconception that all international students come from affluent backgrounds. In fact, like UK students, many need to work to fund their studies and living costs. Universities are seeking to help, but this is an area where more needs to be done. This also has, for some, implications for the classroom culture. Some of the students in our consultation reported having less technology than other students and this symbolising their otherness. Along with internationalising curricula there is also a need for staff to understand the background of international students and its economic diversity.

Some lessons from the international student experience

  • International students were willing and able to play a dynamic role in student representation and university governance, and indeed many are already playing this role. We should encourage this and it is also clear that international students do not want a separate voice – the intrinsic values in education were the same for them as for UK students.
  • Curricula have become more international and decolonised, but there is space for further development and cross-cultural understanding in education practice and engagement
  • Academic and professional staff would benefit from greater insight into the diversity of the international student body and their economic diversity in particular. This can help challenge assumptions and ensure an inclusive approach to the classroom culture.
  • Connections need to be fostered both within the classroom and the lab and with employers, businesses and organisations through visits, projects and placements.
  • Student societies are crucial to fostering belonging and enjoyment and Students’ Unions and Universities can encourage more collaboration between societies with a view to enabling greater cross-cultural engagement.
  • As universities, we cannot replace government agencies, the NHS and private accommodation providers, but we can help these organisations to understand how they are perceived, develop a dialogue at a national level and, crucially, work in partnership with Students’ Unions and external agencies to improve welcome and ongoing experience.

These lessons can support the work of the UKSCQA in providing a forum for collaboration across the UK on quality and international student experience and maintaining the UK HE sector’s reputation overseas.

Authors:

Nic Beech, Chair UKSCQA and Commissioner in the International Higher Education Commission

Diana Beech, CEO London Higher and Commissioner in the International Higher Education Commission

Jess Strenk, Head of External Affairs at Middlesex University

Emily Dixon, Programmes, Communications and Research Officer at London Higher

 


How AI is catalysing good pedagogical practice in higher education

The delivery of teaching and assessment in higher education has faced significant challenges over the last three years which have affected all those involved in the quality arrangements associated with the delivery of teaching, assessment, and the student experience. This blog is the first in a series which looks at how the UK sector leads on quality in higher education. For this first blog, Professor Clare Peddie, Vice Principal (Education) at the University of St Andrews and Deputy Chair of the UKSCQA, looks at the sector’s response to current challenges associated with the introduction of generative AI tools such as Chat GPT.

When looking at responses to generative AI tools I see a lot of knee-jerk reactions, from initial concerns in the media around the risks to the academic integrity of assessments to the rapid introduction of new online detection tools, as well as the return to in-person pen-and-paper examinations and changes to academic misconduct policies. Now, because of the many webinars, roundtables, and evidence-gathering conversations, thinking is developing around how we can respond positively and in a measured way. In the same way that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated pedagogical advances in digital education, generative AI tools are, in my view, accelerators of the prevalence and quality of good pedagogical practice. These new tools will stimulate changes in pedagogy that we have been advancing throughout higher education over many years but will now quickly receive more prominence in our practice.

Developments in education which will be accelerated by the introduction of Generative AI include:

  • the incorporation of experiential, personalised, and reflective learning practices;
  • the advancement of activities designed to improve the metaskills of our graduates;
  • developments to incorporate more authentic assessment, i.e., assessment aimed at the application of knowledge to real-life or work-based problems generating meaningful and worthwhile educational experiences; and
  • the incorporation of project, group, and interdisciplinary activities.

In some institutions, including my own, the essay has been the mainstay of assessment in some of our more traditional disciplines. It would not be unusual for modules to be continuously assessed by essays and an examination asking further essay questions. Prior to Chat GPT, many educators and pedagogical researchers were already questioning the authenticity and the transferability of the skills graduates gain from these types of assignments. Now, we can predict that changes to the curriculum may involve greater involvement of the academic tutor in the development of students’ critical thinking skills, and discussion of the plans for the preparation and submission of an assignment.

Before the final summative submission, the tutor or lecturer may, for example, supervise the:

  • development of a novel research question or reflective assignment;
  • preparation of an outline plan;
  • justification for selection of the resources that will be consulted; and/ or
  • development of the argument and formative assessment of a draft document.

These measures will help preserve the academic integrity of the process while also supporting the educational purpose of assessment.
Some of our more innovative curriculum developments already in place will be largely unaffected by generative AI. For example, the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) which are innovative interdisciplinary research-based projects that enable students from different year cohorts and academic staff to collaborate on long-term real-world issues which are part of the curriculum in number of institutions, including my own, and are largely immune to these risks to academic integrity.

Intensive personal supervision of the learning and assessment process may mean that the workload for academics will increase but, arguably, that the quality of the learning experience will be significantly improved. Consequently, curricula may have to change by substantially reducing the number of assessments. Again, many of us will recognise our tendency in the sector to ‘over-assess’, and we know that multiple assignments with feedback on which students have little time to reflect and learn from are less meaningful to a successful education. So, this is another way in which AI could further catalyse good pedagogical practice.

Like the digital transition catalysed by COVID, the transition to a new way of teaching will be pedagogically demanding. We find ourselves challenged, once again, to develop the support and guidance to help educators adapt, find the space in our commitments for curriculum development, and put in place the agile mechanisms by which assessment and teaching methodologies can be easily adapted. The question for me is not what we need to do to respond appropriately to the introduction of AI but how we resource that change and support the wellbeing of all those at the sharp end of curriculum delivery.

By Professor Clare Peddie, Vice Principal (Education) at the University of St Andrews and Deputy Chair of the UKSCQA.


Joint Statement by the UK funding and regulatory bodies

The UK higher education sector

UK higher education consists of over 450 institutions across the four nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While each nation controls its own policies and systems for quality and regulation, and has its own funding/regulatory oversight body, we share underpinning principles which give rise to a common approach on the expectations for quality and standards for all UK higher education courses. These principles are:

  • Delivering a high-quality academic experience
  • Providing excellent learning and teaching
  • Supporting student participation in quality
  • Encouraging student engagement
  • Maintaining high quality academic standards
  • Promoting international recognition

The bodies that oversee higher education in the four nations of the UK are developing a joint statement setting out how quality and standards are regulated in UK higher education, including for courses delivered outside the UK.

The statement was produced for the benefit of organisations which engage with UK higher education around the world, including quality assurance agencies and regulators in countries where UK higher education institutions offer transnational education (TNE) provision.

UKSCQA UK-wide statement May 2023


QAA publish new guiding principles for effective external examining

External Examining Principles

Working alongside Universities UK (UUK), GuildHE and an expert advisory group, QAA undertook a review of external examining practice in UK higher education. As a result, QAA have developed a set of principles for effective external examining. These have been agreed by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assurance (UKSCQA) and are appended to the Statement of Intent on Degree Classifications. They are available on the QAA website.

In developing the principles, QAA gathered views from a range of stakeholders including academic staff, quality professionals, students and external examiners themselves through a survey and a series of roundtable discussion events. The survey, which was carried out between December 2021 and January 2022, received responses from 44 higher education institutions. Over 170 individuals engaged with the roundtable events held during December 2021 and January 2022. QAA also engaged with students and student representatives through their Student Strategic Advisory Committee and with professional, statutory and regulatory body (PSRB) representatives during a workshop held as part of their regular PSRB Forum. QAA are grateful to the expert Advisory Group members for their time and expertise in supporting this work.

The External Examining System

The external examining system has been a key mechanism for upholding academic standards in UK higher education for almost 200 years, ensuring comparability across different institutions. Within a system where autonomous institutions develop their own curricula, the UK higher education sector enables a vast range of courses to be offered which are linked to institutional research specialisms, local and industry needs, and student demand.

External examiners perform an essential function in supporting this diversity of subjects, acting as constructively critical peers. For example, they support course teams to ensure that students are assessed fairly and transparently by offering independent advice and support on modes of assessment and learning outcomes.

External examiners form a pan-sector network across UK institutions, offering a wealth of intelligence about academic standards and the quality of provision. The principles are aimed at supporting the two main stakeholders in the system: individuals performing the role, and the institutions that appoint them. They reiterate the value of appointing external examiners to work alongside UK institutions, providing confidence for students and the public that the degrees being awarded are a reliable and consistent reflection of graduate attainment.

Further advice to support institutions and externals in implementing these principles and reviewing their own external examining policies and practices is under development and will be made available in Autumn 2022.


New UKSCQA chair and deputy chair

The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Nic Beech and Professor Clare Peddie as its new chair and deputy chair.

Professor Nic Beech, Vice Chancellor at Middlesex University since 2020, succeeds Professor Andrew Wathey (outgoing Vice Chancellor at Northumbria) as chair of the committee.

Professor Clare Peddie, Vice Principal for Education (Proctor) at the University of St Andrews, will be the first deputy chair of the committee in a newly created role.

Both Professors Beech and Peddie will serve in these roles for three years. They will oversee their first meeting of the committee in these roles when it next meets in June 2022.

Prior to his role at Middlesex, Professor Beech has held the roles of Vice-Principal, Provost at the University of Dundee and Vice Principal at the University of St Andrews. He is President of the British Academy of Management, Chair of AccessHE and Treasurer of the Academy of Social Sciences. He is a member of the board of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

Professor Peddie has been in her current role since 2019, prior to which she was Head of School and Pro Dean for undergraduates in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of St Andrews. She is currently chair of the Quality Arrangements for Scottish HE (QASHE) committee, leads the QAA Scotland enhancement theme 'Resilient Learning Communities', and previously the sector representative for Scotland on the UKSCQA.

We would like to express our thanks to Professor Andrew Wathey for being the first chair of the committee and establishing its role in the sector. This has involved overseeing work including the committee’s strategic oversight of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, the launch of the statement of intent on transparency, reliability and fairness in degree classification, and the development of classification descriptors for undergraduate degrees.

We can also announce that the independent secretariat of the UKSCQA is now being hosted within Universities UK (UUK) on behalf of the sector, having previously been hosted within the Office for Students (OfS).

The UKSCQA provides sector-led oversight of higher education quality assessment arrangements that continue to be shared across the UK. The committee has members drawn from regulated providers in England and Wales and publicly funded universities and colleges in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Student interests are represented by both the National Union of Students and individual student members. Membership is also drawn from the four UK higher education funding/regulatory bodies, sector bodies and regulatory partners.


New guiding principles for effective algorithm design published

A new document, published today by Universities UK and GuildHE on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment [UKSCQA], outlines six new guiding Principles for effective algorithm design, as well as other recommendations for universities when deciding the final degree classifications awarded to students.

For further details, please see the Universities UK announcement. The document, and its accompanying research report, can be downloaded from the UUK website.

Posted: 21st July 2020


UKSCQA statement regarding Degree Outcomes Statements

The higher education sector is facing extraordinary pressures as it responds to the impact of COVID-19. We recognise that staff across institutions are working tirelessly to ensure quality and standards are robustly maintained while they implement significant changes to teaching and assessment and as provision moves to online platforms. It is crucial that students can continue to take pride in their qualifications and that the value of their degree is not adversely affected by the response to the current pandemic.

The UKSCQA is, with the backing of UUK & Guild HE, encouraging providers in England and Wales* to continue with plans to publish degree outcome statements – and to now aim for publication by the end of the 2019/20 academic year, where possible. We know from talking to many institutions that considerable work has already been undertaken and that most institutions were already in the process of drafting their statements for publication, with several already having published theirs and would encourage other institutions close to that point to publish where possible. Degree outcomes statements are not a regulatory requirement in England; in Wales, institutions have collectively opted to produce degree outcome statements. However, the UKSCQA feels this remains important work.

We recognise that institutions will find themselves in a wide variety of places, both in their progress on degree outcome statements to date and in the amount of additional attention which is now being diverted to activities relating to COVID-19. Key meetings of the internal committees and boards required to sign-off the degree outcomes statements may also be being rescheduled or be busy discussing responses to the pandemic. We are sensitive to these concerns and appreciate that there may be cases in which it is simply not possible to publish by the end of the current academic year. As we seek to continue to demonstrate our commitment as a sector to maintaining academic standards, we would strongly encourage institutions to publish their statements on this timescale where they can, and by the end of the 2020 calendar year if this should not prove possible.

The UKSCQA is committed to reviewing progress on the sector's activity at the end of the 2019/20 academic year. This review of progress will take into account the challenging circumstances faced by institutions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information on degree outcomes statements, please refer to guidance available on the QAA website.

* Degree outcomes statements are not being used in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, information that might be included with degree outcomes statements is considered as part of existing activity in the Quality Enhancement Framework; for example: institution-led review and student engagement.

Posted: 4th May 2020


Higher Education sector announces new initiatives to protect value of UK degrees

In May 2019, the sector-representative bodies for higher education in the UK published a Statement of Intent, reaffirming their commitment to protect the value of UK degrees and to transparent, consistent and fair academic standards.  The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) [1] has agreed the need for further action to meet this challenge and today announces two new initiatives developed by the sector to follow up on that earlier undertaking:

  • degree outcomes statements, and
  • new degree classifications descriptions.

Degree outcomes statements

The Statement of Intent explained how providers in the different nations of the UK would take different approaches towards their common goal of protecting the value of degrees, reflecting their differing national quality assessment arrangements.  In Scotland, the Statement of Intent is secured by the Quality Enhancement Framework, and in Northern Ireland by its annual provider review process.

In England, sector-representative bodies agreed that providers should publish on their websites, in academic year 2019-20, an evaluative degree outcomes statement to provide clearer assurance to students, stakeholders and the wider public on how they ensure the value of the qualifications they award is protected.  Welsh institutions have collectively agreed to each publish a degree outcomes statement during academic year 2019-20 as well.

Guidance for providers on what to include in their degree outcomes statements is being published today on the websites of the UKSCQA and the QAA.  English providers should publish their statements on their websites in early 2020, respecting the formal approval processes needed and complying with CMA regulations.

Degree classification descriptions

The UKSCQA today publishes a set of common degree classification descriptions that set out the agreed general criteria that students across the UK should meet in order to achieve the different classes of qualification at bachelor’s honours degree [2] level. These criteria will provide a vital tool for providers in ensuring the comparability and reliability of UK higher education qualifications.

The descriptions have been developed over an 18-month programme of work between the sector, Universities UK, GuildHE, and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which was closely overseen by the UKSCQA. They were subject to consultation in November 2018 and, following minor subsequent amendments, are now being published to inform providers.

At its June 2019 meeting, the UKSCQA confirmed that these descriptions are an appropriate and important UK-wide reference point and should be appended to the national quality frameworks:  the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of degree-awarding bodies in England, Wales & Northern Ireland (FHEQ), and the Framework for Qualifications of Higher Education Institutions in Scotland (FQHEIS). Accordingly, the descriptions appear today within a new annex to those Frameworks documents.

It is important that providers understand how these criteria should be applied within their national contexts, and this annex outlines their differing use in the four nations of the UK. They will be subject to periodic review by the UKSCQA to ensure their continued appropriateness and which will also consider their possible extension to other qualifications levels.

 

Welcoming these initiatives, Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University and Chair of the UKSCQA, said:

“The UK delivers world-class education to students from all nations. It is therefore right that the sector commits to ensuring that the value of these world-class qualifications is maintained over time in line with the expectations of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Degree outcomes statements will be used by participating providers to demonstrate transparently the rigour and robustness of their internal assurance mechanisms, to give students, other stakeholders and the public confidence in the quality of HE qualifications.”

 

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said:

"Universities are listening to concerns about grade inflation and these initiatives show our determination to ensuring transparency and consistency in the way degrees are awarded. Statements detailing degree results and agreed criteria for achieving different grades will support universities as they examine their practices, and protect the value of qualifications in the context of improvements in teaching and students’ performances. UUK will be calling on its members [in England] to publish degree outcomes statements on their websites."

 

Dr David Llewellyn, Vice-Chancellor of Harper Adams University and Chair, GuildHE, said:

"The UK higher education sector is committed to delivering high quality education. The new degree outcomes statements will outline each institution's degree classification profile over time and describe what has happened, what has changed and why it has changed. These statements, alongside the new grade classification descriptors, will further support academic governance within institutions and provide assurance that standards within UK higher education are being maintained and protected."

The UKSCQA will review the effectiveness of both these initiatives in mid-2020 as part of its commitment to a wider review of the Statement of Intent after one year.  It is expected the impact of these statements would be substantially apparent following the 2020 examination round.

 

Posted: Thursday 10 October 2019

Links to documents being published today

Degree outcomes statements:

A complementary checklist has also been created to aid in the preparation and validation of degree outcomes statements:

Degree classification descriptions:

(The above forms a new annex to the pre-existing Frameworks for HE qualifications of UK Degree-awarding bodies document, which is available on the QAA website).

Notes

[1] The UKSCQA is an advisory body whose function is to provide oversight of, and strategic direction for, those elements of quality and standards arrangements which are shared across the UK, and those areas where the interests of the sector and the funders/regulators intersect with regards to HE quality and standards matters. These matters include the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which sets out what is expected of UK higher education providers with regards to the quality of, and standards applied to, their provision, and other programmes of work which members from all nations of the UK agree are necessary to maintain high quality and standards at the UK sector level. These include (but are not restricted to): quality assurance for transnational education, academic integrity, and reliability & comparability of degree standards.  More information on the composition of the UKSCQA can be found here.

[2] This means qualifications at Level 6 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and at Level 10 in Scotland.


Universities unveil joint commitment on degree classifications

A new sector statement of intent will help
protect the value of degrees

Transparency, reliability and fairness
in the awarding of degrees are at the heart of a joint commitment published today by the
higher education sector.

As part of a
UK-wide consultation on grade inflation, led by the UK Standing Committee for
Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) with Universities UK (UUK), GuildHE and the Quality
Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), higher education institutions
agreed to take collective action to protect the value of degree qualifications
for the long term, to be more transparent and to tackle perceptions that degree
courses are ‘dumbing down’.

The UK higher
education sector has agreed that strong and decisive action is necessary to
protect and demonstrate the value of university qualifications and in doing so
ensure confidence from students, employers, and the wider public.

The consultation,
launched late last year following initial recommendations from the UKSCQA, explored
how these recommendations could be developed and rolled out across universities
and other providers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The result is a statement of intent, overwhelmingly supported by the sector, which outlines the shared commitment of universities to transparency, fairness and reliability in the way they award degrees. It provides a framework for action and will be in place for the 2019/20 academic year.

The statement of
intent calls on providers to meet four specific commitments:

  • Ensure assessments continue to stretch and challenge students
    • Review and explain how final degree classifications are calculated
    • Support and strengthen the external examiners system
    • Review and publish data and analysis on students’ degree outcomes

A common degree
classification framework, which will act as a reference point for providers by
describing high-level attributes expected of a graduate to achieve a particular
degree, is also in development. The descriptions formed part of this
consultation and are now being refined ahead of publication by the UKSCQA in
the summer.   

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Chair of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Northumbria, said:

“Responses to the UKSCQA’s consultation have demonstrated that in the UK higher education providers of all types are leading the way in addressing the international challenge of ‘grade inflation’, and the committee welcomes the sector’s strong support for this work.

“The statement of intent sets out a clear framework for action which can work across the whole of the UK, and by taking this forward higher education providers can assure themselves and their students of transparency, reliability and fairness in the awarding of degrees.”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said:

“The UK higher education sector has a world-leading reputation, so it is critical to protect the value of a university degree. Students deserve to have qualifications which they can take pride in, and employers and the wider public need to have confidence in the results students achieve.

“It’s heartening to see the commitment shown by universities to work both individually and collectively through this strongly-supported statement of intent. It is clear universities are taking this issue seriously – we must all now focus on exploring the ways in which we can adapt to meet these challenges.”

David Llewellyn, Chair of Guild HE, said:

“Students, employers and the wider public must be assured about the quality of UK higher education qualifications. The sector has therefore committed to work together to improve the transparency of the qualification awarding process and to ensure that qualifications properly and fairly represent the achievements of our students.

“The statement of intent will help universities reflect on their awarding practices so as to maintain and improve confidence in our qualifications and strengthen further our national and international reputation for academic excellence.  The higher education sector is increasingly diverse in nature, but we all share the need for the value of our qualifications to be protected, wherever and however our students are taught.  We therefore commend this statement to UK higher education providers and look forward to seeing it put into action in the coming months.”

ENDS

 Notes

  • The statement of intent was developed by UUK, GuildHE and QAA work on behalf of, and as members of, the UKSCQA. This was on behalf of the full UKSCQA and is signed by the representative groups and endorsed by the UKSCQA.
  • 87% of all consultation responses – which were from providers, sector organisations, student unions and individuals, said they consider the statement of intent an effective approach to addressing current challenges for degree classification, wholly or in part.
  • The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) provides sector-led oversight of the quality and standards arrangements that continue to be shared across the UK. It includes representation from all four UK higher education funding bodies/regulators as well as the sector and student representative bodies. Both publicly-funded and private higher education providers are represented on the committee, as well as further education colleges delivering higher education. More information is available at https://qcukhe.org.uk.

Quality Code advice and guidance: creative freedom without compromising quality

The cornerstone for quality and standards in UK higher education, the new UK Quality Code for Higher Education, will publish in full tomorrow (29 November) at 1400.

The Expectations and Practices, published in March 2018, set out the 'core' and 'common' practices that providers are expected to comply with. The core practices will be mandatory for universities and other higher education providers across all regulatory administrations in the UK, while the common practices will be requirements for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish providers (see note 2). In England, providers may wish to work towards the common practices, but are not required to do so as these are not regulatory requirements and will not be assessed as part of the OfS’s regulatory framework.

Today's publication of the focused Advice and Guidance completes the Quality Code. Its 12 themes offer guiding principles, practical advice and reflective questions on areas including Assessment, Work-based Learning and Enabling Student Achievement.

UK higher education providers will not be required to follow the Advice and Guidance and will not be regulated against it, but may find it helpful in developing and maintaining effective quality assurance practices.

Work-based Learning, for example, includes advice on how providers, students' unions and professional bodies can stay connected with students in the workplace. Enabling student achievement suggests how to offer the best support for vulnerable groups like care leavers or gender transitioning students.

The new Advice and Guidance has been produced unequivocally by and for the UK higher education sector. One hundred and twenty two academics, quality managers, student representatives and sector experts worked with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to write guidance for each of the 12 themes.

Authors represented 11 Russell Group universities, nine university members each from MillionPlus and University Alliance, six Cathedral Group universities, 24 non-aligned universities, 13 further education colleges and four independent providers, as well as careers, professional and student voice experts.

'Providers have told us they value a framework for academic standards and quality that allows them to express their autonomy and individuality, and we've embraced that,' says QAA Chief Executive Douglas Blackstock.

'Our aim with the Advice and Guidance is to give all UK providers a set of guiding principles, practical advice and resources that will support them in meeting the Expectations and Practices without tying them to rigid processes.

'We're looking forward to seeing the different ways they put the Advice and Guidance into practice so that we can share the quality and diversity that are so vital to the reputation of UK higher education.'

The revised UK Quality Code for Higher Education was developed by QAA on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment. Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University, chairs the Committee. He said:

'The new Quality Code will continue to perform a key role as a UK-wide reference point for quality and standards in UK higher education, but with greater fitness for purpose in a changing and increasingly diverse higher education sector.

'We now have a Quality Code that is student focused, meets the varying regulatory requirements across the UK nations, and is future facing.

'UKSCQA appreciates the efforts of all who have played a part in this achievement:  contributors and respondents from all parts of the higher education sector and all UK nations; QAA, which carried out the exacting work on the Code's development; the UK's funding and regulatory bodies; and sector representative groups, including Universities UK, GuildHE, the Association of Colleges and the NUS’.

Notes to editors

  • Transitional arrangements for moving to the new Code as a reference point for quality assessment reviews vary across the nations. Providers undergoing a review in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will reference the existing Code until August 2019.  Providers in England which are currently designated for student support by the Secretary of State and not yet registered by the OfS and are undergoing annual monitoring and other review-related activities will reference the existing Code until 31 July 2019.  All providers in England registered by the OfS will use the new Code.
  • The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment provides sector-led oversight of higher education quality assessment arrangements that continue to be shared across the UK. The Committee has members drawn from regulated providers in England and Wales, publicly-funded universities and colleges in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and providers currently designated for student support by the Secretary of State in England. Student interests are represented by both the National Union of Students and individual student members. Membership is also drawn from the four UK higher education funding/regulatory bodies, sector bodies and regulatory partners. Find out more at qcuhe.org.uk.
  • QAA is the independent quality body for UK higher education. It is a higher education charitable company, which is limited by guarantee and whose members are representative organisations of the higher education sector. More information on QAA is available at qaa.ac.uk
  • The UK Quality Code for Higher Education embodies the co-regulatory approach that underpins UK higher education. Providers should use the Quality Code in line with their educational mission, national quality arrangements, and regulatory requirements. As higher education is the responsibility of the individual UK nations, the precise national arrangements for quality assessment differ, including how parts of the Quality Code will be used in external oversight and review.