Why is quality important?
The credibility and value of Higher Education (HE) in the UK and internationally rests primarily on the quality of taught and research programmes. Within the UK the major funding bodies are concerned that public money is used effectively. Therefore, they need to establish that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) deliver a high quality learning experience and that their teaching and awards are of a high and consistent standard. Understandably, students and applicants are also interested in the quality of provision and comparability of the student experience at different HEIs. Information on the student experience is publicly available, for example in league tables and through the results of the National Student Survey (NSS).
Who is responsible for quality?
Responsibility for quality and standards is devolved primarily to HEIs, although the funding bodies conduct periodic reviews of each institution through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). In Scotland external reviews of each institution take place at least once every five years. Additionally, Professional and Statutory Bodies (PSBs) operate regulatory procedures for the approval and periodic review of many programmes. At QMU, this applies to the majority of healthcare programmes, as well as some others.
What are the key reference points for quality in Scotland and the UK?
In Scotland the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) provides generic descriptors for each higher education award and level, from Certificates of Higher Education to Research Degrees.
The Quality Assurance Agency's Quality Code for Higher Education offers a set of nationally agreed reference points that provide all UK HEIs with a shared starting point for developing their own quality framework. The Code includes Expectations that providers are required to meet, as well as Indicators of good practice that help providers meet the Expectations.
Within the framework of published guidelines and periodic external reviews, each HEI is expected to operate its own policies and procedures for the management of academic quality and standards. The appropriateness of the agreed arrangements is evaluated through period external review, as described above. In Scotland, the review process is known as Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR). QMU was most recently reviewed in April 2018, and achieved the highest of three possible outcomes. Review reports for QMU are publicly available on the QAA website.
As external reference points are subject to change, it is important that HEIs review their quality framework periodically to ensure continued fitness for purpose and a learning experience that meets the needs of all students, their future employers and the wider community.