QMU Validation and Review Guidance for Programme Teams
This resource has been produced as an aid to programme teams preparing for validation or review at Queen Margaret University. It includes information and guidance on the aims of validation and review, roles and responsibilities, procedures and regulations. It complements and should be read in conjunction with relevant sections of the University’s Governance and Regulations published on the QMU website.
Links to internal and external reference points are provided where appropriate, including links to the Quality website, which is the definitive and up-to-date source of information on University regulations and procedures.
We hope you will find this guidance useful. We would welcome any comments or suggestions for improvement. If you would like to provide feedback, please refer to the ‘Further information and contacts’ section (page 38).
Staff of the Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement (GQE) provide support for programme teams preparing for validation and review events. All staff participating in validation and review should contact staff from GQE at an early stage of their preparation.
The University is responsible to students, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the Scottish Funding Council, employers and the wider community for the quality, standard and relevance of programmes delivered in its name. To fulfil these responsibilities all programmes leading to an award of the University are subject to validation, periodic review and annual monitoring.
Aim of validation
The overall aim of the validation process is to establish that the standards and quality of the programme under consideration are consistent with nationally accepted benchmarks and that the programme aligns with the University’s purpose: helping to create a better society through education, research and innovation, and by providing a supportive and creative learning environment in which students and staff thrive
This is achieved through peer group scrutiny and discussion which is intended to:
- Challenge and stimulate the programme team by questioning aspects of the proposed programme;
- Ensure that the curriculum is properly aligned with external points of reference including the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Quality Code and QAA Subject Benchmarks;
- Consider alignment with key internal reference points, including the University’s Student Experience Strategy (2021-26) and Graduate Attributes.
- Identify examples of best practice for commendation and dissemination (this is achieved through circulation of the validation or review report, discussion and follow-up action taken by academic committees);
- Encourage staff in the development of new areas of the curriculum, new teaching methods and in areas of scholarly activity that will help improve the programme;
- Inform and advise staff of good practice elsewhere and of new developments in the curriculum and teaching methods.
Aim of review
A programme is reviewed after it has been in operation for a period of up to five years (specified at the time of the previous validation or review event). During this time one or more cohorts is likely to have passed through the programme. This means that staff, students and employers will have had experience of its operation. The aim of a programme review is to re-evaluate, through peer group scrutiny and discussion, the health and viability of the programme, the validity of aims and learning outcomes and to ascertain:
- How the programme has been operated and managed during the most recent period of validation;
- How standards have been attained and how this has been recognised;
- The ways in which the programme has met the needs of the community;
- The extent to which all the previously expressed aspirations and ambitions have been fulfilled;
- The extent to which the institution has been able to provide an environment in which the programme can flourish.
Based on the outcome of the above a decision is made on whether the programme can continue to be approved.
Roles and Responsibilities
The programme team
The role of the programme team is to plan the programme and present it at the validation or review event to a group of panellists, whose responsibilities are described on page 7 below.
A team approach to validation and review is crucial for a number of reasons:
- To provide an efficient, effective and creative means of completing all tasks;
- To ensure the views of all stakeholders are considered and there is shared ownership of the programme;
- To enhance quality since everyone serves as critical reviewer.
Typically, the team should be composed of:
Normally programmes have only one programme leader. Exceptionally, as with inter- disciplinary programmes, there may be more than one. However, where there is more than one programme leader it is strongly advised that individual roles and responsibilities for developing and managing the programme be agreed and respected from the outset.
All (potential) module co-ordinators
- New programme teams should include individuals who are most likely to be named as module co-ordinators. The team may need to recruit individuals as curriculum development dictates.
- Review teams should include module co-ordinators with experience of delivering the curriculum, who can contribute detailed critical analysis of the programme and suggestions for revision.
Where a number of programmes are being put forward for validation together (for instance in the case of School wide validations) it may be appropriate to divide some aspects of planning between sub-groups.
Additional input should be sought for the process of planning from:
Students should ideally be included on the programme planning team since they offer a different perspective of the programme from that of staff. Where it is not practical to include students, for example in the development of entirely new programmes, one option might be to recruit students from related programmes at QMU. Where possible, review teams should include both current and former students.
If possible, it may be useful to include one or more recent graduates. Graduates are particularly well placed to comment on the way in which the programme has prepared them for employment and can provide useful insights that current students may not be able to offer.
Employers of graduates or employers within the field
These representatives will bring knowledge of current and future needs of the industry, employability skills of graduates, professional standards and current developments within the profession/industry. Their insight and perspective is crucial to ensure the programme will not only have currency, but will be future-proofed for the term of validation.
Placement supervisors and/or practitioners
Practitioners may contribute professional knowledge and expertise, but will also bring to the discussion their experience of current practice. Placement supervisors will help consider the needs of the profession and issues associated with placements, such as numbers of places, timetabling, student support and staff development.
Members of QMU advisory boards within the subject
Some subject areas have professional advisory boards whose role is to contribute to the curriculum portfolio. A member of the board might join the programme team or contribute in other ways, such as critiquing a draft document.
Members of professional bodies
Representatives from professional bodies may play an advisory role in curriculum development. It is the responsibility of the programme team to check with the professional body whether this is an expectation in planning for validation or review.
Teams are encouraged to involve service users (clients or customers who might access a service provided by graduates from the programme). Service users can comment on the likely benefits of the programme for the wider community. Based on their experiences of the subject (profession) that is under consideration they play an important role in highlighting their expectations of graduates from the programme.
For inter-disciplinary programmes there should be representatives from the contributing School, which might include module co-ordinators or proposed teaching staff.
Deans of School and Heads of Division
The programme team is responsible for curriculum development, the preparation of documentation, liaison with GQE and submission of a response to conditions and recommendations.
Deans of School are responsible for the strategic direction of the School. All new programmes going forward for validation must be included in School Operational Plans.
The Head of Division is responsible for ensuring that a programme planning team is established and that appropriate staff are assigned to take forward the work of preparation for review or validation. Heads of Division may be involved in the detailed planning process, development and/or delivery of the programme under consideration. However, this is not a requirement.
Heads of Division are also asked to approve validation and review panels. This is to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.
It is an expectation that the secretaries to the School Academic Boards will maintain a record of programmes due for review in their respective Schools. Staff from the Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement will provide support for this.
The validation panel
The role of the validation panel is to evaluate the rationale and coherence of the programme and to make a recommendation on its approval through the Student Experience Committee to the University Senate.
The panel will consider separately and collectively the following areas of the programme:
- Overall philosophy and rationale;
- Aims and learning outcomes;
- Marketing and recruitment, including admissions criteria;
- Structure and content;
- Learning and teaching activities;
- Assessment methods and regulations;
- Quality assurance and enhancement;
- Programme management;
- Student support arrangements;
- Staff and resources including quality and experience of academic staff.
Key areas that the panel may wish to explore with the team in relation to the above include,
but are not limited to:
- Stakeholder engagement in developing the new programme;
- Alignment with QMU strategies, such as the Student Experience Strategy, Employability Strategy and Graduate Attributes.
- Articulation with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework;
- Adherence to Benchmark Statements and other external reference points;
- Employer and student demand;
- Adherence to QMU or professional body policies and regulations;
- The accessibility of the award for all students including those from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and disabled students;
- Equality, diversity and inclusion considerations, including decolonising the curriculum;
- Approaches to embedding sustainability within the curriculum.
The panel will also look in detail at module descriptors, with a focus on learning outcomes and assessments. They will be keen to assure themselves that there is a good balance of assessments across the programme and that students have the opportunity to develop specific skills such as reflection and critical thinking in a structured way through the student journey.
Resource requirements for new programmes are identified and agreed by the Academic Planning Board as described on page 11. It is essential that estimated resource requirements are approved well in advance of the validation by the Dean of School and relevant heads of service departments. The Academic Planning Board will also have considered evidence of demand and the business case for the programme.
The panel is expected to adopt a peer group approach to provide a constructive and collegiate setting, while at the same time conducting a sufficiently rigorous evaluation of the merits of the programme.
The review panel
The role of the review panel is similar to that of the validation panel (see above). Additionally the review panel will carry out a critical appraisal of the standing, progress and future of the programme by evaluating:
- The academic health and standard of the programme;
- Progress and changes in the programme since its validation or last review;
- The continuing need for the programme, including the scale of student intake, and its effectiveness and efficiency in staff and resource terms;
- The academic validity of proposed changes in the programme, and an assessment of the associated resource requirements.
Information about panel membership and selection is provided on page 29.
The Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement (GQE)
Programme teams are encouraged to contact staff in the Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement at an early stage in their preparation for validation or review. Normally an initial meeting between the event secretary, who will be based in the GQE, and programme leader should take place no later than six months prior to the event. The relevant School Manager will also participate in this meeting. Contact details for GQE are provided on page 38.
Staff in the Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement are responsible for aspects of the validation and review process as stated below:
Validation and review schedule
Development and approval of the validation and review schedule each year in consultation with Deans of School, Heads of Division and programme leaders.
Approximate dates for validation and review events will be agreed at least eight months in advance to allow for curriculum development and (where applicable) review of the operation of the programme during the most recent period of validation. Final dates should be confirmed at least three months before the event.
Advice and information