Quality Assessment Review Consultation

18 September 2015

The UK is renowned globally for the quality of its higher education and, in particular, for its world-leading universities. Our universities produce excellent research on a grand scale and they compete on an international stage to attract the brightest minds from around the world to study, research and teach. They are committed to providing an outstanding student experience, where teaching is enhanced by world-class research and facilities.

It is vital that any new quality assessment (QA) system, or adaptation of the current system, supports this position and protects the UK higher education ‘brand’. A new QA regime should eliminate unnecessary burdens and support a system that recognises and rewards high quality institutions.

There are some welcome proposals in the quality assessment review consultation paper, namely that a new higher education QA regime should:

  • Take a risk-based approach
  • Respect the autonomy of HE providers
  • Aim to minimise reporting burdens
  • Draw more effectively on other QA mechanisms, such as professional, statutory and regulatory bodies’ (PSRBs) evaluations, and
  • Create a single gateway and register for all higher education providers.

However, we also have a number of concerns with the proposals as they stand:

  • The potential for duplication of effort between a new QA regime and the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is being developed in parallel;
  • There is also the possibility that parallel systems could produce conflicting outcomes. The link between QA and TEF, including the aims of each and how they will operate, will need careful consideration;
  • They may destabilise well-established patterns of university governance and could ultimately lead to government becoming too involved in university operations;
  • They place too great a regulatory dependence on the external examiner system, including a false expectation that the external examiner system can support uniformity of student outcome standards, which it cannot;
  • The proposals would increase universities’ annual data and information reporting to the Funding Councils, which also increases cost and regulatory burden on universities;
  • Ultimately, there is a risk the resulting system could be more expensive to universities, students and the government.

Submission to the Quality Assessment Review Consultation

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