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Quality Enhancement liaises with external standards and quality assurance agencies and provides support internally for review visits.

  • Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs)

    The University has a long tradition of offering vocational, professionally accredited courses and such courses are increasingly popular with applicants because of the direct link to employment.  As a consequence recruitment is strong and it is usually possible to fill available places with well-qualified and highly motivated students.

    Effective management of links with PSRBs are key to securing and maintaining accreditation of courses and the University has developed a Protocol for the management of relationships with PSRBs based on the experience of staff working in this area.

    Protocol for Managing Professional and Statutory Body Relationships

    The Teaching and Learning Committee at its meeting on 18 June 2008 considered the effectiveness of the protocol - see Paper No TLC/08/52 and endorsed its continued use.

    The Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement Committee (ASQEC) maintains an overview of this significant area of activity.  All PSRB reports and Faculty responses are received by ASQEC and wherever possible joint validation / revalidation / accreditation processes are developed with PSRBs.  An annual report on PSRB activity is also received by the ASQEC.

  • Revised operating model for quality assessment

    The revised operating model for quality assessment consists of the following components:

    Baseline Regulatory Requirements

    Annual Provider Review

    The Annual Provider Review is the core mechanism for reviewing established providers in Northern Ireland.  The design of the process builds on established data analysis and assurance arrangements covering the student academic experiences, student outcomes, and the standard of awards. This aspect of the revised quality assessment arrangements is operated by DfENI as part of an integrated approach to regulation and includes scrutiny of the following data

    • over- and under-recruitment patterns
    • non-progression and non-completion rates
    • National Student Survey outcomes
    • degree outcomes, including differential outcomes for students with different characteristics
    • employment outcomes
    • Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) outcomes, where applicable and when available.

    The Council of the University is required to provide annual assurance on Financial Sustainability, Management and Governance, data quality, value for money and quality-related assurances through the Annual Accountability Return to DfENI.  The University's Council receives assurance that academic governance is effective through consideration of a detailed annual assurance report from the Senate in October each year.

    DfENI uses the current Annual Accountability Return to capture and test assurances from the governing body on the student academic experience and on academic output standards.

    The Department will make the final judgements informed by the recommendations from an Office for Students (OfS) Group established for this purpose. Judgements will fall into one of three outcomes:

    • Meets requirements - The provider will continue to undergo APR in subsequent years.
    • Meets requirements with conditions - The provider will continue to undergo APR in subsequent years, but with an action plan to address areas of immediate concern.
    • Pending - The provider will be referred for further investigation and intervention.

    DfENI write to each HEI’s governing body to share its judgement about its risk status, and any need for further action, in the annual risk letter. This letter includes feedback on the HEI’s performance against certain sector benchmarks, particularly those relating to financial health and judgements about quality to the governing body.

    QAA Review

    The new model for quality assessment includes a five-yearly review conducted by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).  It is likely that the next review will take place in 2019.

  • Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

    The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) is a national exercise, introduced by the government in England. It assesses excellence in undergraduate teaching at universities and colleges, and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.  The results can help those considering higher education choose where to apply.  There are systems in place to help ensure that all UK colleges and universities meet national quality standards. The TEF looks at what they are doing in addition to these standards, and awards them gold, silver or bronze for excellence.

    The TEF measures teaching excellence in three key areas:

    Teaching quality: the extent to which teaching stimulates and challenges students, and maximises their engagement with their studies.

    Learning environment: the effectiveness of resources and activities (such as libraries, laboratories and work experience) which support learning and improve retention, progression and attainment.

    Student outcomes and learning gain: the extent to which all students achieve their educational and professional goals, in particular students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    The TEF process is managed by the Office for Students, and ratings are judged by an independent panel of students, academics and other experts.  Further information can be found on the Office for Students website.

    The Department for the Economy Northern Ireland agreed that eligible Northern Ireland providers could participate in TEF.  It should be noted however that there are currently no plans to link TEF outcomes to tuition fees in Northern Ireland. The University has decided not to participate in either TEF2 (2017) or TEF3 (2018) and continues to keep the position under review.

    Subject level TEF

    TEF ratings are currently given at provider level only.  Pilots of subject level TEF are being undertaken in 2017/18 and 2018/19.  From 2019-20, TEF will be assessed and ratings will be published at subject and provider level.