Quality Enhancement and Review – University Process
Quality Enhancement and the SRC project
Current processes for quality assurance
The current University procedures for quality assurance are based on four elements:
- Approval – validating and putting new programmes into place
- Review – periodic review and revalidation of existing programmes
- Modification – changes to existing programmes
- Annual Monitoring – routine monitoring of existing programmes
These are collectively known as the PARM processes. Approval procedures were mapped by the COVARM project in 2006. Appendix 1 is a diagram produced by the COVARM project to summarise the procedures for Approval; there have been minor changes, mainly in terminology, but the diagram remains a valid summary. Programme review is similar in process to approval; changes to the programme require strategic and faculty approval prior to the preparation of the review and the required documentation is similar to that for programme approval.
Modifications are divided into three types:
- Minor modifications which can be approved by Faculty Academic Development Committees
- Major Modifications which can be approved by Faculty Academic Development Committee and the Faculty Dean
- Academic Development Committee Modifications (ADC Modifications) which require a process similar to regular review
Annual Monitoring requires the preparation of a report on each unit and a summary report of the whole programme which includes information about student performance, evaluation of previous intentions and an action plan for enhancement based on evidence supporting the monitoring report.
Comments about current processes:
- Processes are rigorous and close attention is paid to standards, benchmarking and equivalences.
- Processes are clearly established and applied consistently across the University.
- The processes are complex and this can make it difficult for a wide range of staff to engage with them, leaving quality assurance in the hands of those who are ‘expert’ in the system. Ownership of the processes is not universal, and yet each person involved in the delivery of the programmes has a responsibility for quality.
- There is a high dependence on manual checking of the provision documentation by the programme team, the Faculty administration and the Centre for Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement. This checking procedure has even given rise to a new verb, ‘daffing’, which refers to cross-checking the documentation against a special form, the Document Approval Form, or DAF, which was developed to try to help teams ensure that they had the right documents.
- It is difficult to respond to new demands for programmes, whether these originate from professional bodies, industry leaders or student demand. The lead time from idea to enrolment tends to be long (12-20 months)
- Some academic staff would prefer to wait four years for the next regular review rather than bother with a modification process, even when a modification would clearly enhance the programme.
What the SRC project will bring to the procedures
- The development of an information management system which will track the processes accurately and will reduce the need to check the provision of correct documentation.
- Programme logs will be maintained and available online. Unit leaders can be responsible for managing logs for their own units.
- Statistics about enrolments, outcomes and retention can be integrated automatically into programme logs so that an overview of programmes can be produced annually. This should reduce the burden on teams which are doing well, who will not be required to provide additional information, and enable Heads of Department and Deans to provide targeted interventions and support and request action plans as necessary.
- Direct links will be made to the QAA code of practice and subject benchmarks to reinforce current engagement.
- The university can pilot processes for the modification of provision which builds on already-approved programme elements.
What needs to happen in addition to the SRC project
- A review of PARM procedures in order to make them less paper driven, labour intensive and better understood across the institution, but equally secure and robustÂ (this is under way).
- Requirement that programme teams discuss enhancement issues with Faculty Senior Learning and Teaching Fellows, Centre for Learning and Teaching and CASQE as a matter of routine during approval, review and modification.
- More involvement of employers and/or their representative bodies, staff and students in all aspects of quality assurance activity
- Improved integration and alignment of internal and external quality and standards requirements
Current PARM processes including diagram
QE strand blog