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The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education Annual review 2007-08
This is my final report as Chair of QAA. It is a notably successful organisation and I am proud to have been associated with it over the past five years. QAA performs an essential and unique role in the interest of students, the higher education community and society more widely. We are committed to helping ensure strong, autonomous and self-regulating higher education institutions, by providing independent, proportionate, consistent and fair scrutiny of the quality of students' learning opportunities and the academic standards of UK qualifications. Increasingly, we have focused on using the unparalleled store of knowledge, experience and expertise we have accumulated in order to help institutions to improve. Sam Younger CBE, Chairman
I am confident that under the chairmanship of my successor, Sir Rodney Brooke CBE, QAA will continue to go from strength to strength, drawing on the consummate dedication and professionalism of the Board and staff who have made my task over the past five years both easy and rewarding. This year has demonstrated more clearly than ever the need for careful and conscientious management of quality and standards in higher education, and for the means of demonstrating this. We are able to confirm that, across the United Kingdom, both quality and standards are being maintained at a high level, and that extra efforts are being made to ensure that this remains the case. As ever, though, care must be taken to avoid complacency, for the cost of a lost reputation has never been higher.
Peter Williams, Chief Executive
I shall be retiring from QAA in September 2009 after 19 years in the quality assurance business. That time has been made productive, interesting, stimulating and enjoyable by the many colleagues, both within QAA and further afield, who have shared with me the task of making our work useful, coherent and intellectually defensible. I should like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their help, support and friendship, and to wish my successor, and all who continue with this vital project, well.
Annual review 2007-08
QAA's work Higher education in the UK has an international reputation for excellence. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) believes that maintaining the highest academic standards and quality of opportunities is crucial to keeping this reputation.
The primary responsibility for academic standards and quality rests with individual higher education institutions. We review and report on how well they meet those responsibilities, we offer expert advice and we make recommendations for improvement.
This is the last Annual review to include messages from our current Chair and Chief Executive. Sam Younger CBE will step down as Chair at the end of March, to be replaced by Sir Rodney Brooke CBE, and Peter Williams will retire in September 2009.
Over the last year there has been much public debate about standards in higher education. The work we do is essential to this debate, as our reports and analysis provide the evidence needed for informed discussion. It remains our belief that the UK has a fundamentally sound higher education system, with institutions committed to maintaining academic standards that meet the needs of today's world. We believe that the sector's reputation is only enhanced by an effective system of external review which can, and does, celebrate what is good and highlight areas where there may be concerns.
QAA's reviews This year our work included around 100 reviews of institutions across the UK, the development and implementation of new ways of conducting our reviews, and a major project trialling the inclusion of students on our audit and review teams in England.
This year we conducted: z 28 institutional audits of publicly-funded institutions in England and Northern Ireland, of which all 28 returned judgements of confidence in management of learning experiences. Two audits returned judgements of 'limited confidence' in management of academic standards z one combined institutional audit/degree awarding powers scrutiny, which returned a judgement of 'confidence' z 30 follow ups of institutions audited in previous years z three institutional reviews in Wales, all of which returned judgements of 'confidence' in academic standards and quality z two reviews of directly-funded higher education in further education colleges in Wales z 30 IQER 'developmental engagement' reviews in further education colleges in England z three reviews of schools of osteopathy, on behalf of the General Osteopathic Council.
Working with higher education institutions We carry out institutional audit in England and Northern Ireland; institutional review in Wales; and 'enhancement-led institutional review' (ELIR) in Scotland. Although there are differences of emphasis, all methods review and report on the management of academic standards and the quality of learning experiences. We also conduct reviews of higher education offered by institutions in collaboration with other partners for example, overseas colleges or other education providers. We are now consulting on revisions to this method in time for the next programme of reviews. Each year we evaluate our audit processes. Of the institutions that responded to our questionnaire this year, 94 per cent agreed that their audit had achieved its aim, as did 94 per cent of auditors. Higher education in further education colleges A major development this year was the launch of 'integrated quality and enhancement review' (IQER) in England. This is our first review method to be developed specifically for higher education delivered in further education colleges.
Annual review 2007-08
It is an opportunity for student views to be aired [in order to] improve the quality of higher education provision From student feedback questionnaire
This year we were asked to develop a way of reviewing higher education in further education colleges in Northern Ireland. We have consulted on the proposals and will begin our reviews in 2008-09. Degree awarding powers We advise UK governments on applications by institutions for taught and/or research degree awarding powers or university title. This year we considered 12 such applications. Further education colleges in England are now also able to apply for powers to award Foundation Degrees, and we have put systems in place to assess and advise governments on such applications. The future The current cycle of institutional audits in England and Northern Ireland finishes in 2011. The process of developing our methods, with our key partners, will begin in 2009. This will enable us to respond to the changing needs of higher education and society and will take place in the context of the renewal of the overall quality assurance framework in England.
QAA developments We are at the forefront of many important developments in higher education. The last year has seen much progress in areas such as student and employer engagement, as well as serious debate about the best ways of maintaining academic standards.
Addressing public concerns Following much public debate on the issue of academic standards, we developed a project to investigate concerns expressed in some parts of the media. As part of this, we are conducting a thorough investigation of a number of themes raised both in the media and through enquiries made directly to QAA. We are keeping Parliament, the Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) updated on the progress of this investigation. In order to maintain confidence in the value of degrees, we have taken steps to ensure that there is a clearer mechanism through which individuals as well as organisations are able to alert us when they feel that academic standards are being jeopardised. Our scheme, known as Causes for Concern, has been amended and widely publicised this year. We publish the outcomes of any cases that progress to a full inquiry.
Annual review 2007-08
Advising Parliament The House of Commons Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills has this year taken an active interest in standards in higher education. In July 2008 Peter Williams, QAA's Chief Executive, was invited to give evidence on a range of issues to the Committee. The Committee has since begun a wide-ranging inquiry into students and universities, and we have submitted written evidence to this inquiry. Engaging with students Students have for many years been involved in quality assurance processes. Student representatives provide written submissions for institutional audits, and we work closely with student bodies, including the
National Union of Students, to inform students about how they can be more involved. In Scotland we already include students as full members of our review teams, and this year we piloted a similar scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Working with employers The importance of the higher education sector to the UK's economy cannot be overestimated. Increasingly employers are asking the sector to provide graduates with specific skills. We have been active in initiatives to promote effective employer engagement with higher education. This year we reviewed the quality assurance implications of this agenda, focusing on giving advice to institutions about how they can both meet the needs of employers and maintain standards and quality.
Widening participation It is important that we play our part in helping to widen participation in higher education. This year saw the full implementation of the QAA-recognised Access to Higher Education Diploma, and the development of a new database of all courses in England and Wales. In April 2008 we published a paper reflecting on institutions' support for widening participation, noting that our audit reports increasingly find features of good practice in this area. Thinking ahead Meeting European standards In 2008 we were reviewed for the first time by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the umbrella body for quality assurance organisations across Europe. The review found that we are fully compliant in 14 of the 16 European standards, and substantially compliant in the remaining two, and ENQA granted us full membership for another five years. The ENQA review report concluded: 'QAA is fit for purpose, well-led and well managed at both Board and Executive levels. The Panel has been consistently impressed by the calibre and professionalism of all those contributing to the work of QAA in maintaining quality and standards across HE in the UK.'
In 2007 we celebrated 10 years of QAA, but we also looked to the future. We commissioned a report from the New Economics Foundation, which was published in 2008: The universityâ€™s challenge: towards a well-being approach to quality in higher education. We are one of a number of bodies supporting a project being undertaken by the Institute for Public Policy Research into the purposes, structure and funding of higher education. Our annual subscribers' meeting is an opportunity for lively debate among senior figures from higher education institutions across the UK. In 2008 the meeting focused on higher education's stakeholders. Sir David Watson's address 'Who owns the university?' was particularly thought-provoking, and we published it as a Quality matters paper in November 2008.
QAA's projects and partnerships This year we have been involved in a range of national and international developments and projects. This has included extensive work with institutions, students and stakeholders on assuring the quality of master's degrees, doctoral degrees and on employer engagement and work-based learning.
Our revised Framework for higher education qualifications The frameworks for higher education qualifications describe the achievement represented by higher education qualifications. It is important that the frameworks evolve in the light of experience. After full consultation with the sector, we prepared a second edition of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which was published in August 2008 to coincide with the publication of the Higher education credit framework for England. This year the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework was self-certified as being compatible with the framework of qualifications in the European Higher Education Area. Our subject benchmark statements Subject benchmark statements set out expectations about standards of degrees in particular disciplines, and are used by institutions to help them design their courses. We have published 80 such statements on our website, and we encourage new
Annual review 2007-08
benchmarking initiatives and the updating of existing ones. This year we published over 40, mainly revised, benchmark statements. Revisions to our Code of practice The Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education guides institutions' policies and practices, and is prepared and published by QAA following close consultation with the sector and key stakeholder groups. This year we published revised sections on academic appeals and student complaints, and on work-based and placement learning. Supporting and enhancing quality We support institutions in developing the quality of their provision. In part we do this by analysing all our audit and review reports with the aim of highlighting themes, common and emerging problems, good practice and recommendations. As a result of this work, we publish topical papers to set out our findings and stimulate debate. This year we published 20 such papers, in three separate series: Enhancing practice, Outcomes from institutional audit and Learning from.... In Scotland, our Enhancement Themes focus on enhancing quality and we publish many resources to support this work. Projects in Scotland The second edition of the handbook for Scotland's review method (ELIR) was produced, to be used from
2008-09. From now, all ELIR teams will include an international reviewer. As no reviews took place during the development of the new handbook, we undertook and published reports on six major projects: z z z z z z
good practice in institution-led reviews good practice in developing an institutional reflective analysis indicators of enhancement benchmarking Scottish and international practice in student support evaluation of the impact of enhancement themes on teaching and learning the outcomes of the first cycle of ELIR 2003-07.
The process of revising the ELIR method was described by an independent panel as 'an outstanding exemplar of a dynamic process which has fully engaged with stakeholders, but which has at the same time preserved the integrity and independence of the process'. The Higher Education Academy We continue to strengthen our working relationship with the Higher Education Academy, with a programme of liaison, joint projects and support. In June 2008 QAA, the Higher Education Academy and HEFCE held a major quality enhancement conference to accompany the publication of a joint report, Quality enhancement and assurance - a changing picture?
QAA and students Students make a large investment in higher education, and it is absolutely right that they should be involved in all aspects of quality assurance. In June 2008 we adopted a new approach to student engagement, which has already started to have an impact.
I have been actively involved in my university's internal academic review, and through this and other aspects of my role in the Students' Union I had developed an interest in quality and improving the student experience. So I decided to apply to become a QAA Board member. It's good to meet QAA staff and others who are so passionate about student engagement and getting real involvement from students. Will Haywood Our first student Board member, appointed in January 2008
Annual review 2007-08
We intend to include students as full members of our audit teams by early 2010
Working in partnership with students This year we consulted widely on our plans for engaging further with students. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with respondents expressing high levels of support for our main aims. One of the central aims of our new strategy is to support greater involvement of students in our quality assurance and enhancement processes, and we have already made good progress with this. Students have long been involved in quality assurance, including by informing our institutional audit with a submission (in written form or, in two cases this year, as a DVD). In spring 2008 we undertook a pilot project involving students as observers on six audit and review teams. The pilot showed that students felt comfortable and confident with the process, and they were able to participate effectively as full members of the team. We intend to include students as full members of our audit teams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by early 2010, complementing our established practice in Scotland.
Another aim of our strategy is to build partnerships to improve student engagement. In partnership with the National Union of Students we have organised a series of events, 'Quality Takes Time', to support students in preparing for the audit process. This year we also led a successful initiative to establish cross-sector student engagement groups in England and Wales. These groups meet regularly and, as well as providing opportunities to share ideas and keep up to date, they have led to specific projects. In England, the group commissioned a report, funded by HEFCE, to ascertain the extent and nature of student engagement, the findings from which will inform plans for further work. In Wales, the group is currently seeking agreement from institutions on a statement setting out key principles and actions for the future. In Scotland, we have worked closely with sparqs (student participation in quality Scotland). This assists and supports students, students' associations and institutions to improve the effectiveness of student engagement in quality processes. We have also worked closely with NUS Scotland's new Student Learning Enhancement and Engagement Committee.
Annual review 2007-08
QAA and employers The 'employer engagement agenda' is increasingly important for higher education and has been a particular Government priority in England. The Government is keen for the sector to work with employers to develop a highly-skilled workforce to meet the needs of the economy.
Our work with employers and professional bodies z We are a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England task force, set up to support employer engagement across the sector. z This year we reviewed the quality assurance implications of the employer engagement agenda, and issued a position statement designed to support institutions. z In the statement we promised to publish guidance to help institutions meet their responsibilities for standards and quality while responding to the needs of employers. We intend to publish this guidance later in the year. z We are committed to ensuring that employers are involved in our working groups, round table meetings and conferences. z This year we established a forum of members of QAA and representatives from professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs). This forum meets regularly to consider areas of mutual interest, to ensure that the demands placed on institutions by all regulators are proportionate, and to consider how regulation could be improved.
We continue to work with Sector Skills Councils and other agencies to generate a greater understanding of the QAA reference tools used by the higher education sector to set and maintain standards and quality.
We want to help institutions meet their responsibilities for standards and quality while responding to the needs of employers
QAA and Access to Higher Education We manage the national recognition scheme for Access to Higher Education courses in England and Wales, through which adults with few, if any, qualifications can be prepared for higher education. We are proud of the success of these courses in helping the higher education sector to widen participation.
Major updates z This year saw full implementation of our Access to Higher Education (Access to HE) Diploma, which was launched in 2007. All students are now on courses leading to the award of the Diploma. z We have improved the management of the Access to HE scheme, with the implementation of the new Access to HE website and a new database of courses. In November 2007 we published guidance for higher education admissions staff on the Access to HE Diploma. Access students In 2007, over 15,000 students with an Access to HE qualification were accepted for places on higher education courses through UCAS. z The majority of Access to HE students are aged 19-30. z Analysis in our publication Key statistics 2008 shows that while, in general, students from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to enter higher education, those with an access qualification are more likely to be from a deprived z
background. UCAS data shows that in 2007, almost 50 per cent of Access to HE applicants came from the most deprived areas of the UK. While around 20 per cent of all UCAS applicants are non-white, the figure rises to over 30 per cent for applicants from Access to HE courses.
Case study Nneka Akudolu was working as a waitress before she enrolled on an Access to HE course. She is now a criminal barrister:
The tutors were incredibly helpful and motivating, and the students supported and encouraged each other. I was surprised I enjoyed the learning so much. But the real highlight for me was when I received an offer of a place at Cardiff University
QAA around the UK The UK's higher education system is highly diverse, not least because of the devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly.
Our work in England z We contributed to the development of the Higher education credit framework for England, which was published in August 2008 and which complements those already in place in Scotland and Wales. z A new method of reviewing higher education in further education colleges was launched this year; 'integrated quality and enhancement review' (IQER). This is intended to ensure comparability between higher education delivered in different sorts of institutions. z This year a memorandum of understanding was concluded between QAA and the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). This will provide a framework for better regulation of higher education providers, focusing on higher education in further education colleges.
Our work in Scotland z The first cycle of 'enhancement-led institutional reviews' (ELIR) was completed in summer 2006. An independent report on the first ELIR cycle, published this year, was overwhelmingly positive about the culture change that it had brought about. z The second edition of the handbook for ELIR has now been published. Among the innovations planned for 2008-12 is the inclusion of international reviewers on ELIR teams. z As part of our commitment to enhancing quality in Scotland we manage a programme known as 'Enhancement Themes', which supports the sector in developing enhancement work. Themes completed this year were 'The First Year Experience' and 'Research-Teaching Linkages'. The latter included work on the development of graduate attributes, which linked with other graduate employability activities in Scotland. z The annual Enhancement Themes conference was held in April 2008, four issues of the Enhancement Themes newsletter have been published this year, and we have a continuing programme of publishing Enhancing practice guides.
Annual review 2007-08
Our work in Wales z All our publications and web pages which are relevant to Wales are also published in Welsh, and we are in the process of translating much of the rest of our website. In 2008 our Welsh Language Scheme was approved for a further three years by the Welsh Language Board. z This year we published a handbook for developmental review of directly-funded higher education in Welsh further education institutions. z We completed three institutional reviews and one mid-cycle review in Wales in 2007-08, and carried out developmental reviews of directly-funded higher education in two further education colleges. z Our Causes for Concern scheme was introduced in Wales in August 2008. The scheme allows individuals and organisations to raise concerns to QAA about academic standards.
Our work in Northern Ireland z We review higher education institutions in Northern Ireland, using the same method as in England. z We consulted on a new method to review higher education provided in further education colleges in Northern Ireland over the 2007-08 academic year. This review will provide an opportunity for colleges to demonstrate the effectiveness of their management of quality and standards, as set out in their partnership agreements with institutions and awarding bodies. z In October 2008 we published a draft handbook setting out the review process and consulted on the proposed method with awarding bodies, colleges and other interested parties. Further updates to this consultation will be released in early 2009.
QAA internationally Our international work involves assuring the standards of UK higher education provided overseas. As well as providing information and support to the UK sector on European and international developments, we also help overseas students and employers to understand UK qualifications and to recognise their value and significance.
Assuring standards z We audited a sample of partnerships between UK higher education institutions and their partner organisations in Greece and Cyprus. z We also began preparations for an audit of 10 overseas partnership links in India that will be completed in 2008-09. Providing support z We maintain close contact with UK governments, especially in relation to contributing to the Bologna Process. This is a voluntary agreement, signed by higher education ministers of 46 European countries, with the intention of creating a 'European Higher Education Area' (EHEA) by 2010. z This year we continued to work with Universities UK (UUK) to help inform the sector about aspects of the Government's new points-based immigration strategy. z In April 2008, in partnership with UUK, we held a well-received conference for universities on the implications of the new points-based criteria for international student visas. We plan to hold a further event in 2009.
At home and abroad we are working with government departments and other quality assurance agencies to counteract bogus colleges and diploma mills.
International collaboration z Our Chief Executive, Peter Williams, this year completed his three-year term as President of ENQA. Fiona Crozier, Assistant Director, has been appointed to the Board of ENQA, and Norman Sharp OBE, Director of QAA Scotland, has been appointed to the Board of INQAAHE (the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education). z We currently have memoranda of understanding and cooperation with six overseas partner organisations, most recently with the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation and Vocational Qualifications. These formal links open up valuable channels of communication. z Presenting at international conferences gives us the opportunity to share concerns, ideas and information about quality assurance, QAA and higher education in the UK. This year we gave presentations at conferences in Austria, Botswana,
Annual review 2007-08
Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Helping people to understand UK qualifications We have dealt directly with almost 300 queries regarding international concerns this year. In addition to this, since January 2008 we have dealt with over 80 requests for support from graduates with UK degrees seeking recognition of their degrees in Spain. We are working with UK Government officials to resolve this issue. z To facilitate the recognition of UK qualifications throughout Europe, we are working to self-certify The framework for higher education qualifications in z
England, Wales and Northern Ireland against the overarching framework of qualifications of the European Higher Education Area. The self-certification process for the framework for Scotland has already been completed. We're at the forefront z We monitor and analyse existing and new developments and trends in higher education and regulatory frameworks in priority countries and regions for UK higher education - China (including Hong Kong), India, the United States, the Middle East, the European Higher Education Area, Malaysia and Singapore. We continue to publicise recent news in our monthly bulletin, Quality Update International.
QAA financial information Statement of financial activities for the year ended 31 July 2008 Incoming resources Charitable activities Subscriptions from institutions Contracts with higher education funding bodies Other contracts Other related income Total from charitable activities Investment income Total incoming resources Resources expended Charitable activities Safeguarding standards Supporting and enhancing quality Offering expertise Rationalising regulation Working worldwide Total on charitable activities Governance costs Total resources expended Net income/(expenditure) Fund balances brought forward Fund balances carried forward Balance sheet as at 31 July 2008 Fixed assets Current assets Creditors (amounts due within 1 year) Net current assets Total assets less current liabilities Provisions for charges and liabilities Net assets Represented by: unrestricted funds at 31 July 2008
3,687,350 5,711,747 132,138 239,810 9,771,045 244,995 10,016,040
3,631,550 4,795,172 661,076 333,393 9,421,191 255,667 9,676,858
5,718,309 2,079,494 946,835 353,857 629,361 9,727,856 247,970 9,975,826 40,214 3,181,563 3,221,777
5,217,353 1,974,914 1,195,238 695,950 547,163 9,630,618 242,026 9,872,644 (195,786) 3,377,349 3,181,563
932,267 3,642,053 (1,062,543) 2,579,510 3,511,777 (290,000) 3,221,777 3,221,777
797,927 3,520,750 (847,114) 2,673,636 3,471,563 (290,000) 3,181,563 3,181,563
Annual review 2007-08
Summarised accounts The Directors' report and financial statements for the year ended 31 July 2008 was approved by the Board and the company's members at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on 10 December 2008. The Directors' report and financial statements for the year ended 31 July 2008 was submitted to both the Registrar of Companies and the Charity Commission following the AGM. The summarised accounts contained in this Annual review are extracted from the financial statements prepared by QAA and given an unqualified audit opinion by Mazars, QAA's external auditors.
ÂŠ The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 2009
The summarised accounts may not contain sufficient information to allow full understanding of the financial affairs of QAA.
ISBN 978 1 84482 910 1
For further information, the Directors' report, the full financial statements and the auditor's report on those financial statements should be consulted. Copies are available at www.qaa.ac.uk/aboutus/annualreports.
Images on pages 4, 8, and 12 and graphics on pages 16 and 17 ÂŠ iStockphoto.com
Statement of external auditors The summarised accounts contained within this Annual review are consistent with the full financial statements produced by QAA for the year ended 31 July 2008 and on which we have given an unqualified opinion dated 10 December 2008. Mazars Chartered Accountants, Registered Auditors
Images on pages 3, 5 and 17 are courtesy of John Ryan, University of Gloucestershire
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