19 Feb 2019

SPOTLIGHT ON…University of the West of Scotland's innovative approach to ILR

This ‘SPOTLIGHT ON’ features the University of the West of Scotland’s innovative approach to Institution-led Review (ILR) which has been contextualised to mirror certain elements of Enhancement-led Institution Review (ELIR), and enables programme teams to focus on those areas where there is likely to be greatest benefit. This approach is innovative to the sector; the alignment of the ILR process to the national review process helps support a more coherent quality assurance and enhancement protocol. Other institutions may find it useful to see how this approach can make their own internal reviews process more robust, and reflect the needs of their own institution.

ILR is defined as the internal and external peer review of the academic health of the total taught and research provision in a subject delivered by the University. At the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) we embrace the enhancement-led approach to quality and this permeates through our ILR process. Students are at the heart of the process. The process is intended to be robust and holistic but one that is useful to the subject team and the School in providing a periodic juncture for reflection, evaluation and focus on future plans and opportunities.

Short Summary of ILR at UWS:

At UWS, the main reflective document is termed a Self-Evaluation Document (SED). To supplement the SED and programme/module material, ILR teams provide the Panel with an Advance Information Set (AIS) which, similarly to ELIR, is primarily constructed around existing information and aims to assist the ILR Panel to easily understand and navigate the processes and information routinely used at UWS. The SED and AIS demonstrate clearly interrelated organisational structure, using signposting and cross-referencing between them and any additional resources (e.g. hyperlinks). The AIS demonstrates how key quality processes operate in practice. Various sources of information, both qualitative and quantitative will be available.

To ensure Panel members understand the expectations of the process in advance, induction footage introducing the ILR process at UWS is provided on the AIS. Our external Panel members normally comprise 2 external academic representatives and one industrial representative. Feedback on the induction footage from Panel members has been complimentary, and found to be of particular importance for industrial Panel members who are often unfamiliar with the HE sector. Students have also welcomed participation of industry representatives on ILR Panels as having employer insight into the provision under review is considered crucial. QuEST (Quality Enhancement Support Team) leaflets are also available for students, professional support staff and external colleagues to support the ILR process.

ILR Phase 1 & Phase 2 events:

At UWS all ILRs comprise a Phase 1 and Phase 2 event which requires genuine engagement by Panel members during Phase 1 (written input), as well as active participation/attendance during Phase 2 (face-to-face components/main event).

Phase 1: The SED, programme material and AIS are sent to Panel members approximately 8-10 weeks prior to the main Phase 2 event for review and members of the Panel are given a 4-week window to complete a feedback template which informs the process.

The written input received from all Panel members as part of Phase 1 is followed by an interim half-day event involving the Chair of ILR, QuEST, Senior School Lead, and the Programme ILR Lead. This planning phase enables Panel members to set the tone and context for the review, with a resemblance to ELIR. Phase 1 considers the programmes under review, mainly for assurances surrounding quality management arrangements and re-approval purposes. An interim report is produced by QuEST to inform Phase 2 as well as the provisional programme for the Phase 2 event.

It is intended that successful completion of Phase 1 should:

  • Resolve any queries surrounding routine practice which would no longer require consideration at the final event, thus freeing up time during Phase 2 event to focus on subject-specific areas.
  • Identify specific areas for consideration during Phase 2 event.
  • Identify specific colleagues who should meet with the Panel during Phase 2 (e.g. Professional support staff/technical staff).
  • Identify any additional information required from the School.

Phase 2: Will form the main face-to-face event requiring attendance by all Panel members. Phase 2 will normally comprise a single 2-day event.

The ILR programme for the final Phase 2 event will:

  • Be informed by the Phase 1 summary report and any further feedback received by the Panel. It will be clear from completion of Phase 1 what the issues requiring further exploration are. Similarly to ELIR, this ensures the University gains optimal value from its preparatory evaluation.
  • Steer the review towards an enhancement-led approach and explore the benefits of having dedicated time with external experts devoted to subject development discussions.
  • Provide flexibility to enable the programme team to tailor Phase 2 more specifically to their subject area, hopefully instilling more involvement and engagement from subject teams (e.g. providing opportunities to showcase good practice, to identify case studies where there may be challenges that the ILR panel could engage with, to enable incorporation of accreditation elements, among other considerations).
  • Continue to involve students and School/subject staff input in terms of participation in specific ILRs. It may also involve professional support staff or external stakeholders, among others (as appropriate).
  • Be more flexibly arranged depending on the Panel’s focus.

At the point of review, the SED and meetings with staff should demonstrate that a process of honest self-evaluation is embedded in the ILR team’s approach to improving the student experience.

The ILR report will:

  • Confirm the approval or re-approval of provision until the next ILR (or revalidation), making conditions and recommendations where necessary; highlighting strengths and positive practice for dissemination and providing conclusions on the health of each area under review.
  • Include brief commentary in relation to SFC expectations and outcomes.
  • Incorporate collated Phase 1 Panel feedback (anonymous) as supporting evidence as an Appendix to the report.

Action planning and follow-up process are then adopted and this seeks to keep momentum going; Schools are encouraged to continually progress actions and make deliberate enhancements.

Feedback on the Process:

UWS is in its third year of adopting this 2-phase process and colleagues and Panel members have, to date, been complimentary of the approach. Schools have welcomed the approach to self-reflection and the increased engagement and involvement which this process enables. Furthermore, Schools have welcomed increased opportunities to showcase elements of their provision to an external audience and have gained benefits in doing so.

For further information

Please contact Donna Taylor, Quality Enhancement Support Team (QuEST), UWS (donna.taylor@uws.ac.uk) for further information.

You can also find out more about student engagement in ILR and ELIR in the following sparqs guidance documents:

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