26 Aug 2020

SFC Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability

In June of this year, the Scottish Government called on the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to undertake a review considering how best the SFC and the sector can fulfil its mission in securing coherent provision in post-16 education. The review will explore how best we achieve coherence in the further and higher education sectors, as well as how the sector can be fit for purpose to address outcomes, and the changes needed across the sector to respond effectively to new challenges and opportunities. The review will also consider how the sector might look post-pandemic and post-EU membership.

A recent call for evidence elicited responses from institutions, associations and agencies across the sector. Our response focused on five key areas: The Learning and Teaching Mission, The Learner Journey, Enhancement, How and What we Learn and Teach, and Student Engagement. In our response we recognised the multi-faceted importance of Scotland’s institutions, whilst highlighting that fundamentally, they are places of learning and providers of a student experience which, at its best, supports students to flourish and succeed personally, as well as economically.

We stressed the importance of our principles of quality and that our enhancement approach, use of self-evaluation and external peer review, with student engagement as a core element, all provide a framework that is internationally recognised and renowned. We urged the sector to seize the opportunity to develop a curriculum that is responsive and adaptable and that includes students as true partners in the process.

We also celebrated the ‘Scottish approach’ to student engagement and how, going forward, we must continue to ensure students are central to our decision-making processes and partners in the processes and mechanisms we design, and that students continue to have access to support, training, networks and opportunities to sustain their engagement long-term.

You can read our response in full, as well as NUS Scotland’s response, below:

Vital to this review will be the student voice, helping to shape and influence the scope of the review, exploring what the sector does well, but also what the sector could do differently.

Areas the review may look at include:

  • SFC’s funding and operational structures.
  • Accountability frameworks - such as Outcome Agreements.
  • Quality arrangements - such as the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF) and How Good is Our College? (HGIOC?)
  • Data and evidence (thinking about what is measured, what data is collected and reported on, college PIs, etc.).
  • Widening access/articulation (different learner pathways, support and provision).
  • Approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Scottish Funding Council recognises how important student engagement in this review will be, and sparqs, alongside NUS Scotland, will help support opportunities for student officers to engage directly with the review process. We will also help officers to engage students across their institution to feed into the review and better understand what students want from their learning experience.

There are three phases to the review: phase 1 completes at the end of August, and has included desk-based research, the call for evidence, and a roundtable with sparqs, NUS Scotland and student officers. Phase 2 will last from August to December 2020 and the final phase 3 will run from January to May 2021.

sparqs is beginning to scope out activities for the months ahead to ensure student officers are involved in the review – you will be kept informed by news articles and emails, as well as through our student and staff networks, NEON and SESN.

It will be important to ensure that all students and all levels of student representatives can engage in the review process. Student officers and students’ associations should begin to consider how they can facilitate student engagement in the review, utilising pre-existing structures and networks, such as course reps; course reps are ideally placed to gather feedback at a local level, of the impact of the pandemic on the student learning experience, which could then be fed into national discussions around the review.

A review briefing document, which details the scope, nature and timing of the review is available on the SFC website.

For further information about sparqs’ response to the call for evidence, or to discuss opportunities and support for student engagement in the review, please contact Stef Black, Senior Development Consultant – stef.black@sparqs.ac.uk or 07977 980867.

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