Quality arrangements

Our Supporting the Sector work involves many different pieces of work at the national level.

However there are also a number of other topical issues that we are working on in the short or medium term. This page gives an overview of just some of these.

Reviews of the Quality Arrangements in Colleges and Universities

The government, on behalf of the public, has an interest in making sure that the education that happens at colleges and universities is as good as possible. To do this, it has set up two agencies which oversee quality processes – Education Scotland in colleges, and the Quality Assurance Agency in universities. Each of these agencies oversee particular principles, guidelines and processes, and these are often referred to as the ‘Quality Arrangements’.

The current set of Quality Arrangements have been in place since 2003. The college and university sectors review their respective arrangements every few years, and this year both sets are being reviewed, but in slightly different ways.

In colleges

The college quality arrangements are described on the Education Scotland website, and are grouped under three key principles:

  • High Quality Learning
  • Learner Engagement
  • Quality Culture

The arrangements are in the process of being reviewed through a series of pilot projects at three colleges, which feeds into a group called the Action Learning Project Board overseeing the review. Some of the issues which are being considered as part of this process are:

  • Are any changes needed as a result of regionalisation? e.g. how can the review process better reflect the regional context?
  • How can colleges be more responsible for their own evaluation, whilst adhering to national standards?
  • How might colleges better incorporate the views of external stakeholders in the evaluation process?
  • How can more collaboration between colleges be encouraged in this area?

In December 2016 the Scottish Funding Council published the new quality arrangements for colleges. Arrangements for assuring and improving the quality of provision and services in Scotland’s colleges sets out how colleges should develop their annual Evaluative Report and Enhancement Plan. These evaluate colleges’ progress against Education Scotland's new quality framework How good is our college? and against colleges’ regional outcome agreements.

The new arrangements come after significant change in the college sector following regionalisation and the implementation of Developing the Young Workforce and the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence. These new arrangements are designed to take account of this landscape and intend to:

  • Integrate with SFC outcome agreement monitoring.
  • Develop regional approaches to the management of quality.
  • Strengthen college ownership of evaluation and planning for improvement.
  • Provide external challenge and validation.

How good is our college? is based on four high level principles:

  • Leadership and quality culture.
  • Delivery of learning and services to support learning.
  • Outcomes and impact.
  • Capacity for improvement.

Active participation by learners in self-evaluative activities in an important contributory factor in these new arrangements and we are pleased that How good is our college? Indicators have been mapped to A Student Engagement Framework for Scotland.

Each key principle is underpinned by a high-level challenge question and related quality indicators.  sparqs have created a short mapping document which pulls out the supplementary challenge questions under each quality indicator which relate to Student Engagement and maps those questions against the five elements of the Student Engagement Framework. We hope colleges find this mapping document useful.

As colleges begin to use the new framework, sparqs will work with students’ associations and colleges to support effective learner engagement with the arrangements. On Thursday 2nd February 2017 sparqs hosted an event for student officers, students’ association staff and college quality managers on the new quality arrangements. The day included participation from Education Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council. More information is available on the event webpage.

In universities

The quality arrangements in universities, which are also often called the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF), are outlined on the QAA Scotland website and consist of five pillars:

  • Enhancement-led Institutional Review
  • Institution-led Review
  • Enhancement Themes
  • Student Engagement
  • Public Information

At the end of 2014 the Scottish Funding Council started a consultation process to gather the sector’s views on the quality arrangements. This consultation closed in February 2015.  

On 21st January 2015 NUS Scotland and sparqs held a workshop called The future of Quality Conversation for student officers and student associations' staff, to prompt discussion about this important topic, and to help put together a consultation response, as well as to allow student officers to feed into NUS Scotland’s response. 

You can read both the sparqs response and the NUS Scotland response to the consultation. 

The Universities Quality Working Group (UQWG), which oversees the quality arrangements, worked with the sector to review the responses of the sector and discuss the future of the Framework.

The responses conveyed strong support for the Framework and ethos of enhancement which, it is felt, has been of great benefit to the sector. sparqs was also delighted by the strong commitment shown across the sector to the role of student engagement with submissions showing support for the contributions students have made over the years and an appetite to further develop work in this area.

A majority of institutions indicated a desire to see the ELIR (Enhancement-led Institutional Review) cycle extended from its current four years. There was agreement that this would be a significant change which would need further thought and consultation with the sector.

At the February 2016 meeting of UQWG, the future of the ELIR cycle was agreed. There are to be no external reviews in year 2016-17 and the new cycle will be a ‘4 1’ model, meaning that external reviews will take place over 4 years (as before), with an additional year for developmental activities.

In addition to the changes in the length of the external review cycle, the developmental year will be used to explore how the sector might best develop other elements of the QEF, including student engagement in quality.

As discussions on the development of the new ELIR method and any enhancements to the QEF continue, sparqs will work with QAA Scotland, NUS Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council to make sure students are able to participate and shape future developments.

As well as the review of the QEF, the other key focus of discussions at present is the concept of ‘excellence’ in the context of quality enhancement in Scotland. This conversation is taking place following the decision of the Westminster government to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in England.

More information about the implications of the TEF for Scotland is available in a sparqs news article.

As plans for the TEF unfold, sparqs will continue to feed into the national conversations about how the sector responds to the developments in the rest of the UK. Throughout this process we will be working closely with NUS Scotland and other sector agencies to ensure that students are able to continue to engage with and influence this debate.

For more information on any of the above you can contact Hannah Clarke.


Student Engagement Framework

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