A4 Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards

  • Introduction

    The Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area Part 1 state that institutions should have a policy for quality assurance that is made public and forms part of their strategic management. Internal stakeholders should develop and implement this policy through appropriate structures and processes, while involving external stakeholders (Standard 1.1).

    The Oxford Brookes University Quality Strategy is articulated through the Quality & Standards Handbook, and the University Regulations and its purpose is to support the University’s strategic objective to enable ‘a student experience of the highest standard possible’ ( 2020 Strategy), and - in particular - to support the achievement of the objectives set out in the University’s Strategy for Enhancing the Student Experience (2015-20). The interests of the students and staff of the University, and those of its partner organisations delivering programmes leading to Brookes awards, are therefore the primary concern of the Quality Strategy.

    The Quality Strategy also acknowledges the University’s management structures and corporate obligations, and aims to provide assurance to the Academic Board [through the Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee], and to the Board of Governors, that robust and cost-effective systems are in place to protect the quality and standards of Oxford Brookes’ awards, and enable the University to achieve its strategic objectives without reputational damage.

    The Quality Strategy has also been developed to enable the University to meet its obligations within the regulatory frameworks governing higher education, including, in particular, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the full range of Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) which accredit or recognise the University’s provision. The quality assurance procedures have also been designed to enable the University to meet the expectations of the sector, as articulated in the European Standards & Guidelines (Part 1) and the UK Quality Code for HE. Externality is a key concern of these regulatory frameworks, and the University recognises the importance of independent external participation in the programme approval, monitoring and review processes, (i) in order to gain the benefit of their academic/professional expertise, (ii) in the interests of transparency to stakeholders, and (iii) to provide assurance to the Academic Enhancement and Standards Committee (AESC) and the Academic Board that the University’s processes have been properly conducted. A key concern of the quality assurance processes is to encourage the engagement of academic staff with their peers in the disciplines and professions, to ensure the comparability of the standards of Brookes awards with others in the sector.

    Principles

    1. Academic rigour
      The University is committed to setting high academic standards, and to providing learning opportunities that will enable students to achieve academic success. This will be achieved through promoting, and resourcing, good practice in:
      • programme design (in particular, curriculum and assessment design), taking into account internal and external reference points, and being responsive to the expert advice offered by external examiners;
      • professional practice in teaching and learning, for example, through the University’s Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) and other continuing professional development activities, promoted through the PETAL scheme and OCSLD;
      • ensuring academic staff are given appropriate support in preparation for engagement with the quality assurance procedures, acknowledging the role of Academic & Student Affairs, the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Learning Resources, other Directorates, and the Quality teams within the Faculties.

    2. Enhancement
      The University is committed fostering innovative approaches to teaching and learning, to enable continuous improvement in student achievement; drawing on the commitment and creativity of academic staff, supported by the work of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.
      The development and dissemination of good practice is promoted at Department and Faculty level, through the quality assurance processes and the Peer Enhancement of Teaching and Learning scheme; and at a cross-University, strategic level through the on-going Programme for Enhancing the Student Experience led by the PVC (Student Experience).

    3. Collegiality, including the student voice
      The quality assurance procedures are designed to recognise the shared responsibilities for the quality and standards of the University’s academic provision; they therefore emphasise broad involvement of academic staff, students and other stakeholders, working in partnership through membership of Department, Faculty and University committees, Programme Development Teams, and approval and periodic review panels. The University recognises the importance of this engagement in promoting an open, supportive culture in which problems can be identified and resolved by the body or individual with the appropriate authority as quickly as possible.

    4. Cost-effectiveness
      The quality assurance procedures are designed so as to meet the University’s obligations to the funding council and professional bodies, but not to divert academic staff unduly from their core teaching and research activities. The administrative structures supporting the quality assurance of the University’s academic provision - providing professional advice and support, and achieving central University oversight, through strong links with the Faculty quality and academic administration teams - are designed so as to enable academic staff to fulfil their responsibilities for quality assurance without impacting negatively on their capacity to deliver an excellent learning experience to students.
      Documentation requirements are primarily focused on providing comprehensive and accurate information to students on programmes leading to Brookes awards, and clarity to the University’s partners with respect to responsibilities for the maintenance of the quality and standards of the University’s awards. In order to reduce duplication, the quality procedures – in particular, the Faculty Annual Review - are designed to take into account the full range of the University’s reporting requirements within the annual planning cycle.

    5. Good academic governance and management
      The University recognises the importance of good governance and management – at both University and Faculty level - in maintaining and enhancing the academic quality and standards of its provision, wherever it is delivered. The University wishes to promote an open culture of critical reflection, in which the shared responsibilities for identifying and resolving issues are taken seriously, and the location of authority for decision-making at all levels is clear. The University also recognises the importance of a robust audit trail in enabling it to account for the quality and standards of its awards to the wider HE sector and the professions; and the quality assurance procedures therefore draw on an appropriate range of internally and externally generated evidence. Crucially, the quality assurance procedures are intended to encourage the active engagement of staff and students in meaningful conversations about the quality of the educational experience being provided at Brookes and its partners.

      On behalf of the Academic Board, the Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee (AESC) maintains oversight of the quality and standards of all the University’s awards – matters specifically relating to collaborative provision are dealt with by its Collaborative Provision Sub-Committee. Faculty AESCs are responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of the University’s policies and regulations at the local level, with representation from staff and students from across each Faculty, while Subject Committees are key forums for promoting good communications between individual programme teams and their students.

    6. Evaluation and improvement of the processes
      The quality assurance processes are reviewed annually, through the analysis of approval and review panel reports and of external examiners’ reports, contained in the Annual Quality Review prepared by the Head of APQO for AESC. Suggestions for improvements to the procedures are also sought via the annual review process, in particular, via the Faculty Annual Review reports. Feedback is also elicited from participants in approval and review exercises, via post-event evaluation surveys. Training is provided throughout the year for staff taking on key responsibilities within the quality assurance processes (panel chairs, liaison managers, examination committee chairs, etc), and a twice-yearly briefing event is provided for the University’s external examiners – participant feedback is sought from all these events in order to identify areas for improvement.

    Approved by:
    Academic Enhancement & Standards Committee on 30th January 2013
    Academic Board on 13th February 2013

    Updated by APQO in May 2016