Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Standards-Bearers

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Standards-Bearers

Article excerpt

A major consultation promises quality assessment that the sector can embrace, writes Madeleine Atkins

If students are at the heart of our higher education system, it follows that delivering a high-quality academic experience, confidence in degree standards and a commitment to excellence and innovation in learning and teaching must be central concerns.

The question of how quality should be assessed in a fast-evolving, globally competitive system is critical. At the start of the year, the funding bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as part of their statutory responsibilities, set up a steering group chaired by Dame Shirley Pearce, which initiated a wide-ranging discussion about quality assessment's future. People were asked to cast their minds forward. Assuming that current sector trends - increasing diversity, competition and expansion - continue, what will "quality" look like in 10 years' time?

To encourage the discussion, a series of research reports was commissioned. One looks at quality assessment in other countries. Risk-based approaches emerge as a common theme, although methodologies differ (for example, Australia does not conduct cyclical peer reviews). Another report, by accountancy firm KPMG, finds that England's sector is spending more than £1 billion a year on institutional and regulatory compliance related to teaching and learning, and adds that it may be possible to find savings. A third report, by the Higher Education Academy, confirms the key role of external examination in protecting academic standards, but also identifies areas for improvement.

Fifteen round tables, two conferences, nearly 200 written submissions and many meetings later, we think we may be closer to an answer. A broad consensus has emerged that any future quality assessment arrangements must maintain confidence in academic standards, respect institutional autonomy and support students' interests. They should be proportionate and risk-based. Where possible, they should minimise the financial burden institutions bear. And there is a clear message that when it comes to quality assessment, one size cannot fit all: there must be sufficient flexibility to accommodate diversity of mission, provision, location, mode of delivery and student body. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.