Innovations in Student
Assessment: A System-wide
Beyond our own experiences as teachers and learners, and sometimes as external examiners, how are we as individuals able to gain a picture of current assessment practice? We can, for example, attend conferences or seminars in our own subject or of a more thematic nature across several disciplines, we can share experiences and we can read widely. In general, however, it has been difficult to locate our own practices and experience in a wider context or indeed readily to summarize assessment practice nationally. There is talk of the need for change, of centres of excellence in innovation, but getting the broader picture is difficult. This chapter draws upon the experience of assessment of quality in UK universities since 1993 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and from this, a broad overview can be derived.
One of the purposes of subject review, introduced to UK higher education in 1993 as quality assessment, is to encourage improvements in the quality of education: assessors are asked to identify good practice during their assessment of a particular institution's programmes in a specific subject, including that relating to the assessment methods and awareness. The quality assessment process was introduced to UK higher education under section 70 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 and implemented in 1993. The early rounds of assessment conducted between Summer 1993 and Spring 1995 operated with a three-point assessment scale of 'excellent', 'satisfactory' and 'unsatisfactory'. Since April 1995, the method has assessed the quality of education against six aspects and generated a graded profile and a threshold judgement. Both methods were designed to enable recognition of, and response to, diversity of mission, intake and intention across the higher education sector and provided for a subject peer-based judgement of the effectiveness of the provision in delivering to the specific aims and objectives set. In October 1997, the work of quality assessment was transferred to the new Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education