The Academic Services department is responsible for the management and administrative functions of quality processes. We have policies and practices in place for the maintenance of academic quality and standards across the University for which the Academic Board is responsible.

Our principles

Accountability

Course teams are accountable to the School Boards. Schools, in turn, are accountable to Academic Board through the Academic Quality and Standards Committee (AQSC). The institution as a whole is accountable to its students for the educational opportunity they are offered, and to external funding and quality assurance bodies for the quality of its programmes and the standard of awards.

Responsibility

Responsibility for quality assurance is widely diffused, and goes far beyond those with formal responsibility for the academic management of courses. It also, crucially, lies with individual tutors in the everyday professional delivery and development of their courses. Students themselves are also responsible for quality assurance: amongst other things, students are members of University boards and committees, participate in the internal review process, and contribute to annual reporting of courses.

Clarity

Maintaining academic standards depends on complex interactions between students, tutors, those responsible for the academic management of courses, boards and committees. It is therefore vital that processes are defined clearly in order that all participants understand their roles and responsibilities.

Consistency

No course may be approved, reviewed or evaluated solely within the terms of its own discipline or profession. All courses are thus open to insights and good practice brought to bear from elsewhere within the institution or the sector. Consistency of standards across the University is achieved through the co-ordinated work of a centralised Academic Office, and senior personnel and staff from all schools.

Dissemination

For quality to improve, good practice within the institution and in other institutions must be identified and generally broadcast. This website itself is an example of this process and an encouragement to this open ethos. It is a central feature of the work of the Academic Office.

Constructive Exchange

Maintaining standards through peer review is not an adversarial activity. There should be constructive exchange between the course providers and those responsible for quality assurance: dialogue and debate ensure the enhancement of high quality provision from subject and course level.

Continuity and Consistency

Quality assurance is not a sporadic activity. The constituent elements are separate processes, but flow naturally into each other. External examiners' reports, for example, inform annual reports. The quality assurance system itself is continuously monitored, in order to find ways in which it may be improved. Moreover, efforts are continually being made to align key processes within the institution, such as between quality assurance and strategic planning.

Student Evaluation

All Academic Board subcommittees with the exception of those for which assessment is a central concern include student members. Annual reporting on courses includes student evaluation in a variety of forms. For all courses, student evaluation is a central mechanism for development.

Peer Review

Peer review is essential in judging academic quality and standards in the context of those of other institutions. It operates both in the periodic review and in the annual reporting cycle.

Peer review is the system by which judgements are made on academic provision by persons inside and outside the field of study; inside and outside the University; and inside and outside higher education, where appropriate.

Peer review depends on impartial judgements made about provision by "peers" informed by:

  • the requirements of the University
  • the field itself
  • teaching and learning
  • standards in the field at other institutions
  • the context of the provision in the national and international culture and economic climate

Participants in peer review are drawn from the University itself, and from other institutions of higher education. Where relevant, employers, professionals and practitioners are also involved.

The Academic Board works within the context established by:

  • the Education Acts in force
  • the Articles of Government and the associated Rules and Bylaws
  • the power, conferred on the University by the Privy Council, to award degrees and other qualifications up to the level of taught masters under its own name
  • the Academic Regulations agreed by the Academic Board
  • the requirements of relevant external bodies (eg. HEFCE, QAA or TTA)

Some of the practices described here are determined, therefore, by bodies external to the Academic Board: in some cases the Vice-Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor's representatives acting through the structure of line management, in some cases funding or other bodies to whom the University is accountable.

The definition of academic quality adopted by the University is "fitness for [the] purpose" expressed in its Mission. The quality assurance processes to achieve this end operate within the principles below.

The Academic Services department

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