Category Archives: News

Simon Meacher explains the Higher Education Review

Pencils

The University will undergo QAA Higher Education Review in the week commencing 18 April 2016. Higher Education Review (HE Review) is the process of review for all higher education institutions in the UK.

The University last underwent review by QAA in December 2009 according to the QAA’s Institutional audit process.

The overall aim of HE Review is to inform students and the wider public as to whether an institution:

  1. sets and maintains UK-agreed threshold academic standards for its higher education awards
  2. provides learning opportunities which allow students to achieve those higher education awards and qualifications
  3. provides information for the general public, prospective students, current students, students on completion of their studies, and those with responsibility for academic standards and quality that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy
  4. plans effectively to enhance the quality of its higher education provision

HE Review considers these key issues through a review process in which review teams consider the academic quality and standards of an institution through the investigation of core structures, policies and processes for quality management, and the way in which an institution addresses these issues in relation to a specific theme which can vary from year to year.

To achieve these aims, QAA convenes a team of peer reviewers – staff and students from other providers.

Review teams are asked to make judgements on these four key issues, and will also identify features of good practice, affirm developments or plans already in progress and make recommendations for action.

What will this involve?

The substantive element of the review process is a week-long visit to the institution which allows the review team to meet with staff and students (and other stakeholders where appropriate) and to scrutinise further information.

During the visit will include contact with staff, particularly those with institutional and faculty responsibilities for quality assurance. Review team meetings with staff will also involve a sample of colleagues working at academic unit level, including those with direct responsibility for educational partnerships such as representatives of partner institutions or staff at overseas campuses, and other academic and professional service staff with responsibility for supporting learning, teaching and the student experience.

The review team may also ask to meet with recent graduates, external examiners and employers.

They will certainly want to meet with a small sample of students (for example up to 30-40 across two or three meetings is typical), to find out their views of the learning experience they receive at Newcastle.

The University is also required to submit a Self-Evaluation Document (SED) which must be received by QAA by 25 January 2016.

The SED has three main functions:

  1. to give the review team an overview of the University, including our track record in managing quality and standards, and details of external reference points that we are required to consider (such as those of accrediting bodies);
  2. to describe the University’s approach to assuring the academic standards and quality of its provision;
  3. to explain to the review team how we know that our approach is effective in meeting the Quality Code Expectations (and other external reference points), and how it could be further improved.

We will be required to provide a significant amount of supporting documentation to illustrate and substantiate the narrative within the SED. This allows the team to test whether what our SED says we do, is what we do in practice and assess how effective it is.

Review teams also have the right to request additional documentation.  Experience of HE Review at other universities indicates that significant amounts of additional documentation are typically required by review teams.

It is therefore possible that any documentation relating to the quality management of the areas under review might be requested, including those held by academic units and faculties.

What will the team be looking for?

Higher Education Review has a core element and a thematic element.

The core element focuses on academic standards, quality of learning opportunities, information, and enhancement.

The thematic element focuses on an area which is regarded as particularly worthy of further analysis or enhancement. Themes, which change periodically, are chosen by the Higher Education Review Group – which includes representatives of HEFCE, Universities UK, GuildHE and the Association of Colleges. The University is required to explore one of these themes.

Following discussions involving a number of colleagues including representatives of NUSU, the PVC Learning and Teaching recommended to ULTSEC on 14 January that the University should select the theme of Student Employability for the review in 2016.

This theme is the logical choice for the University, as it would allow special emphasis to be given to the work that has been undertaking to develop students’ employability and entrepreneurial skills, and to give a detailed picture in our submission of how the University has made further progress since the good practice commendation received by the University in this area in the last QAA audit in 2009.

Who will this involve?

A Higher Education Review Steering Group, chaired by the PVC Learning and Teaching, is overseeing the production of the Self-Evaluation Document and supporting documentation, which is being coordinated by staff in the Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS).

When will it start?

In terms of other principal stages in the University’s preparation for the review, in mid-late October 2015 the QAA will inform the University of the size and membership of the review team. In early December 2015, a preparatory meeting with QAA will take place, the main purpose of which is to discuss the information to be provided to QAA and will therefore include those most immediately involved with the production of the SED and the student submission, and with responsibility for the operational arrangements for the review.

Around one month before the review visit, the QAA will inform the University of the duration of the review visit, the team’s main lines of enquiry, who the team wishes to meet, and any further requests for documentary evidence.

So what’s the point?

The review culminates in the publication of a report containing the judgements and other findings. The University is obliged to produce and publish an action plan in consultation with students, describing how it intends to respond to those findings.

Looking for Teaching Ideas? Check Out Newcastle’s Brand-New Teaching Case Studies!

Are you looking for innovative ways to improve your modules? Need to rejuvenate that survey module you’ve been teaching for years?

Why not have a quick look at our new Case Studies Database.

case studies

Ever thought of using actors to demonstrate a problem or technique, gauging student and understanding by using TurningPoint technology in lectures or getting students to make animations or videos instead of doing presentations?

Compiled by staff in the Learning and Teaching Development Unit, the website has example of good teaching practice from across the University.

From using peer review to improve essay writing to buddy systems for PG teaching staff, bringing in industry professionals to student-input in module design, the database has practical solutions to everyday teaching problems, with advice on how schemes were set up and why they’re successful.

The website is easy to search, so if you are looking for innovative assessment techniques, you can just search ‘assessment’, to look at examples of good postgraduate teaching you can search ‘postgraduate’.

You can hone in on a range of other keywords or requirements to see examples relevant to your work or your learning outcomes, from student engagement to employability.

You can also scroll through categories of examples, including ‘Assessment and Feedback’ and ‘Research-informed Teaaching’, to see how colleagues in other Schools are responding to particular challenges or better incorporating their own work into their teaching practice.

It’s always interesting to see what staff in other Schools are doing with their teaching and to share good practice – perhaps you’ll even find something you can use!

Or maybe  you’re already doing something interesting and innovative yourself – you can add your own Case Studies to the database by clicking ‘Submit Case Study’ and filling out a simple form.

submit cs

Or you can contact us directly about good practice in your school – email katherine.cooper@ncl.ac.uk.

 

The Innovation Fund – One Year On

One year on from her Innovation Fund win, Biology’s Alison Graham is handing over the reins of a very successful PG demonstrators training programme to other colleagues.
The Innovation Fund is administered by ULTSEC (the University’s Learning and Teaching Student Experience Committee) to support schemes which represent new or innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the University.
In particular, it hopes to financially support schemes which can be taken up by faculties and schools across the University.
Alison’s idea has already been picked up by other Schools in the University and Alison feels that it has brought a great deal to both UG and PG students in the School of Biology.

‘We realised several years ago that there was a real need for consistency in the standards of our demonstrators, all of whom had very varied experience and skill sets.

‘This was something the PGs themselves had pointed out and it was something that was coming across in the feedback from our UG students who felt that the standards of their practicals were dictated largely by the abilities of their PG demonstrator.
‘They also did not seem to know what the demonstrators did or that they were research students in the School so we wanted to find a way to introduce them.’
Alison applied to the University’s Innovation Fund for funding to run a programme which aimed to ‘to engender a more productive learning environment for undergraduate and postgraduate students alike.’
The team began by arranging an informal workshop to introduce PG Demonstrators to new UG students.
‘We had them come in and do some very basic experiments – one of their favourites is using paintbrushes to tickle the feet of stick insects and measuring how many feet they will take off the ground at once!

PG demos
PG Demonstrators talk to new undergraduates their own work in the workshops

‘So we had them doing that and then had each demonstrator take some time to tell the new students about their own research.

‘This gave the UG students a sense of the PG’s place in the school, an insight into their own future career paths and a sense of who each demonstrator was.

‘Both groups responded really positively and it’s now not unusual to hear the UG students asking how someone’s research is going, making everyone feel like part of a research community.’ The workshop will run again this year.
Alison said: ‘We’ve also completely changed how demonstrators can sign up for modules and how they can let lecturers know what their particular skills are, which is making planning this year’s practicals very much easier.
‘It’s really been a huge success, making PGs more comfortable with their teaching and with their marking and UGs more familiar and confident with those demonstrating in their practicals.
‘It’s been a real win-win!’

Do you have a great idea to put forward to the ULTSEC Innovation Fund?

The call for applications for the 2015/16 fund is open now!
Or if you have an example of really effective teaching practice in your School do get in touch with Katherine.cooper@ncl.ac.uk.