Ok, now I’ve hopefully got some attention … (honestly, this post doesn’t take too long to get to the ‘free stuff’ bit).
Perhaps one of less noticed, but still in some ways important, elements of the huge changes in the English higher education sector over the last four years has been the changes for some long-established sector agencies. QAA lost what was in effect its role as the lead national agency in England for academic quality and standards, and has reinvented itself (including a very significant slimming down) as a membership organisation. The Higher Education Academy, Equality Challenge Unit and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education combined forces to become AdvanceHE.
Good question. One of the things it has meant is that QAA and AdvanceHE have now put huge amounts of their resources behind what amounts to a paywall – if your university’s not a member you’re not getting in. The good news for Newcastle staff is that the University is a signed-up member of both QAA and AdvanceHE, so you can access both organisation’s resources using your Newcastle email address.
So why would you sign up?
Well QAA’s an interesting one. There’s a range of membership services, including both resources (for example some Advice on Digital Assessment Security written by a group that LTDS was a member of) and events (including a webinar in July at which LTDS presented).
The bit that’s interesting is that having become a membership organisation there’s been a bit of a shift in terms of the kind of things the Agency is doing. The five themes of the membership programme for 2021-22 (https://www.qaa.ac.uk/membership/what-we-are-delivering-for-members-in-2021-22 ) are: the future of digital and blended learning; creating inclusive learning communities; global engagement and TNE; evaluation and data-based decision making; and securing academic standards.
So a lot of the kind of thing you might expect QAA to do, but quite a lot that might make you think ‘I didn’t’ know QAA were interested in that’. Some of this is open access; other areas you’ll need to register to get access to (but it doesn’t take long – the form is at https://www.qaa.ac.uk//en/membership/resources/register and all you need is your NU email address).
There are a small number of QAA resources we don’t have access to (it’s like a gym with levels of membership, and we didn’t go for the maximalist option), but there’s still a lot of valuable stuff up there that you can access for free.
(And while I’m talking about QAA, one of its best kept secrets, at least this side of Hadrian’s Wall, is the great work QAA Scotland has been doing for years under its Enhancement Themes banner. There’s lots of interesting and valuable material on this website – https://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/. The current Enhancement Theme is Resilient Learning Communities, but past themes like Evidence for Enhancement and Student Transitions are well worth a look as well. And again, it’s all free).
It’s a similar deal with AdvanceHE. There’s a huge amount of valuable material available (and their Knowledge Hub database is a good way to access this), across lots of areas -including learning and teaching, but also around EDI as well as leadership and management. AdvanceHE’s programme for 2021-22 is available at https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/membership-2021-22/member-benefits .
Again all you need is your NU email address to access the site and its resources. One thing to look out for though is that while there’s a lot of things you can access for free, there’s also quite a bit of AdvanceHE activity (particularly events) that are chargeable. People at NU get a member’s rate, but there’s still a fee for quite a bit of what they’re offering.
So there’s a lot on offer. A lot of it supports areas that we’re strongly committed to as a University and as individuals. It’s worth a look. And (lots of it) is free.
QAA is inviting expressions of interest from the academic and subject community to act as Chairs and Deputy Chairs for the review of 14 Subject Benchmark Statements. QAA leads the development of Subject Benchmark Statements and reviews them on a cyclical basis to ensure they are useful as possible for discipline communities and can fulfill a range of purposes across the sector, including course design and providing support for securing academic standards.
Members of the academic and subject communities are encouraged to apply. More information on how to submit an expression of interest is available on the QAA call for expressions of interest web page. The deadline to submit an expression of interest is midday on Monday 4 October 2021.
For full details please visit the QAA website.
Over the last three years there have been huge changes in the external framework within which English universities operate. The creation of the Office for Students (OfS) in 2018 has had significant impacts that are still working their way through the sector. One of these was to change the focus and nature of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).
QAA still has a place in the external regulatory framework. It carries out reviews of higher education in England on behalf of OfS. It also supports development of the UK Quality Code (i.e. the things all higher education providers need to do to maintain and enhance educational quality).
The volume of this work for QAA has significantly decreased though over the last two years. In its place QAA has established a membership scheme to (as QAA put it) ‘improve quality and secure standards by giving exclusive access to expert advice, insight and valuable resources based on our extensive expertise’.
Newcastle is a QAA member. This means that we get access to a range of webinars, workshops and resources to help us in our work to give our students an outstanding educational experience while they are studying with us.
There’s an overview at https://www.qaa.ac.uk/membership/programme-2020-21, of what we have access to as QAA members. Not all of it is for everyone, but the opportunities and resources (https://www.qaa.ac.uk/membership/resources) cover a wide range of areas – including some you might not normally associate with QAA. To access these all you need is your Newcastle email address.
As an institution, Newcastle University is now a member of
the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). The QAA has moved from a subscription to a
membership model, offering various membership services which aim to:
- address sector-wide challenges including safeguarding degree
- maintain the tools to deliver the highest academic quality,
including current and relevant standards and frameworks, such as the
Quality Code for Higher Education and revised Subject Benchmark Statements
- advance UK higher education’s international leadership in quality
assurance and enhancement through our strategic partnership work with
agencies across the world
- provide an expert and independent voice on quality and standards.
As a member, we can be part of the Membership Advisory Group
and network events, and will receive personalized updates on membership
activities at an institutional level. Additionally,
the University receives preferential rates for non-member QAA events and
services such as the QAA annual conference, student engagement events, and the
In 2019/20 work that will be undertaken includes new Subject
Benchmark Statements, in-country reports, viewpoints and research. Output on
degree classification workshops, networking events, partnerships and the
Membership Advisory Group will also be published.
Membership resources including case studies, webinars,
materials, and reports can be accessed after registration (https://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/membership/resources).
New outputs from membership work will be published here.
More information can be found on the QAA website: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/membership/qaa-membership
Updates to Subject Benchmark Statements
At the end of October 2019, QAA published first updates to
Subject Benchmark Statements, starting with subjects in STEM and Humanities.
These statements describe the academic standards expected of graduates in that
subject area (what are students to know, do and understand at the end of their
studies). The minor changes to the subject benchmark statements include a
reflection of the 2018 Quality Code, and ensure that the QA’s subject level
guidance is aligned with current HE reference points. As the changes were
minor, no subject expert working groups were convened. The chair or a member of
the previous advisory group confirmed any changes.
Similar updates to Subject Benchmark Statements will be made
to all subjects.
A full list of updated Subject Benchmark Statements can be
found here: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/news-events/news/updates-to-subject-benchmark-statements-in-stem-subjects
Using the findings of a recent project focused on student transitions, Scotland’s QAA will build resources to help students with transitions at University, from a sense of ‘belonging’ to their institution to the development of graduate skills.
The project, led by Dr Ming Cheng, a Lecturer in the Academic Development Unit at the University of Glasgow, examined models of transition and their applicability to HE.
The study’s findings and a range of resources are available online.
The aim was to provide students and staff with resources to help them to gain an insight into these processes but also to highlight transition, and a continuing process of change, as an inherent part of the University experience for students.
The project formed part of QAA’s Scotland’s Student Transitions Enhancement Theme.
The work is likely to feed into future projects looking at how transitions skills can be beneficial at university but also in alter life.
In recent years a variety of institutions and research bodies have been focusing on student transitions, as a way of improving students’ experiences at and after University, both academically and personally.
These transitions also take into account the movement from school, college or work to University and can contribute to processes of recruitment and widening participation.
At Newcastle this has led to the appointment of a Transitions Officer in Computing Science, who helps undergraduates and postgraduates to adjust as they move through the different levels of their academic courses and out into the world of work.
Are you doing research into student transitions at Newcastle? Tell us about it: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ncllt.