UK Quality Code for Higher Education

Protocol for developing the UK Quality Code for Higher Education
February 20121

The UK Quality Code for Higher Education (the Quality Code) is the nationally agreed,
definitive point of reference for all those involved in delivering higher education programmes
which lead to an award from, or are validated by, a UK higher education awarding body. The
Quality Code is owned by the UK higher education sector and is published and maintained
by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) on their behalf. QAA works
with the sector in developing and maintaining the Quality Code, to ensure that it represents
expectations on which all higher education providers are agreed. This protocol sets out how
it will be developed and any major revisions implemented.2 It is a continuation of the method
used by QAA to develop and revise the components of the Academic Infrastructure. The UK
Quality Code for Higher Education Steering Group is responsible for ensuring that the
protocol is followed and for overall oversight and coordination of the development of the
Quality Code.
The Quality Code does not incorporate statutory requirements relating to relevant legislation.
It assumes that higher education providers have an overriding obligation in all cases to
ensure they meet the requirements of legislation. However, where the Quality Code relates
to legislative or similar obligations, efforts must be made to ensure compatibility at the time
of publication.
The development and/or revision of each part and/or Chapter of the Quality Code will be
coordinated by a QAA officer, supported by an advisory group which is representative of the
sector. This advisory group will be made up of practitioners and students who are experts on
the topic of the Chapter. The advisory group will always include at least one student
representative and/or an officer from the National Union of Students. It will also include one
practitioner who, as well as being an expert on the topic of the Chapter, has experience and
knowledge of equality and diversity issues, and one practitioner or other representative with
expertise in European and international developments in higher education.
Higher education providers and other sector representative bodies will be invited to nominate
experts on the topics of the Chapters/parts of the Quality Code, from whom members of
advisory groups may be drawn. However, QAA reserves the right to approach individuals
directly in order to ensure any single advisory group has the right balance of expertise.
Wherever possible, an advisory group will represent the four nations of the UK and different
types of higher education provider. The oversight role of the representative steering group
will also ensure that all relevant interests are taken into account.
The work of QAA and the advisory group in developing or revising a Chapter or part of the
Quality Code will be supported by a public consultation with the higher education sector and
1 The substance of this protocol was originally published in Changes to the Academic Infrastructure: Final report (June 2011), available fromSome minor changes to wording have been made in this version for clarity. 2 A further protocol sets out how changes to the Quality Code will be made subsequent to the initial process of development: other stakeholders with an interest in higher education, carried out in accordance with QAA's consultation policy.3 It is anticipated that the process of developing and/or revising a Chapter of the Quality Code will take, on average, one academic year to complete. Each Chapter will be developed to a common format, which makes clear what is expected of all higher education providers. Expectations articulate what all UK higher education providers should expect of themselves and each other, and what the general public can therefore expect of higher education providers. They express key matters of principle that the higher education community has identified as important in assuring academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities. Individual higher education providers should be able to demonstrate that they are meeting the expectations effectively through their management and organisational processes, taking account of institutional needs, traditions, culture and decision-making. Indicators of sound practice suggest ways in which higher education providers may wish to demonstrate that they are meeting the Expectation. Accompanying explanations show why the Expectation is important and, where possible, give examples of ways in which the Expectation can be met. Chapters in Part B: Assuring and enhancing academic quality should be capable of standing alone, and all Chapters should be organised around the 'student journey' or some other reasonable structure. As each Chapter is developed and/or revised, the advisory group must assure themselves that the following principles, that underlie the whole Quality Code, are addressed in ways appropriate to the specific topic of the Chapter. Students have the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of their learning experience. All students are treated fairly, equitably and as individuals. Students are properly and actively informed at appropriate times of matters relevant to their programme of study. All policies and processes relating to study and programmes are clear and transparent. Strategic oversight of academic standards and academic quality is at the highest level of governance of the provider. All policies and processes are regularly and effectively monitored, reviewed and improved. Sufficient and appropriate external involvement exists for the maintenance of quality and standards. Staff are supported, enabling them in turn to support students' learning experience. In addition, the advisory group will need to ensure that the following overarching themes have been considered and addressed as appropriate. How information about the topic is communicated to students and other relevant audiences. How the employability of students can be addressed in relation to the topic. Equality and diversity issues have been embedded throughout. How the topic relates to all the diverse needs of students, in particular: 3 QAA's consultation policy is available from - non-traditional learners (for example work-based learners, part-time students), drawing on Section 9 of the existing Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education (the Code of practice) where necessary - international students - postgraduate taught students - disabled students, drawing on Section 3 of the existing Code of practice How the responsibilities of awarding bodies and other higher education providers differ in relation to the topic. The content of the Chapter considers where the situation might differ in the four countries of the UK and makes this clear. The content of the Chapter aligns with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area and other European and international higher education reference points as appropriate. How good practice and enhancement relate to the topic, including reference to relevant publications such as Enhancement Themes and Outcomes papers, and work by the Higher Education Academy.

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