The establishment and enhancement of high academic standards is at the heart of the University’s vision. The systems and procedures for quality assurance are developed and implemented by the University’s Academic Office. By facilitating a positive, self-critical organisational culture and a supportive environment, the Office engages all members of the institution to contribute to the continuing development and maintenance of our high standards.
This webpage provides information on the development and monitoring of our programmes of study as well as details of the processes which support these activities and the University’s key assessment-related policies.
The tabs in the top right corner of this page provide access to two other important areas within the Academic Office’s remit – Collaborative Partnerships and External Examining. Please visit the relevant subpage for more information on these aspects of quality assurance and the processes involved.
As part of its work in leading and managing quality assurance policy and processes, the Academic Office provides secretarial support to the University’s Curriculum Strategy Committee, the Learning Teaching and Quality Committee, Collaborative Provision Subcommittee and the Research Degrees Board.
The Quality Assurance Agency carried out an Institutional Review of the University in January 2013. The outcome of the Review was that the University has met UK expectations in all four of the Judgements: academic standards; the quality of learning opportunities; the enhancement of student learning opportunities and information about learning opportunities. The Reviewers also identified a number of features of good practice. The findings are published in the QAA report and the University has produced an action plan.
The procedures of academic quality assurance take place at module, programme, department and institutional levels. This involves two overarching processes, the development of new curricula and the on-going management of existing provision.
Although the Academic Office works with individuals across all segments of the University, it particularly interacts closely with Programme Conveners who hold the responsibility for leading programme teams, maintaining the academic integrity of the programmes and enhancing their quality. Programme Conveners play a key part in the wide range of activities outlined below.
To implement major new developments in the curriculum, the University follows a two stage programme planning process. The first stage involves the submission of the proposal to the University’s Curriculum Strategy Committee (CSC) which considers issues of strategy and sustainability. Support from the Committee may grant ‘approval in principle’ allowing the process to move into the second stage which is the full development of the curriculum. Where a new taught programme is being proposed for development, the University holds an approval panel which considers, in detail, the programme specification and related documentation. In addition to internal University staff, this approval event also includes external advisers. They are nominated by the proposing department by using this form.
STAGE 1 • Programme planning process • Programme planning process (summary of stages) • Format for business case
STAGE 2• Guidance on writing the programme specification • Programme specification (annotated template guidance) • Programme specification template (format)
The following documentation assists with full programme development and should be considered during the second stage of the process:
• Guidance on aims and learning outcomes • Procedure for cross-listing • Qualification descriptors • Level descriptors • Advice on Bibliographies • Module description and bibliography
Detailed information about all approved programmes is available on the Programme Details site. The site is updated early in the spring term for the following academic year, in liaison with the Programme Conveners, and continuously maintained to reflect all modifications to modules and programmes approved throughout the year. It thus provides a live online resource and a definitive up-to-date record of each programme offered.
Most crucially, the curriculum structure and module records, as published on each programme page, are used to facilitate online enrolment and timetabling processes, linking the activity of the UAO with other key areas of the University.
In order to ensure the curriculum of a programme or a module remains current, existing content can be modified. The University operates a three-tier programme modification process which distinguishes between module changes, minor programme changes (known as minor modifications) and major programme changes (known as enhanced modifications). The procedures related to all levels of modifications are outlined in the documents below.
The Programme Annual Review (PAR) represents a cornerstone of the University's quality assurance processes. The PAR is an evaluation of a programme(s) over an academic year involving careful reading and evaluation of evidence, followed by the writing up of conclusions based on that evidence. This ensures rigorous assessment of past performance and the development and implementation of evidence-based action plans for the future.
Professional or statutory regulatory body (PSRB) visits are a form of external review for those University programmes that receive professional accreditation in addition to the University degree. They constitute an important audit of provision and information on the full process is available here.
Information on the periodic review for collaborative programmes is available on the Collaborative Partnerships page.
Subject Area Periodic Reviews form another key part of the University's quality assurance processes as they are an opportunity for an extensive evaluation of a department's programmes and quality assurance procedures. Whilst Programme Annual Reviews are central to assuring quality and standards at a detailed programme level, Subject Area Reviews take a broader and more holistic approach. They are facilitated by a panel which brings together members of the department/school, their University peers, as well as external reviewers and student representatives. External reviewers are proposed by the academic department by using this nomination form.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Institutional Review is an examination of how institutions assure the quality of their provision and maintain the academic integrity and standards of their awards. The scrutiny is carried out approximately every six years by a team of external reviewers who visit the University, meet with staff and students and consider documentary evidence that demonstrates how the University is meeting sector expectations on quality and standards. The Review results in four judgements, which are graded, and a written report that is published on the QAA website. The role of the Academic Office is to provide advice and guidance to staff and to take the lead in preparing for the Reviews in cooperation with staff across the University.
The closure or suspension of a programme of study requires extensive consideration at Department and University levels as sufficient academic rationale, resource and planning data need to be provided in order for the University to make an informed decision. This information should be captured in the Programme Closure Form (PCF) or, where it is intended to suspend recruitment, a Programme Suspension Form (PSF). Once completed, the PCF/PSF should be forwarded to the Academic Office for consideration at the Curriculum Strategy Committee (CSC). Final approval for programme closures will then be sought from the University Senate. The PCF/PSF from should expand on the reasons for closure or suspension, the ramifications on resources (both Department and University, including staffing implications), as well as proposals for remaining students, plans for restarting recruitment and any other relevant information.
Procedures related to quality assurance complement a range of other activities that academic staff engage with on an annual basis. An overview of these is provided in the Annual Timetable of Tasks Required by a Programme.
The quality assurance of research degree and professional doctorate programmes is primarily overseen by the Graduate School and policies and processes for these students and programmes are set out in the Research Degrees Handbook and the Research Degree Regulations.
The University's main policies related to the academic running of taught programmes cover a wide range of activities. These are detailed in the links and documents below: