1. Quality Assurance at Aberystwyth
1.1 About the Handbook
1. The Academic Quality Handbook (AQH) provides an accessible source of the policies, regulations and procedures which support the management of academic standards and quality at Aberystwyth University. It is for use by university staff, external examiners, external reviewers and collaborative partners. The Handbook is published online but its individual sections can also be downloaded as a pdf and printed. It also contains a link to the University’s Rules and Regulations and Examination Conventions.
2. Every member of staff has a responsibility to ensure that the reputation of Aberystwyth University is maintained and enhanced wherever possible, and that our quality assurance procedures remain rigorous and transparent.
3. Additional information and electronic copies of forms and templates (including forms for external examiners) can be downloaded from the relevant section of the AQH. As forms are updated regularly, they should always be accessed via the Handbook rather than saved and re-used from previous years.
1.2 Quality Assurance Systems
1. Aberystwyth University prides itself on the high standards of learning and teaching opportunities offered to its students. These are underpinned by effective quality assurance systems developed over many years and refined in light of the QAA frameworks and guidance. The University’s quality assurance systems have four main roles:
(i) To ensure the currency, validity, standard and quality of our schemes of study, and that these are properly planned, delivered, modified, and monitored;
(ii) To maintain the highest standards of academic quality and continuous enhancement, in compliance with the expectations outlined in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education;
(iii) To enhance quality by promoting continual critical reflection, so that we are always seeking ways of improving the quality of the student experience that we offer;
(iv) To underpin the strategic development of the schemes and academic disciplines that we offer.
2. The UK Quality Code for Higher Education gives all higher education providers a shared starting point for setting, describing and assuring the academic standards of their higher education awards and programmes and the quality of the learning opportunities they provide. It is the core reference point used in all QAA review activity: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code
3. The Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies provide important reference points for higher education providers, assisting them in setting and maintaining academic standards. The frameworks are central to the Expectation in Chapter A1: The National Level of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education that degree-awarding bodies use external UK and European reference points to secure threshold academic standards across the higher education sector: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code/the-existing-uk-quality-code/part-a-setting-and-maintaining-academic-standards.
4. Subject Benchmark Statements are part of the Quality Code - Part A: Setting and maintaining academic standards. They set out expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. They describe what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the abilities and skills needed to develop understanding or competence in the subject: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code/subject-benchmark-statements.
5. QAA also provide a range of other guidance material, for example covering topics such as the award of academic credit, the equivalence of qualifications throughout the countries of the UK, and how contact hours and assessment contribute to the quality of your education.
1.3 Academic Committees
1. In accordance with Aberystwyth University’s Supplementary Royal Charter the Senate is ‘the academic authority of the University and shall be responsible to the Council for the academic functions of the University in teaching and research and the regulation of the academic interests of the students’. The Senate’s constitution, powers and functions are provided by Ordinances. Further details on the Senate’s responsibilities, membership and decisions can be found on the relevant sub-pages.
2. Senate has overall responsibility for ensuring that the University adheres to the UK Quality Code, and delegates responsibility for individual sections to the following boards: Academic Board, Recruitment and Marketing Board, Research Board, and the International and Collaborative Provision Board. The terms of reference and membership of these bodies are published online, together with a chart of academic committee structures: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/governance/sub-committees/. Staff at Aberystwyth can also access terms of reference, templates for minutes and committee papers, and details of committee meetings through Academic Registry webpages.
1.4 University Officers with responsibility for Quality Assurance
1.The Vice-Chancellor is the chief academic and administrative officer of the University with responsibility for its overall performance, and is the Chair of Senate.
2. The Pro Vice-Chancellors, Learning & Teaching and Research, are key members of the University Executive and report to the Vice-Chancellor on their specific areas of responsibility.
3. Responsibility for the conduct of a Faculty is vested in the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor, who is accountable to Council, via the Vice-Chancellor. Faculties facilitate the organisation and academic work of the University.
The Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellors perform a crucial co-ordinating role between the departments operating within their respective spheres of interest. They are also empowered to take executive action on issues of concern, subject to reporting to their faculties, the Academic Affairs Committee, Pro Vice-Chancellors Learning & Teaching and Research, and Vice-Chancellor as appropriate. The Faculty PVCs co-operate closely in their areas of responsibility and organise, via the Academic Registry, to discuss and make recommendations on items common to the faculties. In this they are greatly assisted by key Registry support staff. The Faculty PVCs also have specific responsibility for approving nominations for the appointment of external examiners for taught schemes. They also meet regularly to ensure that the faculties deal with student issues in a consistent way. They are supported in their roles by Associate Deans, who have specific responsibilities for Learning & Teaching, Research, and Welsh Language provision.
Each academic department within a faculty has a Head with designated roles and responsibilities, which include oversight of academic programmes and structures. The Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor and Associate Dean of Faculty are supported by a Faculty Manager and advised by an Executive Committee, which includes staff with responsibility for key areas such as Learning and Teaching and Quality Assurance and Enhancement. All faculties are required to have an Academic Affairs Committee. This is set out in University Ordinances and Regulations.
Heads of Department are charged with the day-to-day management of the teaching and research within their departments within the guidelines established at University level, including the Academic Quality Handbook. Departments have designated Directors of Learning and Teaching and Directors of Research reporting to the Head of Department on these issues. Each department is required to hold departmental meetings involving all academic staff at least once a term to discuss academic issues. The functions of the meeting include:
i. To serve as a medium of consultation with and provide advice to the Head of Department on the conduct of departmental affairs.
ii. In furtherance of the above to discuss the following:
- the nature and content of courses;
- the allocation of teaching and other departmental duties;
- the allocation of departmental funds and accommodation;
- the use of secretarial, research and technical assistance.
As part of the above, they receive the reports from Departmental Learning and Teaching Committees, of formal programme monitoring undertaken in the department annually and also formally log in the reports of the departmental Staff-Student Consultative Committees which serve as a useful feedback mechanism between staff and students.
4. The Head of the Graduate School is responsible for the provision of Researcher Development training within the University as a whole, and also has a co-ordinating role in the development of policy on postgraduate matters, the provision of facilities for postgraduates, and for monitoring the recruitment and academic progress of postgraduate students. The Head of the Graduate School also approves nominations for external examiners on research degrees.
5. A number of senior Academic Registry staff are involved in the operation of Quality Assurance procedures reporting to the Academic Registrar. The Academic Registry also provides support at faculty level.
1.5 Levels of responsibility at University and Faculty level
1. To reflect the structure of the University and recognise the role of the faculties in quality assurance and enhancement, some quality functions are delegated to faculties whilst others remain at University level.
University level processes
2. Responsibility for the following quality assurance processes and procedures is retained by the University’s Senate, Academic Board and other sub-committees:
(i) Development and approval of academic frameworks, regulations and procedure;
(ii) Departmental performance audits;
(iii) Approval of new and major restructuring of schemes;
(iv) Approval of External Examiner appointments;
(v) Periodic Scheme Review
Faculty level quality procedures
Responsibility for the following procedures and processes is delegated to faculties and exercised through faculty committee structures:
(i) Implementing policy and procedures for quality assurance and enhancement in schemes of study, including for their design, approval, monitoring and review;
(ii) Consideration of Annual Monitoring of Taught Schemes;
(iii) Scheme suspension, withdrawal, and changes to titles.
(iv) Module approval (process overseen by Academic Board);
(v) Considering student feedback (through feedback processes and student representation);
(vi) Accreditation of schemes by Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs).
1.6 Monitoring and review
1. Academic Board retains overall authority for reviewing the effectiveness of the University’s quality assurance and enhancement processes as set out in the QAA Quality Code. Detailed consideration of these processes may be delegated to its sub-committees as appropriate. It will also publish a revised version of the AQH at the beginning of each academic session.
2. The Academic Registry welcomes comments on the content and presentation of this Handbook from all users as part of the continuing process of improvement and for the development of future versions. Any comments should be sent to:
1.7 Academic Quality Handbook 2018/19: Summary of Key Changes
The following table provides a list of changes which have been made following the publication of the 2018/19 version of the AQH in September 2018.
Section Change Date 3.5.8
Moderation of Borderline Marks:
Marks for a component of a module should not automatically be upgraded where they fall on a ‘9’. The final module mark should stand with no automatic upgrading of marks that fall on a ‘9’.
Approved at Academic Board (May 23rd 2018)