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 (appendix 1) and Examination Conventions (appendix 2).
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:
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: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/assuring-standards-and-quality/the-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: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/publications/information-and-guidance/publication?PubID=2843#.Vpy-Zk98rkp
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: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/assuring-standards-and-quality/the-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. Academic Board is responsible for Part B of the UK Quality Code: Assuring and Enhancing Academic Quality and reports to Senate on all academic matters. Its membership includes Institute and Students’ Union representation, and the heads of relevant support departments. Responsibility for specific chapters of Part B of the Code is devolved by Academic Board to its sub-committees. The terms of reference and membership of Senate, Academic Board, and sub-committees of Academic Board are published online, together with a chart of academic committee structures and are available here. Staff at Aberystwyth can also access terms of reference, templates for minutes and committee papers, and details of committee meetings for Academic Board and its sub-committees through AQRO 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 four Pro Vice-Chancellors are key members of the University Executive and report to the Vice-Chancellor on their specific areas of responsibility as follows:
- Ms Rebecca Davies, Chief Operating Officer
- Professor John Grattan, Student Experience and International
- Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan, Welsh Language and Culture and External Engagement
- Professor Chris Thomas, Research
3. Responsibility for the conduct of an Institute is vested in the Director of Institute, who is accountable to Council, via the Vice-Chancellor. Institutes facilitate the organisation and academic work of the University. For academic and administrative purposes, they may be sub-divided into groups known as Schools/Departments. Each Department/School within an Institute has a Head with designated roles and responsibilities, which may include oversight of academic programmes and structures. The Institute Director is supported by an Institute 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 Institutes are required to have a Learning and Teaching Committee. This is set out in University Ordinances and Regulations.
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 Quality and Records Office (AQRO) staff are involved in the operation of Quality Assurance procedures reporting to the Director, Academic Quality and Records. AQRO also provides support for at Institute level through designated quality assurance contacts.
1.5 Levels of responsibility at University and Institute level
1. To reflect the structure of the University and recognise the role of the Institutes in quality assurance and enhancement, some quality functions are delegated to Institutes whilst others remain at University level.
University level processes
2. Responsibility for the following quality processes and procedures is retained by the University’s Senate, Academic Board and delegated sub-committees:
i. Development and approval of academic frameworks, regulations and procedure;
ii. Institute / Departmental performance audits;
iii. Scheme approval, major restructuring, suspension and withdrawal;
iv. Approval of External Examiner appointments;
v. Consideration of Institute summaries of annual monitoring reports (AMTS2);
vi. Periodic Scheme Review
Institute-level quality procedures
3. Responsibility for the following procedures and processes is delegated to Institutes and exercised through Institute committee structures:
i. mplementing policy and procedures for quality assurance and enhancement in schemes of study, including for their design, approval, monitoring and review;
ii. Undertaking Annual Monitoring of Taught Schemes and submitting Institute level summary reports (AMTS2) to Quality Assurance Committee;
iii. Module approval (process overseen by QAC);
iv. Considering student feedback (through feedback processes and student representation);
v. 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 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 will be published at the beginning of each academic session.
2. AQRO 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
1.7 Academic Quality Handbook 2016/17: Summary of Key Changes
Section 1: Quality Assurance at Aberystwyth
1. Section 1.7 Summary of Key Changes has been included to provide a summary of key changes to the AQH for 2016/17.
Section 2: Development and Review
2. The scheme approval process (Sections 2.2 – 2.4) has been amended to confirm that the practice of advertising schemes ‘subject to approval’ has ceased. The only exception is to permit ‘subject to approval’ schemes to be included in the formal printed prospectus of the University. This change was approved by Senate in June 2016 following a recommendation by Academic Board.
3. Section 2.4 Approval of New Schemes has been amended to require the External Assessor to submit a written report for scheme approval options (this was previously optional). Scheme approval panels will also include student members, following a decision by Academic Board in May 2016.
4. Section 2.5 Withdrawal and Suspension includes additional guidance on the procedure for proposing the withdrawal and suspension of Welsh Medium schemes.
5. Section 2.6 Periodic Scheme Review is new for 2016/17, following approval of the procedure by Academic Board in May 2016.
6. Section 2.9 Institute and Department Performance Audit has been amended to include student panel members, approved by Academic Board in May 2016. There are also minor procedural changes to the IDPA process.
7. Section 2.10 Departmental Quality Audit has been added to provide a summary of the process. The questionnaire was previously published as an appendix to AQH.
Section 3: Taught Study Schemes
8. 3.1 Credits and Scheme Structures and 3.2 Assessment Policy and Procedures have been expanded to incorporate the information formerly published as ‘Modular Study Schemes: Summary of University Policy’.
9. Section 3.2 Assessment Policy and Procedures includes expanded guidance on e-submission and feedback, approved by Academic Board in May 2016. This provides an outline of the University’s principles for assessment, new guidance on the quality of feedback, feedback on written examinations, and the requirement for the return of coursework within 15 working days of the date of submission.
10. Section 3.4 Monitoring Academic Progress has been updated to reflect the introduction of a common attendance requirement, as published in the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress. The guidance is linked to a new template form to be used to report students to Institute Directors.
11. Section 3.6 Academic Practice includes minor procedural changes and also minor changes to the points-based penalty system to incorporate investigations by Chairs of Examination Boards, where the points system did not previously apply.
12. Section 3.7 Examinations and Examination Boards has been expanded to incorporate sections from Standing Orders 1 and 2.
13. Section 3.10 Academic Appeals and Final Review includes changes to reflect changes in the composition of the academic appeal panel and other minor changes.
Section 4: External Examining
14. Minor changes only for 2016/17.
Section 5: Student Support and Representation
15. Section 5.4 Feedback includes a reference to the Module Evaluation Questionnaire (MEQ) and revisions to Tell Us Now for 2016/17.
16. Section 5.5 Withdrawals reflects the revised process for 2016/17, with students to be invited to a meeting with their institute/department before being enabled to complete the online withdrawal form.
17. Section 5.6 Personal Tutors has been updated to reflect the new Personal Tutor system for 2016/17, approved by Academic Board in May 2016.
18. Section 5.7 Student Representation includes minor revisions to the procedures for electing student academic representatives, and also refers to the new post of Academic Engagement Coordinator which replaces the Student Representation Coordinator (SREC).
Section 6: Research Degrees
19. 6.5 Research Monitoring and 6.12 Postgraduate Teaching Activities are new sections for 2016/17.
Section 7: Collaborative Provision
20. Minor changes only for 2016/17.Add
Section 8: Learning and Teaching
21. New section of AQH, providing an overview of existing policies and guidelines, with links to relevant webpages.
Appendix: Examination Conventions
22. The Examination Conventions have been updated to reflect the removal of ‘Wipe the Slate Clean’ from the Regulations for Initial Degrees. This was approved by Senate in June 2016 following a recommendation by Academic Board. The change will come into effect for new students starting in September 2016, and the procedure will remain unchanged for students who started before September 2016.
23. The following table provides a list of changes which have been made following the publication of the 2016/17 version of the AQH in September 2016.
Module withdrawal process to include consideration of the wider impact of withdrawing modules on existing study schemes (par. 4).
Documentation for scheme approval panels to include a list of modules with hyperlinks to existing modules on the module database and copies of any new or restructured module approval forms.
2.3 Link provided to a two year planning cycle and a timeline for the withdrawal and suspension of schemes (par. 4). January 2017 2.9 Guidance on scoring SED questions as part of IDPA process removed. January 2017 4.8 Addition of a timeline for receiving and responding to undergraduate External Examiner reports (paragraph 8). November 2016
References to ‘Resident Tutor’ amended to ‘Residence Assistant’.
SSCC meetings to include discussion of the results of external surveys (including NSS) and the reports of External Examiners and PSRB reports (par. 38).