1. Quality Assurance at Aberystwyth
A pdf copy of this section is available for download: Section 1 PDF
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. 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 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. 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 Periodic review, including periodic revalidation of provision
(iii) Approval of new and major restructuring of schemes
(iv) Approval of External Examiner appointments.
Faculty level quality procedures
3. 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 Family and Personal and/or Professional Relationships
1. This policy applies to any personal and / or professional relationships that could, or be perceived to impact on the integrity of the working relationships within the University.
2. Where a student or applicant is:
(i) The sibling, parent, child or other family relation of a member of staff, or
(ii) The partner or is in a relationship with a member of staff.
Then the member of staff must play no part in the admission, supervision or assessment of that applicant/student. This is primarily to ensure impartiality in the treatment of the applicant/student, including the possibility that they would be assessed more strictly in order to emphasise the intention not to show favouritism. It is also to protect staff from accusations of favouritism and to avoid any perception of favouritism in third parties.
3. Members of staff must update their record on ABW declaring any such relationships at the earliest opportunity, so that arrangements can be made to ensure they are not involved in any activities where there is a conflict of interest. In this context, ‘members of staff’ includes anyone contracted to undertake teaching and related activities, including students with part- time contracts, and ‘applicants/students’ encompass all levels of study up to and including research students.
4. Members of staff may also consult the Management of Conflict of Interest in the Workplace Policy https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/hr/policy-and-procedure/managingofconflict/
1.7 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: email@example.com
1.8 Academic Quality Handbook 2020/19: Summary of Key Changes
1.8 Academic Quality Handbook 2020/2021: Summary of Key Change
The following table provides a list of changes which have been made following the publication of the 2019/20 version of the AQH in September 2019.
Introduction of the Family and Personal and/or
Professional Relationships Policy
Compliance with Welsh Languages Standards when
submitting proposals to introduce, restructure, suspend
or withdraw study schemes
Pwyllgor Astudiaethau Cyfrwng Cymraeg
Addition of Guidance on calculating Welsh medium percentages for degree schemes
Attendance Monitoring section amended to reflect engagement with studies rather than attendance in
response to Covid-19 delivery
The following statement has been added: Departments are responsible for monitoring and interviewing students, as part of their overall responsibility for student support and retention. Departments should monitor student engagement with the following activities and resources, along with any additional subject-specific requirements:
Timetabled teaching activities (including: lectures, seminars, practicals, tutorials);
Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard);
Lecture capture (Panopto);
E-submission of coursework and assignments;
Examinations (including online examinations and alternative methods of assessment).
Section relating to Unacceptable Academic Practice
updated to reflect the introduction of report of
suspected Unacceptable Academic Practice in
Points Based Penalty System updated
Addition of link to examination related information for
taught programmes. This site provides the following
information for staff (internal only):
Invigilator Claim Forms, Departmental Notices &
Change of Marls and Degree Class Forms;
Examination Board and Examination Paper Templates and Schedules;
Previous Examination Briefing Presentations;
Addition of guidance regarding the publication of past examination papers by departments
Guidance updated – for 2020/21 students are not
required to submit evidence in support of extension
requests and special circumstances forms. Forms should
be submitted electronically and students are not
expected to come on to campus.
Clarification in the Degree Regulations: Where credit has
been transferred in from another institution (including
where students take part in an exchange) the cascade will
be calculated on the basis of the marks awarded by AU
only and filled from the top band down, with best 80
credits at the highest level in the top band first, and
following the rules outlined above leaving the lowest
band partially filled or empty.
To avoid confusion the last sentence ‘i.e. five years for
part-time and seven years for distance learning
candidates’ has been removed - the maximum time
limits are set out in part B Academic Regulations for
Modular Taught Postgraduate awards point 17
Addition to Examination Conventions in response to
5.1, 5.8 &
Reference to ARCHE External Examiner added
Links to the following added: E-submission Policy,
Blackboard Acceptable Use Policy, Blackboard Required Minimum Presence Policy, Lecture Capture Policy,
Reading Lists Policy, Feedback and Assessment Policies, Academic Timetabling Policy, Peer Observation of
Teaching Policy, Aberystwyth Pedagogical Excellence
(APEX) Strategy, Digital Accessibility Policy and
Accessible Learning Materials Guide
Academic Enhancement Committee
Chapter updated to include PVC (or nominee) in order to
expand the pool of appropriate level staff who are able
to consider Final Reviews
Addition of Fitness to Attend and Fitness to Practise as
a procedure against which students can request a final
Introduction of Student Disciplinary Procedure.
Procedure updated to reflect the remit of the Head of an acedmic department in cases of minor breaches of Rules
and Regulations relating to academic provision, and the
addition of the remit of Faculty Managers or other
nominees of the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellors in cases of
minor breaches of rule 2.19 Health and Safety.
Introduction of Fitness to Practice Procedure
Department of Education and Aberystwyth School of
Veterinary Science appendices added
on Academic Progress
Para 4 (4.1 and 4.2) updated the reflect engagement with studies rather than attendance in response to Covid-19
Regulation on Unacceptable Academic
Sections added to Regulation on Unacceptable Academic Practice; Report of Suspected Unacceptable Academic
Practice in Examinations, Unacceptable Academic
Practice in taught research training modules, Investigation
by Assistant Registrar (Examinations), Interview to
determine authenticity of work, Penalties for
Unacceptable Academic Practice in taught scheme (undergraduate and postgraduate).
Regulation updated to reflect UAP in Research Training Modules by PGR students: i) where a Faculty Panel was required, this should be convened by the Faculty in which
the student was registered, ii) penalties should involve
failure of the assessment and/or the module but with a requirement to resit and iii) on a third offence, students should be permanently excluded.
Revision of the Degree Regulations to add that
‘Candidates should notify the Academic Registry no later
than 6 weeks after the taught credits have been completed
if they wish to take an exit award at this point and not
continue on to the dissertation’.
Minor amendments to the Registration Period and Time
Limits section of the PGT Award Regulations for distance learners
Time limit for completion of certificate or diploma for
students studying a PGCert in Change Leadership via
Menter a Busness: three academic sessions.
Revision of the Degree Regulations to add that
‘A candidate who has successfully completed Part One but does not wish to continue or is unsuccessful in their candidature for the DProf, will be eligible for the award of
– Rules and Regulations for students (3.3.6)
Students must now provide emergency contact details
whereas historically they were only strongly advised to
Updated: May 2021