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, Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions 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 Group 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
(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 declare any such relationships to their line manager as soon as a potential conflict becomes apparent, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
1.8 Academic Quality Handbook 2023/2024: Summary of Key Changes
The following table provides a list of changes which have been made following the publication of the 2022/23 version of the AQH in September 2022.
NEW 2.9 Annual Review of Programme Specifications
Departments should undertake an annual review of its programme specifications to ensure their currency and validity; this exercise can be undertaken at any stage through the current session, but Departments are asked to forward any change to the Quality Assurance Team (email@example.com) by the end of semester two of each academic session. Any substantive changes may require consideration and approval by the Faculty Academic Affairs Committee (dates and deadlines for papers can be found here:
https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/academic-registry/aqro-coms/). PDFs of programme specifications
will be published at the start of each academic session for that current session.
2.13 Scheme Approval Panel: dates and deadlines for papers
Published Panel dates and deadlines for papers replaced with following text:
A Scheme Approval Panel will be convened to consider a proposal once it has been approved by Portfolio Planning Committee to proceed to the next stage of the approval process. The deadline for papers for consideration by a Panel will be two weeks in advance of the Panel. Please contact the Quality Assurance Team for further guidance on the timing of approval panels.
2.15 Template Forms
SDF1.2 Executive Approval Pathway - Academic Overview updated to remove reference to JACS codes (no longer needed by Planning) SDF2 Non-Executive Approval pathway - new provision in an existing area updated to remove reference to JACS codes (no longer needed by Planning) SDF3 Minor change or restructure to existing provision form updated to include Table of Learning Outcomes, mapped against modules
3.2 Assessment policy and procedures
Paragraph 6 updated to include the following sentence, and the recommended word count for coursework (and variants) for Part Two 20-credit modules has been reduced from 5000 to 4000.
(ii) It is a university requirement that a 20 credit Undergraduate module should contain no more than 2 summative assessments (pro rata per 10 credit weighting). Where there are PSRB requirements which deviate from this requirement, the Associate Dean for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience should be consulted.
3.4 Monitoring Academic Progress
Para 15 updated to clarify role of Senate Examination Board in exclusion of students:
15. The Academic Registry will not issue exclusion letters where recommendations from Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellors are received later than the first day of Term 3. Faculties should ensure early intervention so that students can be interviewed and subsequently monitored during the course of Term 2. In cases where this has not been possible, students may be interviewed by the Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor during Term 3 and informed that Faculty reports may be taken into account by Senate Examination Boards in considering examination results. (Templates F and G). Senate Examination Board may deny students the opportunity to re-sit any failed modules and require exclusion on a permanent or temporary basis. In cases where a Faculty wishes to recommend exclusion on a permanent or temporary basis to the Senate Examination Board, and full documentary evidence should be sent to the Academic Registry and the recommendation should also be clearly recorded in the minutes of the relevant Examination Board at Faculty /Department level. The deadline for submitting recommendations for exclusion will correspond to the published deadlines for submitting examination board minutes and special circumstances documentation to the Academic Registry, and recommendations received after this date will not be considered by Senate Examination Board. The Senate Examination Board recommendation to exclude a student on a permanent or temporary basis will be subject to Academic Registry verification that the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress procedure has been followed by faculties/departments.
The same sentence was added to the Monitoring Academic Progress Timeline in 3.13
Associate Deans Learning and Teaching
3.6 Academic Practice
UAPF – Investigation Report Form updated.
Points-based penalty system updated.
3.7 Examinations and Examination Boards
Section relating to time-limits for students on Postgraduate Taught schemes updated (paragraphs 24-26), and submission deadlines for taught postgraduate dissertations/projects (September and January starters) for academic sessions 2023/24 – 2025/26 added.
3.8 Special Circumstances and Reasonable Adjustments
Financial hardship can now be used to support special circumstances (para 1)
3.13 Monitoring Student Progress Template E – updated to request clarification if permanent withdrawal or temporary withdrawal
4.3.3 The award of a Bachelor’s degree to students on Integrated Master’s schemes
To remove the below section (strikethrough) from the Integrated Masters Conventions:
Students starting Part One on MComp and MEng Integrated Master’s Schemes FROM September
2. As set out under 4.3.2, with the exception of point 2, students may fail no more than 20
credits in total across Level Two, Level Three and Level M, which contribute to the final award classification
4.4 BVSc Year 1 and Year 2: Rules for Progression
Updated to clarify issues around capped and uncapped modules and extenuating circumstances
3.1 A repeat year student will be required to take all modules, and all corresponding assessments again; the overall module marks will be capped at 50%. The year must be passed as a whole and previous module marks will not count.
3.2 Students may repeat either the first or the second year but not both. The maximum registration period of the pre-clinical element of the degree will mirror that of the RVC BVetMed i.e. 3 years. The time-limit may only be extended in exceptional cases upon approval by the University.
4. AU Special Circumstances policy will apply – including in relation to absence from assessment - see AQH Special Circumstances and Reasonable Adjustments.
8. Exit awards - also see AU’s Conventions for the Award of Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education
4.5 Degree Schemes with Sandwich Year, or Integrated year Studying Abroad non-language schemes
Updated to clarify resit opportunity:
3. The Sandwich Year will be marked in accordance with published assessment criteria, and the Senate Examination Board will require students who fail to meet the learning outcomes and achieve a minimum mark of 40% or pass the year to transfer onto a related degree scheme which does not include the integrated year in industry or integrated year studying abroad. There may be no resit opportunity where the deadline for the assessment is set in the summer after the semester two examination boards and the mark for the Sandwich Year is considered at the September examination board.
New 4.11 FdSc Veterinary Nursing: Rules for Progression
New 4.16 CertHE Healthcare Education - Examination Conventions
4.17 Progression Rules for Taught Postgraduate Schemes
4.17.1 Students starting a Master’s Degree FROM September 2013 – section archived
4.19 Progression Rules for Taught Postgraduate Schemes
4.19.2 Students starting a Master’s Degree or Postgraduate Award FROM September 2023:
New para 6 added (in April 2023):
6. Placement marks do NOT count in the degree classification and credits awarded for completion of an industrial placement are not included in the award of PGCert or PGDip.
Paragraphs 8 and 11 updated to include timeframe for schemes with a January intake.
Registration Periods and Time Limits – following para added:
12. Where a course starts at a time other than the start of an academic session, and cannot for practical reasons be completed within 12 months of full-time or the equivalent of part-time study, the department shall specify the course length. Periods allowed for retrieval of failure shall follow the principles of the regulations for 12 month courses, i.e. two years after the completion of the registration period.
7.11 External Examining of Research Degrees
4. Only persons of sufficient seniority and experience to be able to command authority should be appointed as external examiners. The External Examiner must possess specialist knowledge and expertise in the subject of research. They should also have experience of successful supervision of research students and internal examination of research degree candidates.
7. Former members of staff at Aberystwyth University who have retired will not normally be nominated as External Examiners. Members of staff of other Faculties Universities who have retired during the preceding 3 years may be invited without such a lapse of time to act as External Examiners at Aberystwyth University.
8. Former students of the University may not be invited to become External Examiners before a lapse of at least five years, or sufficient time for students acquainted with that former student to have passed through the system. Former students should not act as external examiner for candidates supervised by their own PhD supervisor, nor should they act as an external examiner when their supervisor is the internal examiner.
10. External examiners appointments shall be made on behalf of the Vice Chancellor and shall be approved by the Head of the Graduate School. Examiners for research degree students are nominated by departments and approved by a Panel chaired by the Head of the Graduate School, with two other members of staff in the Graduate School. Appointments are made on behalf of Research Degrees Committee and the Academic Board. A report is prepared for each RDC and AB meeting, listing external examiner appointments approved since the last meeting along with key data, and commentary on any issues that have arisen. The Panel will check that proposed examiners meet the requirements of the AQH for research degree examination and the regulations governing the examination of research degrees. The Panel will consider the two proposed examiners as a team and may approve one examiner with less experience of examining than would normally be expected if this is compensated by substantial experience in the other examiner.
New 9.8 Learning Agreements for outgoing exchange students
9.8 Learning Agreements provide details of courses to be taken by students during an exchange programme. While partner institutions may not be able to deliver precisely the mix of skills and content offered at AU, degree scheme coordinators will need to confirm which modules/courses fit best with AU’s own schemes and programme specifications. In some cases, students may be required to register for additional core modules in the final year of undergraduate degrees to comply with scheme or PSRB requirements. Copies of Learning Agreements will be retained by academic departments and Global Opportunities, for reference point during the course of a one or two-semester exchange, and for review by Faculties where appropriate.
12. Academic Appeals
12.1.6 updated to give the Chair of the Academic Appeal Panel the authority to executively reject an appeal on grounds.
Academic Appeal Application form updated to include a tick box:
If the evidence submitted relates to a third party, tick here to confirm that you have their permission for it to be used.
13. Final Review
Support to Study added to Section B of Final Review application form, and Fitness to Attend replaced with Support to Study in the list of procedures against which a Final Review can be raised in section 13.1
Final Review Application form updated to include a tick box:
If the evidence submitted relates to a third party, tick here to confirm that you have their permission for it to be used.
Minor changes: some identified on the basis of specific investigations during 22/23 and areas in need of greater clarity and flexibility and based on updated sector guidance from OIA and UUK, along with the current OfS consultation for English HE institutions.
New 16.7 Appendix 4 Fitness to Practise Guidelines and Procedures for Veterinary Nurses
Part B – Important information for students
Section reviewed as it contained a broad range of guidance, policies, and directions to other sources of information; the previous format did not make this information accessible to students. Some sections have been removed and Section 23 ‘Problems with the Law or Criminal Convictions’ will be moved in to AQH 15 Student Discipline Procedure.
Part B – Rules and Regulations for Students
New 2.9.6 Students must not engage in the following forms of behaviour: harassment, sexual harassment, harassment on grounds of sexual orientation, harassment on grounds of gender identity, racial harassment, harassment of disabled people, bullying, stalking, cyber-bullying, and sexual abuse.
This list is not exhaustive and other forms of behaviour may be found to be in breach of these Rules.
Rules 2.9.1 – 2.9.6 include communication via e-mail and social media.
Other minor changes to the chapter were also made.
4.6 Where a decision to exclude a student has been made at a departmental Examination Board, that decision should be recorded in the departmental Examination Board minutes, and the associated paperwork forwarded to Academic Registry. Senate Exam Board will confirm students to be excluded, and Academic Registry will issue exclusion letters following the Boards. The Senate Examination Board recommendation to exclude a student on a permanent or temporary basis will be subject to Academic Registry verification that the Academic Regulation on Academic Progress procedure has been followed by faculties.
Associate Deans Learning and Teaching
Updated to include:
Presenting work generated by AI as if it were your own (April 2023)
10.1 On receipt of a report concerning suspected unacceptable academic practice where there is uncertainly if the work submitted by the student is their own, and where the member of staff is not able to find documented evidence to support a case of UAP, for example if it is suspected the work has been obtained from an essay bank or generated through AI software, the Chair of Examination Board may determine that an interview to determine authenticity of work be held to establish the authenticity of the work submitted.
10.8 Where a student admits that they committed unfair academic practice as part of the interview process the Chair of Examination Board will refer the case to the Academic Registry to determine the appropriate penalty. There will not be a requirement for a UAP panel to meet with the student. The student will have an opportunity to request that their case is considered by a UAP panel if the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of the interview.
13.5 The Panel may, after the panel meeting, contact the relevant academic department to seek verification of any claims made by the student, or seek further information which it may consider when determining an outcome.
The penalty for presenting work generated by AI as if it were your own has been reduced by one band, which means that allegations should now be considered by Faculty Panel and not University Panel.
Para 10 updated to include:
Credits awarded for completion of an industrial placement shall not be included in the award of PGCert or PGDip.
Para 17 updated (in April 2023) to include timeframe for schemes with a January intake:
Where a course starts at a time other than the start of an academic session, and cannot for practical reasons be completed within 12 months of full-time or the equivalent of part-time study, the department shall specify the course length. Periods allowed for retrieval of failure shall follow the principles of the regulations for 12 month courses, i.e. two years after the completion of the registration period.
To remove the below section (strikethrough) from the Regulations for Modular Initial Degrees
22. Bachelor degree students may fail no more than 20 credits which contribute to the final award classification (excluding Level S Modules). Integrated Master’s degree students may fail no more than 20 credits across Level Two (Second Year) and Three (Third Year) and may fail no more than 20 credits at M Level (Fourth Year), with the exception of students commencing MEng and MComp Integrated Master's degrees FROM September 2022 - see below.
22a. Students commencing MEng and MComp Integrated Master's degrees FROM September 2022 may fail no more than 20 credits across Part Two as a whole.
22a. BSc Nursing schemes - all 360 credits must be passed in Part One and Part Two, i.e. no failed credits are permitted. (September 2022).
(also see AB July 2022)
New Regulations for FdSc Veterinary Nursing
New Regulations for CertHE Healthcare Education
Revised Regulations for Submission and Examination of Research Theses
Revised Regulations for the Award of the Degree of PhD (by Published Works) (Approved for entry
from September 2023)
Revised Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Approved for entry from September
Updated: Sept 2023