Evidence to the BIS Select Committee inquiry on Assessing Quality in Higher Education

06 November 2015

There is already a raft of ‘mechanisms’ within the higher education system to drive up quality:

  1. The fees-based system has driven and continues to drive up teaching quality. But the system is still embryonic and needs time to really take effect and then bed down and there are features of the new system that could be improved.
  2. Information flows are a key factor in any properly functioning market and these have certainly improved, for example: with KIS, the National Student Survey and a wide range of information available on and through the UCAS and Unistats websites. However, a review of how relevant information is organised and accessed would be appropriate.
  3. Moreover, there are already many ways by which quality of teaching and learning is assessed and assured including, internal quality assurance mechanisms, the external examiner system, Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) reviews and extensive audit and reviews by a wide-range of Professional, Statutory, and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs).

The result of all of these factors can be seen in very positive statistics about the UK higher education system. For example: in 2014 the National Student Survey (NSS) recorded student satisfaction at a 10 year-record high; similarly, demand for places in HE was also recorded at the highest ever level. New graduates are also in great demand with employers: the Association of Graduate employers are expecting an 11.3% increase in demand for the current 2014-15 cycle. These factors indicate the teaching system is not perceived by students or employers to be in need of further measures to drive up quality.

We are not arguing that everything is perfect, but that we already have appropriate systems in place and these are continuing to evolve effectively as expectations in the HE system rise. The proposal to introduce an ‘excellence framework’ only increases regulation and potentially duplicates existing processes; but on the other hand if it is very light (e.g. relying on just a few metrics) then it is likely to be highly inaccurate and could be very damaging. A perverse consequence of the framework is that it may even stifle innovation in teaching.

Evidence to the BIS Select Committee inquiry on Assessing Quality in Higher Education

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