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Academic Development Directorate

Section E: QAA Quality Code

Committees:
  • Learning and Teaching Quality Committee [LTQC]
  • Academic Development Committee [ADC]
  • Student Experience Committee [SEC]
Advice:
  • Quality Assurance Manager
  • Director of Academic Development

The Quality Assurance Agency’s Quality Code replaces the guidance known as the Academic Infrastructure. It provides a shared means of describing academic standards in UK higher education. It is the basis of all quality assurance in the sector, including Institutional Review.

E.1 Part A: Setting and Maintaining Academic Standards

Part A of the Quality Code sets out expectations for the level and broad content of Higher Education awards(Certificate, Intermediate, Honours, Masters and Doctoral levels), which institutions are required to meet.

The sections are:

A1: The national level

A1 includes the Framework for HE Qualifications: departments designing new programmes are expected to take account of this framework when setting appropriate learning outcomes, and subsequently to be able to demonstrate their compliance with it through programme review.

A2: The subject and qualification level

A2 includes Subject Benchmark Statements, which set out expectations for qualifications in a particular discipline. QAA says that they “describe what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the techniques and skills needed to develop understanding in the subject.” Benchmark statements have been published for all subjects in which the School offers undergraduate degrees, and in a small number of postgraduate subjects. Departments designing new programmes are expected to take account of the Subject Benchmark Statement when setting appropriate learning outcomes, and subsequently to be able to demonstrate their consideration of it through programme review.

A3: The programme level

A4: Approval and review

A5: Externality

A6: Assessment of achievement of learning outcomes

E.2 Part B: Assuring and Enhancing Academic Quality

Part B of the Quality Code sets out expectations relating to the quality of learning opportunities offered to students. Each chapter contains one or more expectations on a particular aspect of provision. Each expectation is further explained through a series of factors against which institutions and reviewers can judge whether or not the expectation is being met. The eleven sections are:

B1: Programme design and approval

B2: Admissions

B3: Learning and teaching

B4: Student support, learning resources and careers education, information, advice and guidance

B5: Student engagement

B6: Assessment of students and accreditation of prior learning

B7: External examining

B8: Programme monitoring and review

B9: Complaints and appeals on academic matters

B10: Management of collaborative arrangements

B11: Research degrees

At SOAS, the Academic Development Directorate keeps the Quality Code under review, and reports to LTQC when sections are revised. LTQC may implement changes to reflect the revised guidance, or may refer the new section to a committee or administrative section with direct responsibility for the area concerned. LTQC will also monitor awareness and use of the Code through PPRs.

E.3 Part C: Information about Higher Education provision

Part C of the Quality Code has just one expectation which institutions must meet:

"Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy."

This relates to information for prospective and current students, and for staff, employers, members of the public, etc.

E.4 Programme Specifications

Programme specifications are referred to in all three parts of the Quality Code. They are a concise and uniform way of describing a programme in terms of its objectives and methods. It is a national requirement (and SOAS policy) that they be available for all programmes leading to awards. The provision of this information in a uniform format allows prospective students and others to compare programmes across institutions.

Programme specifications are linked to from the website of each of the School’s programmes. Creation of a programme specification is an essential step in the approval of a new programme, and programme proposals will not be considered by LTQC without one. Annual Programme Reviews offer Heads of Department/programme convenors an opportunity to review the programme specification and make amendments where necessary. Programme specifications are also a key part of the documentation looked at by panels conducting  Periodic Programme Reviews.