HM: Hannah MacAskill
HB: Harriet Barnes
HM: Welcome to QAA's podcast. I am Hannah MacAskill and I am talking today to Harriet Barnes, Development Officer for QAA. She is going to explain about recognising achievements beyond the curriculum. Harriet, good morning.
HB: Good morning.
HM: So, could you start off by telling us a bit more about what this area of activity is that QAA is looking at?
HB: Yes. Obviously students do more at university than just study their academic course, and so universities have started developing ways to recognise those things that students might do, whether it is volunteering, or sports activity, or being involved with the Students' Union, or lots of other things. And so QAA is looking at this range of activity and the ways that universities are thinking about recognising that.
HM: And why is this an area of interest for QAA?
HB: Well, it is something that has increased quite significantly in the last few years, particularly in the last five years, and that is partly due to the introduction of the Higher Education Achievement Report, which includes the opportunity for universities to say something about things that students have done beyond the curriculum. But it is also just a general recognition that students need to develop skills possibly more than just academic knowledge.
So QAA is interested in surveying what is out there, finding out about these awards, and it has been suggested to us that it might be helpful for us to look at this and see if we can pull together some good practice guidance to help universities.
HM: So, how are we going about that, how are we helping the universities?
HB: Well, obviously, at QAA we don't want to be laying down particular ways to carry out these awards - it very much depends on the university's own students, what it wants to get out of the awards, how they are going to structure them - but we think it would be helpful to try and collect together some good practice and help universities not fall into problems, but if one university has solved an issue we would like to help share that good practice, so we are having a discussion with the sector to see if we can find out what those issues are.
HM: Right, okay, and what are we looking to do in the future?
HB: Well, we have started by publishing a couple of short papers that look at awards and some of the challenges, and the possible purposes, and whether awards can help to develop students' employability skills particularly, but also how they can help students recognise the value of their university experience and develop a love of lifelong learning and reflection. So with those papers that we have published, we have collected some feedback and we will be collecting some more feedback at a workshop at the end of this month, and we will then consider that feedback and see if there is a general accepted need for developing some further guidance.
HM: Right, I see. Are there any key issues in recognising extra-curricular activities?
HB: There are a number of different challenges for universities, the first obviously being the type of award or what structure the university puts in place, and that can often depend upon what they say is the main purpose of the award: whether they want to recognise things students are already doing, or whether they want to provide some additional activities that students could complete to get an award, and whether this is something that always sits outside the curriculum or whether it is something that can be embedded within it in part.
But that in itself raises particular challenges; there are questions around resourcing, how many students a university can support to get through an award, whether it can be for all students, or whether it has to be limited by resourcing. And that then in turn raises questions about whether awards are accessible to everybody or whether it is actually only accessible to those students who possibly don't benefit quite so much from it, and those students who would benefit from it are the ones who aren't able to access it because of time or other commitments.
HM: Okay, anything more to add?
HB: Well, we would encourage people, if they are interested in this area, to let us have their feedback and suggest whether they think we should be producing some guidance on this. If so, what do we need to include in that? And we have got a webpage currently set up on QAA's website, and we will be letting the sector know before Christmas whether we are going ahead with developing the guidance.
HM: Fantastic. Okay, well thank you very much for talking to us today. Thank you for listening to this week's QAA podcast.