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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Chapter B4 Consultation 

DN: Daniel Nicholls
JB: Janet Bohrer
HB: Harriet Barnes
IW: Dr Iain Whitehead
RM: Rob MacPherson

DN: Good afternoon, this is Daniel Nicholls of the Quality Assurance Agency and today finds us on the road again for another Quality Code Event, this time for Chapter B4: Supporting student achievement. And today I am joined by the Chapter leads, Janet Bohrer and Harriet Barnes, both of the QAA, hello ladies.

JB: Hello

HB: Hello

DN: Hello. I wonder if you could help myself and our listens with a number of questions we have today? And the first question, Harriet, is what is Chapter B4: Student student achievement actually all about?

HB: Well the Chapter is part of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. It is a Chapter that draws on some of the existing material but also has new material in it. It is about the things that higher education providers do outside the direct academic experience to support students in achieving in their learning. So it is a range of different services including learning resources, support for students, academic support, personal support - a very broad ranging Chapter. 

DN: Okay, very interesting indeed. I mean, if I was an institution, or an organisation listening out there, and I thought, 'Wow, I really want to get involved in Chapter B4', Janet, how could I get involved?

JB: Well we have been running a number of events to support the consultation, to which a number of people have come to and given us their thoughts and their views about how we can make changes to the Chapter. 

DN: Okay.

JB: But the consultation is still open for people to write more formal comments and there are questions that they can answer through our Survey Monkey response form which they can get on our website. That is open until the 3rd January so we need to take comments by then and then the Chapter itself will be published by the end of March 2013. 

DN: Okay, that is great. So basically if you do want to get involved, or for anymore information about Chapter B4: Supporting student achievement, you may wish to visit the QAA website which is

DN: Good afternoon, this is Daniel Nicholls of the Quality Assurance Agency, and I am joined by Dr Iain Whitehead of the University of Derby.  Hello Iain.

IW: Hello. 

DN: Hello, I wonder if you could help myself, and our listeners with a number of questions that we have today.

IW: Certainly yes.

DN: That would be great, well the first question we have got today, is, what are your thoughts on the consultation document for this Chapter?

IW: I think the thing that has stuck me most of all about the Chapter is the extent to which, I think, it could have been more concisely and precisely written than it is at the moment. There was quite a degree of repetition in the Chapter, I thought, and maybe some of the statements were so bland as to yes, nobody would disagree with them but did they really need to be stated in the Chapter, very much a kind of 'Am I stating the obvious here', I thought.

DN: Oh, right, okay. I mean do you think this Chapter meets the needs of your organisation?

IW: Yeah, I think certainly there is nothing in the Chapter that the organisation can't meet, indeed I would probably argue that there is nothing in there that we are not already covering and certainly attempting to do to the best of our ability, so I don't think there is challenges in that respect, I think it certainly addresses things that we are doing already institutionally in terms of looking at how we manage the student experience, how we ensure that we are collaborating across services and departments within the institution as well, so I think it is an encouragement to do more of those things which I think we are already addressing. 

DN: Okay, that is very interesting, I mean do you think there is anything missing, particular from this Chapter, I mean people are talking about there is Indicators that could be added or removed, I mean is there anything you think particularly that could be added to this Chapter to make it more whole and complete?

IW: I think in terms of adding, I would like to see maybe more in there about some of the different kinds of students that we are dealing with. There is not really very much in there for example about work-based learning and off-campus learners. Not really that much about the experience of online and distance learners, and I am surprised at how little there is about international students, so I think more of that kind of aspect of the different kinds of student experience that we are supporting would need to come through in the document.

DN: That is interesting that you say that, I mean that leads us quite nicely into the fourth question, which is basically something that we have been looking at across the UK Quality Code, one of the broad themes, is: as the HE Sector at the moment seems to becoming more and more diverse with a number and range of new providers coming on board, more further education colleges, and you are talking about the types of provider and their needs, do you think this Chapter itself meets the needs of that kind of broader range of providers or do you think there is work to be done there?

IW: I don't know if it is about meeting the needs of those providers, I would perhaps put it the other way, and say that as new providers come into the market (as we are supposed to use that term now) it is about ensuring that they are delivering everything that is in that Chapter to their students because often new providers looking at partnership arrangements provide basic services like libraries and so on, or how secure are those partnership arrangements, are students going to get to a certain point in their degree and find that services they thought they were entitled to are no longer there because obviously the more in which kind you have got outsourcing, or institutions which simply don’t have their own provision and therefore will have to rely on other organisations then the more management issues there are in terms of guaranteeing the level of student experience that students will want to expect.  So it is more in a Chapter like this about what the students should be getting rather than actually whether the new providers feel they are getting what they want out of it.

DN: That is a good point, thanks for that.  Well thank you once again today for answering those questions and perhaps we might hear from you in future Chapters of the UK Quality Code.

IW: Certainly, indeed, yes. I look forward to it.

DN: And today I am joined by Rob McPherson of the University of the Highlands and Islands.  Hello Rob.

RM: Hi Daniel.

DN: Hello, I wonder if you could help myself and our listeners with a number of questions that we have got today.  So the first questions we have got are, what are your thoughts on this consultation document regarding this Chapter?

RM: I think it is really good, I know that they inherited it from past documents, it is trying to bring together a couple of Chapters and look at the student experience and their learning journey and how they are supported in that through a whole range of different aspects, library services, guidance, pre-entry, and I think that it covers it succinctly and really well. 

DN: Okay, so do you think this Chapter meets the needs of your organisation?

RM: I think it does, I think the Chapter has been drafted in a way that is very open and very facilitative it means that new institutions such as the University of the Highlands and Islands can find value in it, but also older institutions or Russell Group can find things in it as well. We will all deal with supporting students' needs differently, but for my institution which is largely part-time, a lot of mature students, a lot of distance learning students, there is still the same aspect of coverage as there is for a traditional campus university.

DN: Okay, thank you for that, that is very helpful.  Do you think there is anything actually missing from this Chapter in particular or do you think it kind of covers pretty much everything really?

RM: Well as part of the Advisory Group I'd have to say that we worked hard to make sure there isn't anything missing, and I genuinely think that through the new innovations of linking to other documents elsewhere and cross referencing if there are things that are maybe not as explicit as they were in the old version in this Chapter, there are links to other places, other documents, other legislation and other ideas, that means that it covers it in a holistic manner.

DN: Okay, thank you for that, and our final question today, something we have been looking at across this range of Quality Code consultation podcasts, is looking at as the HE Sector becomes ever more diverse, do you think this particular chapter meets the broad range of needs of those organisations?

RM: I think it does, or certainly it tries to, I mean I think the Advisory group is drawn from a huge diversity of the sector as it currently is in 2012, and to that end it meets the needs of the diversity of the sector. As different providers come in, perhaps less traditional, perhaps more corporately minded, then the Quality Code will need to evolve and move on with it, but at this moment in time, I think it does a pretty good job for what it is trying to do.

DN: Okay, that is brilliant, well thanks for your help today Rob, and thank you once again for listening to this QAA podcast.


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