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28 June 2022

College HE Policy and Practice Network: key reflections


Dr Kate Mori

Academic Engagement Manager, QAA

Natalja Williams

Membership Engagement Manager, QAA

We first launched our College HE Network in 2021 with the aim of creating a space for College Members to share views and swap practice. It soon evolved into the current format where we offer a policy session aimed primarily at senior college colleagues followed by a practice sharing session for a wider group of staff – and students are also welcome to join. These sessions have proved popular and are now a firm part of our QAA Membership offer. This blog post provides a flavour of the topics discussed and resources we’ve shared.

Policy session

Recent policy conversations have covered the Department for Education (DfE) consultations on the lifelong loan entitlement and HE reform in England, QAA’s upcoming review from the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), proposed Tertiary Education reforms in Scotland and Wales as well as an update on developing a new enhancement approach in Northern Ireland.


Given the increased need for flexibility of the curriculum in response to the proposed introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, Robin Hindley, Vice Principal, Conel College (CCCG/WKCIC group) shared his College’s thinking around flexible pathways and modular learning, including how they may adapt their approaches to structuring degree programmes, responding to the needs of employers, part-time adult learners and upskilling their local communities. For QAA’s part, in 2021 we published the revised Higher Education Credit Framework for England along with supporting resources identifying settings in which credit can be used to support greater flexibility for students.


Helping college HE design flexible pathways


QAA has developed a Micro-credentials Characteristics Statement to help all HE providers understand the nature of micro-credentials, and their implications for admissions and access, including the role of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). The Statement also considers course design, particularly the development of pathways through ‘stackable’ credits and places a focus on the characteristics of the learners who are likely to study these short awards. We are also funding a number of Collaborative Enhancement Projects that are exploring micro-credentials and modular learning, considering areas such as assessment workload.


We hope these resources will be helpful for all colleges who are delivering or developing flexible pathways and/or micro-credentials. QAA Members can also book a Quality Clinic with one of our Quality and Standards Specialists to discuss any aspect of practice including questions you may have around implementing flexible pathways - don’t hesitate to reach out to your Membership Engagement Manager.


Academic Integrity Charter


We have been very active around the challenging issue of academic integrity and are very pleased that the Skills and Post-16 Education Act has been passed into law which criminalises essay mills and the advertising of these illegitimate services in England. Over 200 QAA Members have signed up to our Academic Integrity Charter, representing the sector’s collective commitment to protecting and promoting academic integrity and taking action against academic misconduct. We are continuing to work with the Department for Education and the devolved administrations to discuss the issues around academic integrity and ways to ensure the essay mill ban can be implemented across all UK nations.


Practice session


Our practice sessions at the College HE Network cover a range of priority topics. The May 2022 session explored effective ways of engaging students in academic support activities to enable their success and progression in college-based higher education. A panel drawn from six QAA Member institutions shared their approaches to supporting students with academic skills - whether these are embedded in the curriculum, credit bearing, or delivered outside the formal curriculum. The panel also discussed how student engagement with academic study skills is facilitated, sharing ideas of what works in their institutions, along with the initiatives they’ve used to support their students to navigate HE study, and top tips about engaging students and supporting staff.


We would like to extend our thanks to the following colleagues for sharing their insights and approaches during the session: Emma Connolly, Organisational Quality Assurance Manager and Fiona Dempsey, Head of Belfast Business School, HE lead from Belfast Metropolitan College; Lucy Godfrey-Porter, Achievement and Success Centre Co-ordinator from Hartpury University; Issy Hallam, UCSD Student Development and Tutorial Manager from South Devon College; and Emma Hurst, Dean of HE and Access and Patrick Cox, Library and Academic Skills Manager from Coleg Cambria. QAA has curated a suite of resources on supporting successful student transitions which are available on our Membership Resources Site.

QAA’s College HE Policy and Practice Network brings together college-based HE senior leaders and practitioners from across the UK, providing a platform to keep up to date with key higher education policy developments, discuss quality-related issues and share practice. The Network is part of QAA Membership and is only available to QAA Members.


All staff and students from QAA Members institutions have access to the full range of resources we produce and share on our Membership Resources Site. If your institution is not a member, contact in time for the next QAA Membership year commencing on 1 August 2022.