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QAA’s new guidance: higher education responses to the COVID-19 challenge

Date: April 7 - 2020

Beginning today, we are publishing new detailed advice, drawing on emerging practice in higher education, to support the sector in its response to the COVID-19 challenge.

We already delivered guidance to the sector to address its immediate concerns in March. Now we're publishing four pieces of detailed non-regulatory advice, developed with our members, and which focus on key areas of priority for higher education providers across the UK.

Across the UK, universities are having to adapt to provide innovative solutions that enable students to complete their studies. They are also having to develop reliable assessments that are fair for all, award qualifications securely, and enable fair and robust admissions processes for next year.

Thematic guidance on four areas is now publicly available on the QAA website:

  • Securing academic standards and supporting student achievement: including key information on exams and assessments in the current environment; communication and consultation with students; the 'safety net'; or 'no detriment' approach to grading; credit volume and progression; degree algorithms; the use of externals; whether certificates or transcripts should be marked to indicate the special circumstances of this year; and advice on resits and appeals.
  • Practice and lab-based assessment: including advice for the creative arts, music and performance, as well as laboratory and simulated clinical environments, with key guidance on topics such as alternative modes of assessment and student support.
  • Accelerated degrees: focusing on topics including alternative assessments, progression, learning outcomes, student deferrals and delays.
  • Work-based learning (including placements / partnerships / apprenticeships / study abroad): providing guidance on professional and optional placements, study and work placements abroad, apprenticeships and partnership working.

The new documents support providers now by sharing practice in response to the immediate situation. They also help longer-term planning by enabling the sector to consider the changes it wants to retain in policy and practice in the future.

Douglas Blackstock, QAA's Chief Executive, said: 'The sector is having to adapt rapidly and develop new practices across its entire operations, from learning and teaching to partnerships, validation, student support and facilities. This advice is intended to support all providers by sharing emerging practice and providing key information and advice in some of the most pressing areas of concern. The situation is fast moving, and so we’ll be continuing to update our guidance over the coming weeks, as well as providing more online resources for our members.'

Ailsa Crum, QAA's Head of Quality and Enhancement, provides an introduction to the guidance in this short video.

Further QAA guidance will be published in the coming weeks.