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QAA publishes latest edition of Quality Compass, focusing on Micro-credentials

Date: April 16 - 2021

The second edition of our Quality Compass series, focusing on micro-credentials, has been published on our public website. Quality Compass helps our members explore ideas and consider responses to future opportunities and challenges in the rapidly changing landscape of higher education.

The publication is timely as in January 2021, the Westminster Government published an interim response to the Augar Report and a further education White Paper, Skills for Jobs, both of which have implications for the development of more flexible approaches to learning. In Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council announced additional university upskilling funding for micro-credentials in the 2020-21 academic year through the National Transition Training fund.

These recent developments have stimulated debate around the concept of short, industry-focused learning that enables upskilling. This edition of Quality Compass considers what the proposals on lifelong learning from the governments in England and Scotland might mean for the sector, and how QAA proposes to push the agenda forward.

In this publication, QAA defines the terms ‘micro-credentials’ and ‘modular qualifications’ and identifies some of the challenges to the development of units or modules of credit-bearing learning. These include the widely held view that learning gained through a collection of short courses is less credible than a relatively uninterrupted, linear and immersive experience of higher education.

Significantly, Quality Compass offers members guidance on how to monitor, manage and award micro-credentials, summarising five potential models for UK-based micro-credentials.

QAA advocates the development and delivery of micro-credentials as a driver of sustainable lifelong learning, noting the necessity for a significant re-think of the experience of higher education and the value of a learner-directed, employability-focused approach.

You can read Quality Compass: Which Way for Micro-Credentials? on our website. An audio version, recorded by the author, is also available.

Our Quality Compass series is funded by QAA Members and we have chosen to make this series publicly available to support wider debate on key matters or policy issues in the UK and internationally. We have also published an additional discussion paper on modular qualifications with a focus on micro-credentials, on our Membership Resources Site.

The first edition of Quality Compass, focusing on navigating assessment in a digital environment, was initially made available to QAA Members on our Membership Resources Site in December 2020. We have now made the document, along with its audio version, available on our public website.

This edition explores the concept of 'authentic assessment', questioning how members can approach assessment from a principles-based position, what the ethics of remote assessment and online proctoring signify, and how to put learner-centric models at the core of assessment strategies. 

QAA offers Quality Compass as a conversation starter and we invite your contributions and reactions. Do you have a topic you would like explored in future editions, or would you like to respond to anything raised in previous editions? Please contact us at

Dr Ailsa Crum, QAA’s Director of Membership, Quality Enhancement and Services said: ‘We intend Quality Compass to open discussions and explore ideas in a constructively provocative manner. Our members may not agree with all they read here and we’re comfortable with that - this isn’t about guidance from QAA, but an opportunity to consider possible future directions for higher education and the implications for quality and standards, enabling our member community to benefit from the links we have with governments and agencies inside the UK and internationally.’