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Heriot-Watt University commended by QAA review

Date: March 5 - 2021

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published the latest Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) report for Heriot-Watt University. The UK's independent higher education quality body has commended Heriot-Watt University for its achievements in many areas including creating a shared identity and institutional vision across national and international campuses, effective engagement with student representative bodies, and its global and connected approach to student support.

QAA appointed a team of six independent experts to undertake an Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) of Heriot-Watt University. The team reviewed the University in January, March and November 2020. Its commendations included a number of areas:

  • A strong institutional vision, strategy and leadership to engender a sense of global community in its national and international campuses.
  • A clear commitment from senior leadership to the implementation of the Learning and Teaching strategy, exemplified through clear and accessible policies and procedures, the establishment of the Learning and Teaching Academy and the further development of the role of Directors of Learning and Teaching in Schools.
  • Mutual respect between senior management and student officers leading to increasing effective student representation and in turn effective enhancement of the student learning experience.

Professor John Sawkins, Deputy Principal and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Heriot-Watt University said: ‘Our ELIR Review was postponed mid-stream in March 2020 when UK lockdown restrictions were introduced. Therefore, we were pleased to be able to resume and complete the review, fully online, in November 2020. 

‘Undertaking the review in this way enabled us to demonstrate externally, for the first time on such a large scale, our global connectedness, with students and staff participating equally and easily from all five of our campus locations. We are grateful to QAA Scotland and to the ELIR team for the exemplary way in which the review was conducted, adapting the methodology so that the review considered not only the specified ELIR key areas, but also how we had responded and adapted to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We are delighted with our set of commendations, as they recognise all that we value and are striving towards as an institution worldwide, with students at the centre: a globally connected community; open, collegial partnership working with our three student representative bodies; a globally integrated approach to student support which has enhanced the student experience and the sense of community; the University’s commitment to enhancing learning and teaching; a mature, effective institutional quality framework.’

QAA's report also makes a number of recommendations, asking Heriot-Watt University to:

  • implement an institutional approach to the use of data that is systematic and accessible to help improve decision making, enhance the student learning experience and support student attainment
  • engage proactively and work in partnership with postgraduate research students to identify ways to improve their sense of belonging in the University community and develop a consistent institution-wide postgraduate research student environment
  • ensure equity of access to staff development opportunities across all campuses.


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