Draft rules set to complete QAA's code of practice

April 21, 2000

The last nine quality control rules of a list of more than 150 that universities will have to adhere to have been set down by the Quality Assurance Agency, writes Phil Baty.

The QAA's code of practice on university procedures for setting up and monitoring new academic programmes, which are published in draft this week, forms the final document in a "suite" of seven interrelated codes.

The seven documents form the all-encompassing Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education.

The list of 153 rules under the full code is not supposed to be prescriptive, but institutions will be named and shamed for failing to conform to the rules. Adherence to the codes will form the basis of the QAA audit reports under the new quality assurance framework.

The rules, called "precepts"

by the QAA, cover student assessment, collaborative provision, external examining, postgraduate research, complaints procedures, disability and programme approval.

"The precepts identify those key matters that the agency expects an institution to be able to demonstrate it is addressing effectively through its own quality assurance mechanisms," the QAA said.

"The agency will report on how effectively higher education institutions individually are meeting these expectations and are discharging their responsibilities," it added.

The latest code, on "programme approval, monitoring and review" is one of three of the seven codes that remain in draft form. It covers universityies' procedures for the approval of all new programmes of study and the subsequent monitoring of the programmes' usefulness and validity.

The code sets out clear rules for the approval of new academic programmes.

It ensures that the final go-ahead is given by an independent body and that any delegation of final responsibility from a university's senate or academic board is clearly defined and exercised.

It also rules that institutions should bring in specialists who are "external to the design and delivery of the programme" to inform the design and approval process.

These could be experts from professional or statutory bodies, especially work-place experts, partner institutions or peers from other related disciplines.

Review of a programmes' continued relevance and appropriateness should involve "external participants of high calibre and academic/professional credibility".

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