Universities Wales Weekly Wrap Up – 20 July 2018

Unis Wales response to Welsh Government’s technical consultation on the reform of the post-compulsory education and training (PCET) system in Wales

Welsh Government’s technical consultation on the reform of the post-compulsory education and training (PCET) system in Wales closed on Tues 17 July. Universities Wales response is available to view on our website.


European plaudits for QAA and UK higher education quality assurance

QAA logoThe Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) makes ‘valuable contributions to protecting student interests and towards higher education quality advancements internationally’.

That is the verdict of a European panel in an independent review of QAA, the UK’s independent quality body for higher education. The panel’s report is published today by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). The review found QAA to be fully or substantially compliant in all areas. Only one other European agency has matched this level of compliance. The panel identified QAA as ‘internationally, one of the leading quality assurance agencies’.

QAA is a founding member of ENQA, the umbrella body for quality agencies in the European Higher Education Area. A review to check compliance against European Standards and Guidelines at least every five years is a condition of membership. The positive review outcome also allows QAA to apply to reconfirm its listing on the European Quality Assurance Register, and deliver quality reviews across Europe and beyond.

QAA in its work on behalf of UK higher education received a significant number of commendations. Comments include:

  • ‘The contribution of students to review processes is commendable’.
  • ‘QAA is commended for having a robust governance and well-developed internal quality assurance system which is applied rigorously’.
  • ‘Analytical work by QAA and institutional submissions to the agency are of high quality and provide value to the higher education sector’.
  • ‘QAA is commended for its wide involvement of stakeholders … in the governance of the agency, development of quality assurance policies and procedures, and enhancement work’.

In his letter to QAA, ENQA president Christoph Grolimund also notes that ‘the [ENQA] Board appreciates QAA’s firm commitment to quality enhancement and commends specifically its enhancement-led approach in thematic analysis’.

The panel also noted the increasing importance of UK transnational education, or TNE. Over 700,000 students now study for a UK higher education qualification overseas. While it noted QAA’s extensive activity in quality assuring this type of provision, the panel specifically recommended that QAA should respond to this increasing demand and ‘intensify its activity with respect to TNE reviews overseas and … strengthen its oversight of collaborative provision arrangements’. QAA is already in discussion with partners in the sector about future approaches to TNE review.

Commenting on what this review means for the UK higher education sector, Douglas Blackstock, QAA’s Chief Executive, said: ‘This is a great outcome, not just for QAA, but for every university and college that offers higher education across the UK. We have demonstrated that our approaches to securing academic standards and assuring quality meet rigorous European expectations.

‘ENQA has recognised our firm commitment to enhancement, and the emphasis that we, and the UK higher education sector, place on doing what we can to improve educational experiences. Students around the world – and governments, for that matter – can be reassured that our higher education system is world class, and worth investing in.’


HEFCW Annual Report

Wrap up 9 march HEFCW logo




HEFCW’s annual report was laid before the National Assembly for Wales on 19 July 2018.


The Conversation showcase: Highlighting the latest work by academics at Welsh universities

Pristine Antarctic fjords contain similar levels of microplastics to open oceans near big civilisations(Bangor)

Festivals are bigger business than ever before – but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their care free spirit (Aberystwyth)

The ‘stolen babies’ trial in Spain finally shines a light on a scandal that cannot be forgotten (Swansea)

Documentaries, rom-coms – and tentative first steps in a new era of Sino-British film collaboration (Cardiff)

Listening to employees’ ideas could solve UK’s productivity slowdown (Cardiff)
Unused £321m trapped on dormant Oyster cards – and time may be running out to get it back (Bangor)

Why football may still be coming home … to France (Bangor)

Other stories of note:

It takes just six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car

Policing of cannabis possession is largely accidental – and many officers don’t think it makes a difference

Why Ryanair passengers were bleeding from the ears

Loneliness is contagious – and here’s how to beat it

Research shows four in five experts cited in online news are men

Would a longer lifespan make us happier? A philosopher’s take

Omega 3 supplements don’t protect against heart disease – new review

Curious Kids: how do the clouds stay up in the sky?


Political Update

  • HEFCW’s Dr David Blaney and Bethan Owen appeared before the Children, Young People and Education Committee earlier this week as part of its inquiry into the impact of Brexit on higher and further education. Their evidence paper is available here, while a transcript can be read here.
  • Ahead of the Royal Welsh Show, a £7.3m EU-backed package to help address skills gaps and assist businesses in the food and agriculture sector develop new products and services has been announced by Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths. BioInnovation Wales will be led by Aberystwyth University in partnership with Swansea University.
  • Prince’s Trust Ambassador Tim Peake was in Cardiff earlier this week for the announcement of £7.2m of funding to encourage young people – and especially girls – to study STEM subjects at school. The Cabinet Secretary for Education has agreed the reappointment of 8 Independent Assessors for Student Finance Appeals and Complaints 2018.