Westminster Higher Education Forum

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
For booking-related queries or information on speaking please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk, or contact us: +44 (0)1344 864796.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? You can contact our Delegate Relations team at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk or by calling the above number.

Developing quality assurance in higher education - academic integrity, grade inflation and next steps for the higher education credit framework

April 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference is examining the future of quality assurance in higher education - particularly in the context of the growth of online learning in the wake of COVID-19.

Areas for discussion include:

  • regulating quality and standards in higher education 
  • challenges for providers - including support for students, adjusting teaching styles, mitigating the impact of disadvantage and issues for hands-on disciplines
  • addressing essay mills and contract cheating 
  • the review of the Higher Education Credit Framework and ensuring that it reflects the current provision of higher education
  • tackling grade inflation

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from the IfATE and the Department for the Economy, NI.

The agenda:

  • The quality of UK university courses and options for external assurance
  • The regulation of quality and standards in England
  • Addressing the use of essay mills and contract cheating in digital learning
  • Challenges for quality assurance in the wake of the pandemic - quality in digital learning, academic integrity in remote assessment, and emerging best practice
  • Review of the Higher Education Credit Framework - key findings
  • Ensuring the credit framework reflects the current provision of higher education
    • Degree apprenticeships, postgraduate study and the developing higher education landscape
    • Digital education at scale, micro-credentials and meeting the needs of educators, industry and employers
  • Tackling grade inflation and next steps forward

Areas for discussion:

  • regulatory quality assurance in HE remote education - emerging approaches, strategies and best practice for regulators in continuing to enforce standards in the context of remote learning
  • challenges for providers - varied ways higher education providers can continue to meet the standards of the QAA Quality Code:
    • support for students - providing effective remote support, academic mentoring and confidence boosting, including to reduce the risk of anxious students resorting to academic misconduct
    • teaching styles - the ability of teaching staff to adjust to remote education, and the strategies that can be put in place to support adaptation to the new teaching environment
    • mitigating the impact of disadvantage - including ensuring remote education is accessible for disabled students and those experiencing digital poverty
    • hands-on disciplines - delivering programmes with significant practical elements
    • tackling misconduct:
      • reports of increased use of essay mills - occurring amongst some students during the pandemic, and with remote assessment predicted to continue to some extent post-pandemic
      • assessing safeguards and policies - that universities can employ to detect academic misconduct, such as online proctoring services, and ensuring that the enforcement of academic integrity is formally built into staff workload
  • a Higher Education Credit Framework fit for the future - ensuring that the new Framework aligns with the wider regulatory and policy landscape, and the needs of an increasingly diverse sector:
    • the evolving HE landscape - degree apprenticeships, fast-track degrees, micro-credentials, bite-sized education, non-traditional delivery of education, and a proliferation of HEPs
    • recent policy encouraging the nation to upskill - and with rising unemployment leading many to seek to enhance their skills and employability through further study
    • stand-alone micro-credentials - with increasing interest from employers as a quick way to upskill staff, how they can be:
      • accommodated in the context of a current framework that values credit as a part of a larger qualification
      • reconciled into a coherent approach to accreditation more widely
  • grade inflation - assessing progress and discussing next steps for protecting the value of higher education qualifications, with the majority of providers now:
    • seeking to use the new UK-wide principles for effective degree algorithm design to drive up standards
    • intending to improve their external examiner process in terms of, for instance, asking examiners to reflect on trends in degree classification
    • the impact of the pandemic - on guarding the value of degrees, and how to ensure that recent pressures in areas such as staff workload and institutional resources do not hamper continuing progress

Relevant developments:

  • the QAA review of the English academic credit framework - currently underway
    • accompanied by the Consultation on revised HE Credit Framework for England
    • with publication of the new credit framework due in the Spring
  • Consultation on regulating quality and standards in higher education - recently closed consultation by the OfS
  • Universities agree further measures to tackle grade inflation - announced by UUK and GuildHE as part of the ongoing review by the UKSCQA, with six new guiding principles in areas including reliability, fair balance in assessment, protecting standards, regular reviews, regard for impact on varying student groups, and clear communication
  • Higher Education Student Statistics 2019/20 released - HESA statistics showing a rise in the number of first class qualifications, with 35% of students achieving a first class degree compared with 28% from the previous year, in part due to the implementation of no detriment policies at many providers
  • Gravity Assist - the recent OfS review of digital teaching and learning during the pandemic: 
    • finding that teaching staff are in need of increased support in designing online courses, as only 21% felt very confident in their ability to deliver digital teaching, while 49% of students were very confident that they had the abilities to benefit from online learning
    • foreseeing an increasingly central role for online learning in the future of the sector -  assessing the effectiveness of courses dependant on approach and design rather than delivery method, with adequate digital infrastructure and inclusive and constant strategy considered to be essential to its success
    • recommendations which included:
      • increased student engagement in curriculum design
      • that courses take student’s digital access into account
      • support for staff to develop digital skills and clear communication of the skills needed to engage with the course before students start 
  • Digital delivery drives up student engagement and success - the recent report by the QAA highlighting consistent and clear communication along with student collaboration as key drivers of student engagement, while targeted video content, live Q&As and facilitated workshops have all contributed to maintaining academic standards
  • QAA Collaborative Enhancement Projects - funding quality improvement initiatives in areas such as blended learning delivery and assessment, and modular qualification
  • Digital teaching and learning in English higher education during the coronavirus pandemic - the current review by the OfS
  • COVID-19 support - new QAA guidance for HE providers on maintaining quality and academic standards, as well as on assessing with integrity in digital delivery
  • How UK higher education providers managed the shift to digital delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic - the recent QAA evaluation of blended learning finding that remote learning should be accessible, and that students require support, skills and connectivity to properly engage
  • Latest lockdown should not lead to lost learning, says regulator - recent OfS letter to providers calling for clarity on how teaching and learning will take place and for refunds or redress where this is not made clear to students or where promises are not delivered
  • Subject Advisory Groups for Subject Benchmark Statements- the QAA will be reviewing the benchmarking statements for subjects including chemistry, computing, history and environmental science through 2021 and is inviting expressions of interest to join subject advisory panels
  • university fraud - the recent announcement that Jisc and its fraud and verification service, identified and closed 85 websites representing fraudulent universities and offering fake qualifications

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for the Economy, NI.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials from DfE and other Government departments and agencies, together senior university leaders and registry staff, student union representatives, edtech providers, course coordinators, teaching academics, teaching unions and other professional bodies, HE regulators, consultancies and think tanks along with commentators and reporters from national and trade media.  

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles