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Tertiary Quality Project – phases

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SFC has organised the project in phases:

Planning for implementation and delivery - Phase 4

In May 2023, SFC commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to lead on the design, planning and delivery of a multi-year external peer-review cycle for colleges and universities for implementation in AY 2024-25. QAA is working closely with Education Scotland drawing on their extensive experience and utilising their knowledge and understanding of the college sector to ensure that the new external peer review method, is flexible enough to meet the needs of both the college and university sectors.

During this phase (which will run until the end of the 2023-24 academic year), SFC is continuing to work with QAA and all the sector leads, who are taking forward the development of the new arrangements through the workstreams that were initially commissioned during phase 3.

The new approach, including the new external review cycle for colleges and universities will be implemented from AY 2024-25, although the intention is to phase the timing of the first external reviews in colleges into the cycle slightly behind the first university reviews. Some aspects of the new approach, including a template for institutional self-evaluation and reporting on quality, will be piloted by some institutions on a voluntary basis in advance of their full implementation.

  • September – December 2023: Co-creation on key features of the method with the sectors and planning for implementation.
  • Within academic year 2024-25: Implementation.

Co-creation - Phase 3

Through phases 1 and 2, we clearly heard the need to continue to co-design and create the TQEF with the sectors and stakeholders. The College Development Network report,  Self-evaluation in the tertiary sector: co-creating a new approach  [PDF] highlighted how to do this through the recommendations for SFC.

Building on the co-creation undertaken in phase 1 (mapping, self-evaluation and sector engagements), we developed a plan for phase 3 which involved a series of co-creation workshops and workstreams, overseen by a cross-sector steering group.

Co-creation workshops Autumn 2022

SFC brought together colleges, universities and key stakeholders to support cross-sector understanding of how quality currently works across each. Our mapping work [PDF] demonstrates we have much in common across colleges and universities which provides a strong starting point for the development of a TQEF.

A cross section of over 130 colleagues representing a broad range of our tertiary sector including students, quality agencies, colleges, universities and awarding bodies contributed to the workshops. The first focused on developing a shared understanding of quality processes in each sector and on shaping draft principles for the new approach, while the second focused on data and evidence to support evaluation and successful outcomes for students.

As a result of the workshops we:

  • Updated the draft principles that underpin the TQEF.
  • Developed a shared understanding of college and university metrics which underpin quality evaluation and review.

Workshop engagement was high and feedback suggested those attending found them extremely valuable in developing knowledge and understanding of their “opposite” sector.

Dr Omolabake Fakunle, Chancellor’s Fellow, from the University of Edinburgh commented:

“It’s been wonderful to engage in insightful discussions with a range of stakeholders across the education sector. The success of the workshops, whether online or in-person, reflects the quality of the content presented for discussion and debate, in a respectful collegial environment. I cannot thank enough the SFC Team for its hard work and commitment to making this possible and I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this important work.”

Ann Heron, Head of Quality Enhancement, Ayrshire college, said:

“I enjoyed participating in the tertiary stakeholder workshop and hearing from colleagues across both sectors about ‘how we do Quality’! Having input from QAA, Education Scotland, SQA and sparqs led to some interesting and lively discussions. I left the workshop with a much better understanding of the approach to Quality in the higher education sector and I look forward to further collaborations as the project develops.”

Mr Brian Green, Deputy Associate Principal, Learning and Teaching, University of Strathclyde shared these thoughts:

“The workshop was effective in bringing the sectors together to look at academic quality and enhancement – there was more common ground than I expected. The mapping exercise looking at respective college and university processes was particularly helpful to recognise and better understand the terminology used in relation to the processes we have in common that have the same objectives and focus.”

Policy Review and Reflection - Phase 2

Phase 2 comprised a policy review which reflected, consolidated and considered the evidence, views and inputs from our partners and key stakeholders. We also considered emerging inter-relationships across policy agendas, including the Muir Review, and other developing SFC Review activity.

This process enabled us to consolidate a deeper understanding of the responses to our original Review consultation. It also enabled us to be clearer about the benefits and gains we can make through a tertiary framework for quality [PDF] which will support outcomes for learners, and the coherence and sustainability ambitions of our system.

Building evidence and mapping arrangements - Phase 1

The purpose of Phase 1 was to explore whether a tertiary approach to quality assurance and enhancement was possible and to establish a shared understanding of the strengths and commonalities across the sectors. We undertook significant stakeholder engagement and co-creation of evidence with the sectors around how we might develop a tertiary approach to quality for further and higher education in Scotland. In addition, we worked with fixed term expert advisory and sector working groups to provide advice and guidance on the scope and parameters of a tertiary approach to quality.

Key questions we wanted to explore

  1. What are our current strengths and what do we want to keep from our current approaches? [PDF]
  2. What are the similarities and differences in our current approaches? [PDF]
  3. How can we build on institution processes for supporting and reporting quality enhancement and quality assurance? [PDF]


A series of workstreams were initiated during phase 3 and are ongoing in phase 4, helping us to shape different aspects of the TQEF and continue with co-creation. For example, they are helping to shape the evidence base for indicators that work within a learning and teaching context, and the architecture the sectors need to organise and continue ownership of the new approach in partnership with SFC and other stakeholders.

Shaping Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework.

Using data and evidence to understand, evaluate and improve student outcomes.

Strengthening institutional monitoring, self-evaluation and Shaping Scotland’s Ted reporting on quality.

Evaluating and enhancing the student learning experience and student partnership.

Tertiary sector enhancement activity.

Tertiary Quality Project Steering Group

SFC will continue to work with the TQP Steering Group [PDF], which is made up of partners, experts and stakeholders to develop and shape this phase of the project.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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