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TQEF: Enhancing the student learning experience through partnership 

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This briefing provides you with information about the development of Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework (TQEF), the important role of student and staff partnership and recent developments as we work towards the TQEF’s launch in Academic Year 2024-25.

Scottish Funding Council

We are Scotland’s tertiary education and research authority and our purpose is to sustain a world-leading system of tertiary education, research and innovation that enables students to flourish, changes lives for the better, and supports social, economic and environmental wellbeing and prosperity.

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Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework

The TQEF marks an important step in achieving our aim of establishing a single approach to quality in the tertiary education sector.

The journey so far...

In June 2020, Scottish Ministers wrote to SFC, asking it to undertake a review of how it could best fulfil our mission to secure coherent, good quality and sustainable tertiary education and research. Published in June 2021, the Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability recommended that SFC, and the sector, begin to explore a single tertiary approach to quality.

In November 2021, SFC launched the Tertiary Quality Project (TQP) in partnership with Scotland’s universities, colleges and sector agencies:

The aim of the TQP was to develop a common approach to assuring and enhancing quality in the tertiary sector and to support the sector to deliver the best learning experience for students.

Co-creation with the sector

From the outset, co-creation between SFC, institutional staff, students and sector quality agencies has been an essential part of the TQEF’s journey. To deliver the TQP, the project was separated into a series of phases, supported by a Steering Group and co-chaired by Professor Moira Fischbacher-Smith (Vice-Principal [Learning and Teaching], University of Glasgow), Simon Hewitt (Principal, Dundee and Angus College) and Ellie Gomersall (NUS Scotland President).

Scotland's Approach to Student Engagement in Quality

Scotland’s tertiary education sector is committed to providing students with a high-quality learning experience that puts them at the heart of the educational experience.

Student engagement and partnership have long been a defining feature of Scotland’s tertiary sector and as we enter a new era of challenges and opportunities, it will be a vital part of the new approach too.

Over the last 20 years, Scotland’s tertiary education sector has used two enhancement frameworks:

Both frameworks have provided robust mechanisms to assure and enhance the quality of learning, teaching, assessment and the overall student experience in Scotland and we have worked with the sectors to build on these strengths to create the TQEF.

In developing TQEF, excellence in learning, teaching and assessment as well as student engagement and partnership have been built into the founding principles. This not only recognises the legacy of the sector’s successes over the last 20 years, but ensures that the new framework will be driven by strong staff and student partnership in our institutions and enable all students to meet their aims and aspirations.

The TQEF is comprised of the underpinning principles, delivery pillars and outputs that can be applied to the different contexts of our colleges and universities to give assurance on academic standards and the quality of the student experience and ensure accountability for public investment in learning and teaching. The delivery pillars include the external peer review, internal institution-led activity and annual quality engagement, all of which will be underpinned by a strong thread of data and evidence to support these activities. The outputs describe the reporting aspects which will be drawn from the delivery activities and submitted to SFC.

Diagram of the TQEF

Ongoing TQEF development activity

Self-Evaluation and Action Plan (SEAP) 

The SEAP is part of the TQEF and will enable institutions to undertake an annual, high-level, reflection on their quality assurance and enhancement activities and identify key areas of improvement.

These annual institutional reports will be submitted to SFC to provide assurance of the impact and effective delivery of high-quality learning provision in colleges and universities and to support ongoing enhancement. SFC worked with The Quality Forum and CDN’s Quality Steering Group to develop a draft template and undertook a pilot with five institutions (Ayrshire College, Borders College, Scotland’s Rural College, University of Edinburgh and the University of St. Andrews). The learning from the pilot is being used to develop the final SEAP guidance before it is shared with the sector.

Student Learning Experience Model 

SFC commissioned sparqs to develop an updated Student Learning Experience (SLE) model to support students and staff to evaluate and enhance the student experience. Staff and students can access the SLE model and other helpful resources on the sparqs website.

Over the next year, sparqs will continue to develop supporting guidance for colleges, universities and students’ associations to help them use the model in practice. This will include using the model in student representative training and development; in institutions’ self-evaluation and enhancement planning; and as a sector benchmark in internal and external reviews.

Staff are encouraged to work with their students’ associations and the wider student body to use the new model to reflect on their current learning experience and identify areas of enhancement.

Development of the External Peer Review Cycle and National Approach to Enhancement 

SFC commissioned QAA to lead the development of a new institutional external review method, in collaboration with Education Scotland, CDN and sparqs, as part of the TQEF. In September and October 2023, they hosted a series of workshops to capture the views and opinions of staff and students to inform its development. QAA has also established a steering group which includes students and staff with experience of the previous college and university review methods.

QAA is also designing a national approach to enhancement activity for the tertiary sector, engaging with CDN as a key collaborator in the development process. The final proposal will be submitted to SFC in June 2024, with activity under the new approach beginning in academic year 2024-25. The approach is being developed by a Tertiary Enhancement Activity Advisory Group, which includes student members.

Institutional staff are encouraged to keep in touch with their quality teams in the coming months to learn more about how the TQEF is developing and being implemented within their institutions. In the next briefing SFC will provide more information on the implementation of the TQEF in Scotland’s tertiary education institutions and sector.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

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

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