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TQEF: Enhancing the student learning experience

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The information below has been designed to provide you with an introduction to the development of Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework (TQEF). The TQEF will describe the quality assurance and enhancement approach that colleges and universities will be expected to follow to ensure you not only receive a high-quality learning experience, but that you are a partner in shaping your journey. We will share the ways in which you can engage in this important project as we work towards its 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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sparqs (student partnerships in quality scotland) logo

sparqs (student partnerships in quality Scotland) is Scotland’s national agency for student engagement in colleges and universities. They support students to shape the quality of learning, making positive change to your own and others’ experience, however and wherever they learn.

Scotland’s Approach to Student Engagement in Quality

Scotland’s tertiary education sector, i.e. colleges and universities, is committed to providing you with a high-quality learning experience, which puts you 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 of these 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 the strengths of these to create the TQEF.

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.

  • To deliver the TQP, the project was separated into a series of phases and has been supported by a steering group, co-chaired by NUS Scotland President, Ellie Gomersall.
  • To read more on the development of each phase of the project, go to the Tertiary Quality Project.

In developing TQEF, 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 student partnership in our institutions to enable all students to meet their aims and aspirations.

The TQEF is made up of underpinning principles, delivery pillars and outputs that can be applied in 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 data and evidence to support these activities. The outputs describe the reporting aspects which will be taken from the delivery activities and submitted to SFC.

Diagram of the TQEF

How can you get involved?

Tertiary Quality Student Expert Group

sparqs has established a Tertiary Quality Student Expert Group (TQSEG) which includes students from across Scotland’s colleges and universities. The group will provide a space for students to discuss and influence this project and the framework. Through TQSEG, sparqs will create a joined-up approach to the student voice across the workstreams of the Tertiary Quality Project.

If you are interested in joining TQSEG, you can contact sparqs to express your interest. Students from any college or university in Scotland, at any level of study, can get involved.

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. You can access it and resources to help you use the model, 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 institution’s self-evaluation and enhancement planning; and as a sector benchmark in internal and external reviews.

Student Officers and Students’ Associations will have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the supporting guidance in 2024-25 through sparqs’ sector networks; National Education Officer Network (NEON) and Student Engagement Staff Network (SESN). TQSEG will also play a key role in the development of these resources.

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 reports will be submitted to SFC to provide us with assurance of the impact and effective delivery of high-quality learning provision in colleges and universities and to support ongoing enhancement. sparqs will work with the Student Expert Group to embed student partnership and a focus on the student learning experience in this part of the TQEF.

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

QAA has been commissioned by SFC 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 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.

Students’ Association staff and officers are invited to work with their institutional colleagues to find out more about these projects and discuss how they can inform their development within their college or university. Officers and students’ association staff are also encouraged to attend NEON and SESN to hear the latest updates on these projects throughout the year.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

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

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