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Karen Gray, SFC’s lead for the new Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework, takes a personal look at the learner journey and at wide-ranging benefits inherent in the new framework.

As I take up my new role as Assistant Director for Outcomes, Quality and the Learner Journey, we stand on the brink of launching Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework (TQEF) and it is a good time to reflect on my personal journey, alongside the journey that the sector has travelled to reach this historic point. It is also a fantastic opportunity to look forward to the future.

If you had told me 30 years ago when I finished school that I would one day find myself working for the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), developing a Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework, designed to help promote seamless pathways for students between colleges and universities, I would have laughed and said that was highly unlikely, given I was about to start a three-year diploma in Agriculture.

However, it is perhaps my own unusual pathway that has seeded my belief that everyone can find a programme that suits them, in post-school education. It wasn’t until I left school and followed my own interests, that education really took on significance for me. I have been lucky enough to take up opportunities as they presented themselves and have therefore, experienced a range of programmes and delivery modes from full time college provision to work-based learning, degree and post graduate qualifications, by distance and blended learning. Working in the sector has further cemented the belief that educational institutions have a significant role to play in supporting students to reach their individual potential.

Why tertiary and why now?

Having worked at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), an institution that spans the SCQF levels, I am well versed in the differing quality assurance and enhancement approaches currently in place across our colleges and universities and welcomed the opportunity to join the team working on the new tertiary approach initially as a secondee from SRUC. During the past year, I have been fortunate to work with colleagues at SFC and across the agencies and institutions in developing the new approach, which I believe will have significant benefits for students, institutions and the quality assurance and enhancement approach in Scotland.

The new TQEF is a product of SFC’s Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability which set out a vision for a better integrated tertiary education system that puts students at its centre. We believe that enhanced collaboration across the sectors is necessary to support the continued development of a quality culture across our institutions and that this is best achieved through a tertiary approach. Having a tertiary quality enhancement framework with flexibilities to accommodate the unique and individual nature of Scotland’s institutions, is intended to support more seamless learning pathways for students and more effective collaboration across colleges and universities, removing barriers to the sharing of innovation and learning, across the tertiary system to deliver better and clearer student outcomes.

I believe that the wider educational reforms currently underway, including the recommendations of the Muir and Withers reviews, mean that now is the optimum time to secure greater alignment and coherence across the post-16 education system. The system wide pressures on institutions’ capacity and resource has also been a driver for SFC to seek to streamline and enhance reporting on quality as part of its wider review of assurance and accountability, of which this forms one part.

Looking to the future

Work to develop and implement Scotland’s Tertiary Quality Enhancement Framework is continuing this academic year and will no doubt evolve as we take our first steps into the new cycle starting in 2024-25. We at SFC continue to oversee the project, but cannot underestimate the value of the work being done by our key partners including QAA, Education Scotland, sparqs, CDN, colleges and universities in leading the workstreams that together will underpin and support the new approach. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved so far and we look forward to further engagement in the coming year.

Personally, I sincerely hope that the new approach realises the benefits that we envisioned at the start, for students, institutions and for the enhancement of tertiary education in Scotland, into the future.

Karen Gray, Assistant Director, Access, Learning & Outcomes – 8 Dec 2023