Notices

Contents of this section:

[Note. An asterisk denotes a reference to a previously published or recurrent entry.]

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KOLKHORST EXHIBITION

A Kolkhorst Exhibition has been awarded to ALISON BARTLETT, St Peter's College.

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QUALITY ASSURANCE AND THE PROPOSED INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING

Replies to consultative documents issued by the Quality Assurance Agency and the Institute for Learning and Teaching Planning Group of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals

Council and the General Board have recently approved replies, appended at I and II respectively, on behalf of the University to the following consultative documents:

(1) Developing the quality assurance and standards framework for UK higher education, issued by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA);

(2) An Institute for Learning and Teaching, issued by the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT) Planning Group of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP).

Both sets of proposals arise from recommendations in the report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (`the Dearing Report'). The questions in the consultative documents are reproduced in the replies. The full QAA document was published in Higher Quality (the QAA bulletin), Vol. 1, No. 3 (March 1998), a copy of which is available for consultation in the University Offices. The full CVCP document is available via the CVCP Web site (http://www.cvcp.ac.uk/pubs/ilt.html), and a copy is also available for consultation in the University Offices.

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APPENDIX I

Reply from the University of Oxford to the QAA consultative document on the proposed new quality assurance arrangements

(a) Given flexible application to take account of the differing nature of individual institutions, is the overall model one that could work constructively with the internal procedures of your institution?

—We think that, with the exception of the arrangements for REEs[1], the proposed model would in certain circumstances be useful in addressing questions of minimum standards in areas where there is cause for concern. However, we believe it would do little to encourage the pursuit of international standards of excellence or to identify in which institutions such standards were achieved.

—The model would furthermore involve a considerable drain on academic time and other resources (for example, through the preparation and updating of programme specifications for each course or module, the demands of continued institutional audit, and the maintenance of the REE system): in all, a burden which we suggest is unnecessary in institutions which have already demonstrated a high degree of excellence in quality assessment exercises for teaching and research.

We would strongly resist the introduction of any system which left open the `ways in which programme specification might be utilised' (III.16) or benchmark standards which included references to curriculum content beyond those already associated with the requirements of PSBs [2] (IV.12). We also think it highly important to recognise that learning is a two-way process, not simply delivery of a curriculum.

—We conclude that, though we could up to a point make the system, or a somewhat modified version of it, work at a superficial level, its application would be without benefit and highly expensive in this or similar institutions. In this light we consider that it would not be constructive for us to address the detailed questions in part VIII of the paper.

(b) Do you agree that it is sensible to draw upon the expertise of external examiners to help meet the need for information whilst minimising external scrutiny processes? Are there measures, additional to those suggested in the paper, you would wish to propose to safeguard the integrity of external examining in your institution?

—We see many difficulties in practice and in principle in the REE scheme (among them those of demands on academic time, the calibre of the registered examiners, and potential conflicts of loyalty and interests) and think that it should not be pursued.

—We could envisage the development of the existing external examiners' role in the context of the model which we propose below.

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(c) Alternative proposals

We propose, bearing in mind the recognition accorded in both the Dearing Report and the current QAA document to the acceptance and encouragement of diversity in UK higher education institutions, that the QAA and HEFCE consider a model along the lines set out below. This is based on practices which are already current and in some cases being developed further in Oxford, and which we think provide for internal quality assurance and external accountability at a level appropriate to a university which aims to achieve the highest international standards. It is our firm view, given this University's excellent record of results in teaching quality assessments and its own, rigorous and externally scrutinised, monitoring procedures, that the application of the standards framework to all our teaching activities would be irrelevant. For the same reasons, and because of the wholly disproportionate demands it makes on academic time and resources, we would in particular regard the imposition of institutional review as otiose.

The framework to which we refer is set out below. We should be happy to discuss details of how appropriate monitoring by the agency might be incorporated.

—Publication by faculties in course handbooks of programme specifications and standards, monitored by the University's central quality assurance bodies.

—A system of external faculty/departmental review on an eight-year cycle. At present review committees consist mainly of external members, including always at least one from overseas; their terms of reference embrace all areas of activity (i.e. teaching, research, organisation, and finance) and relate specifically to international standards of excellence.

—Annual reports by faculty boards to the General Board, which include inter alia reports on the progress of recommendations of review committees, teaching quality assessors, and external examiners.

—Annual reports of external examiners, scrutinised by the central quality assurance bodies, which monitor also faculty boards' responses to their recommendations.

—External advisory panels to faculties/departments, containing members of the highest eminence in the relevant fields such as Nobel Prizewinners, leaders of industry, charities, the media, etc.

This model is, as indicated, based on our own current practice. It has been suggested, however, that the QAA may wish to consider the possibility of encouraging groups of similar institutions to draw up and operate among themselves frameworks for the monitoring of standards and quality in those groups of institutions. We understand that many elements of such a system operate in various parts of the United States.

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APPENDIX II

Reply from the University of Oxford to the CVCP consultative document on the proposed ILT

(a) What kind of relationship, if any, should there be between the accreditation of programmes/pathways and any conferment of a `licence to practise' upon individual staff? Should accreditation eventually become mandatory for all teaching staff?

Accreditation should be optional and there should be no question of a compulsory `licence to practise' either immediately or in the future. The ILT's role would therefore be to accredit, when invited, courses and qualifications devised by individual universities or groups of universities. The institute needs to build up its reputation and expertise. It will be accepted in due course as an integral part of the professional development of university teachers only if it provides rigorous and supportive advice and guidance (when sought) and is seen as a helpful resource, not an intrusive regulatory organisation.

(b) Should continuing professional development (CPD) requirements be developed to enable members to remain in `good standing'? Should these take the form of a minimum number of hours of CPD per annum (the Booth Report [3] proposed between 5--8 days per annum)? How flexible should any CPD system be? What should be the institutional role in supporting CPD?

We do not support any proposal which requires a particular number of hours of CPD work. We expect academic staff to undertake appropriate CPD and think any rigid formulation unnecessary. Moreover, it is of the first importance to bear in mind that high-quality teaching in a research intensive university is dependent on teachers maintaining and updating research and scholarship. Any definition of CPD in this context must take account of these vital characteristics.

(c) Do you agree with the proposal to create various levels of membership of the institute? How should the criteria be developed to be as inclusive as possible of the varied roles of staff involved in teaching and learning? Please comment and expand on the indicative criteria for Member and Fellow as set out above. [4]

Since we envisage the institute's role as being only one of accrediting universities' courses, we think issues such as levels of membership are irrelevant, or at least premature. The ILT needs to earn its right to be given professional status, etc. Evolution must be allowed to take place. In due course, if levels of membership were to be drawn up, we think that the `career' level would be `Member' as for all similar institutions, and that two levels of `associateship' would be unnecessary.

(d) Your comments on the research and development function of the institute would be welcome. For example, should the institute focus more on developmental activities than in developing a profile in `pure' research? What should be the institute's priorities in this area in both the short and longer term?

We think that the most useful research-associated role for the institute would be that of monitoring and assessing current research to identify gaps and weaknesses and to encourage further work amongst the members in areas where it seemed to be needed.

(e) What should the institute's role be in the stimulation of innovation? Do you agree with the possible range of activities outlined in paragraph 18 above? [4] What priority should the institute attach to the use of C&IT [5] in learning and teaching both in the short and longer term?

It is important to remember that high-quality teaching and `innovation' are not synonymous. High-quality teaching can be given (and often is) through adherence to certain basic and long-established principles. We oppose the suggestion that the ILT create `common units and modules' (which we would regard as inimical to the diversity of the HE sector). It would, however, be useful if the institute gathered and made available a library of course materials and other resources upon which universities could draw.

(f) How might the institute best include the needs of students with disabilities under these three core [6] and other functions?

We see no reason for the ILT to concern itself specifically with the needs of students with disabilities, which are adequately covered by the dedicated National Bureau for Students with Disabilities (SKILL) (and do not understand why this is the only special category of student about which a question has been put).

(g) Please comment on possible other functions of the institute. Should a phased approach to these various functions be developed, with the initial focus on some key areas? If so, what should be the priority in the short and longer term? If funding was short, what should be the key functions?

We are clear that the institute's function should be limited to accreditation, the dissemination of relevant research, and the identification of gaps in research (see (d) above). The institute should certainly not become involved in issues of discipline or conduct (which are for institutions themselves to deal with). Nor should it duplicate any of the review/audit functions of existing agencies.

(h) Do you support the establishment of the ILT as a professional body, with charitable status and possible regulation by law or Royal Charter?

No, certainly not from the outset. The ILT could conceivably become a body similar to the Royal Colleges in Medicine or the Law Society, for example, but that development should depend on the status it achieves in its more limited role and the desire of participating institutions to follow such a path.

(i) Should there be any formal requirement on the ILT to work collaboratively with other key stakeholder organisations with an interest in the field? What formal role or involvement should other bodies have with the ILT? How should higher education institutions interact with the ILT?

The ILT must work with all relevant bodies, but above all with HEIs. HEIs should be in a position to exert a significant influence on the institute. We would highlight also that liaison with the PSBs [2] will be essential (and that the institute should not attempt to duplicate their function).

(j) Comments are invited on the relationship and linkages between the institute and THETO. [7]

We need more information about THETO's expected functions before we can comment adequately on this question. It at present appears that THETO is a potentially regulatory mechanism (directed by DfEE) and as such should remain completely separate from the institute (which should be the collective instrument of the universities).

(k) Comments are invited on possible sources of funding, both in terms of initial funding to establish the institute and of core, longer-term funding. Should institutions pay an annual subscription and also pay for specific services? Should an individual membership fee be levied?

We would oppose any arrangement which would involve universities in meeting the costs of activities which they can better provide for themselves. There should be an institutional subscription set at a low basic level with institutions paying ad hoc in addition for specific services provided.


Footnotes

[1] Registered External Examiners.
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[2] Professional and statutory bodies.
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[3] The report of the Accreditation and Teaching in Higher Education Planning Group.
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[4] Viz. as set out in the full consultative document.
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[5] Communications and information technology.
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[6] Viz. the accreditation of programmes of training for higher education teachers, research and development in teaching and learning, and the stimulation of innovation.
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[7] The Higher Education Training Organisation.
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OXFORD UNIVERSITY STUDENT UNION

Code of Practice issued by the Hebdomadal Council under the provisions of section 22 (3) of the Education Act 1994

As explained in Part 1 of the Code of Practice in relation to the Oxford University Student Union which is set out below, Council is required to publish such a code in compliance with the Education Act 1994. The initial version of the code was published in Gazette No. 4359, 23 March 1995, pp. 919–21, and a minor amendment was published in Gazette No. 4429, 27 February 1997, p. 797.

Council has now, on the recommendation of its Joint Committee with Junior Members, made two further amendments to the code, both of which more accurately reflect current practice. The first, in para. (f) of Part 3, states that the OUSU Financial Report will be made available to OUSU Council representatives of each college Junior and Middle Common Room or equivalent organisation (rather than, as under the initial version, in each JCR and MCR, etc.). The second, in para. (g) of Part 3, makes a similar substitution in respect of OUSU Standing Orders.

The complete code, as so amended, is published below for ease of reference.

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1 The Code of Practice

Section 22 (3) of the Education Act 1994 requires the Hebdomadal Council, as the executive governing body of the University, to publish a Code of Practice as to the manner in which the requirements of the Act are to be carried into effect in relation to any students' union for students at the establishment, setting out in relation to each of the requirements details of the arrangements made to secure its observance. Part 2 of this code sets out Council's general duty under the Act and the framework established for its performance. Part 3 of the code summarises each of the specific requirements of the Act and gives details of the arrangements made to secure their observance.

The Code of Practice will be published annually in the Proctors' Memorandum together with information as to restrictions imposed on the activities of the Oxford University Student Union by the law relating to charities, and the provisions of section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 relating to freedom of speech and any code of practice issued under it relevant to the activities of the union. The attention of all students will be drawn to this information by Proctorial notices issued once a year.

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2 General duty of the Hebdomadal Council

Section 22 (1) of the Education Act 1994 requires the Hebdomadal Council, as the executive governing body of the University, to `take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that any students' union for students at the establishment operates in a fair and democratic manner and is accountable for its finances'.

This duty is fulfilled through the requirements of the statute concerning consultation with Junior Members (Tit. XIV, Sect. IV, § 1), through the provisions of the present Code of Practice, and through those of the constitution of the Oxford University Student Union. The operations of the Oxford University Student Union will be monitored by the Hebdomadal Council through its Joint Committee with Junior Members.

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3 Specific requirements of the Education Act 1994

Section 22 (2) of the Education Act 1994 requires the Hebdomadal Council, as the executive governing body of the University, to `take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that the following requirements are observed by or in relation to any students' union for students at the establishment':

(a) The student union should have a written constitution and the provisions of that constitution should be subject to the approval of the governing body at intervals of not more than five years.

The Hebdomadal Council for its part has approved a written constitution for OUSU and will review its provisions every five years. Draft amendments to the constitution are submitted to Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members and require the ratification of the Hebdomadal Council before coming into effect.

(b) Students should have the right not to be members of the union and students who exercise that right should not be unfairly disadvantaged, with regard to the provision of services or otherwise, by reason of their having done so.

It is provided in the OUSU constitution that all Junior Members have the right to opt out of membership of OUSU. This right may be exercised by sending written notification to the President of OUSU to arrive no later than the Sunday of week 4 in Michaelmas Term in any year. The Junior Member will then cease to be a member of OUSU until he or she has sent written notification to the President of his or her desire to assume membership.

OUSU has agreed that all its services will be made available to Junior Members whether or not they are members of OUSU. Junior Members who have opted out of membership of OUSU will not, however, be entitled to attend meetings of OUSU committees or stand or vote in elections to office in OUSU.

(c) Appointment to major union offices should be by election in a secret ballot in which all members are entitled to vote. The governing body is required to satisfy itself that the union elections are fairly and properly conducted.

The term `major union office' is defined in the OUSU constitution. The election to all sabbatical posts is by secret ballot.

OUSU's election standing orders and regulations will be subject to ratification by Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members. The Returning Officer will make a report on the conduct of the election to the Proctors who shall also have the power to investigate any complaints concerning the conduct of elections and, where a complaint is upheld, to take such measures as may be required to secure effective redress. Complaints concerning OUSU elections will normally first be considered by the OUSU Election Tribunal. The report of the Returning Officer and of any Proctorial action will normally be transmitted to Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members.

(d) A person should not hold paid elected union office for more than two years in total.

The OUSU constitution prevents the same person from holding paid elected office for more than one year.

(e) The financial affairs of the student union should be properly conducted and appropriate arrangements should exist for the approval of the union's budget and the monitoring of its expenditure by the governing body.

The OUSU constitution requires OUSU to prepare an annual budget which is to be submitted to the Hebdomadal Council for approval. Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members will normally give detailed consideration to this submission on Council's behalf.

The expenditure of OUSU's funds is governed by financial standing orders which will be reviewed by Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members. OUSU's financial transactions are recorded by the University Chest and details of its income and expenditure account are available for inspection by university officers. OUSU's accounts are audited by the University Auditor. The Audit Report is available to the Hebdomadal Council and will normally be scrutinised by Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members.

(f) The student union is to publish a financial report annually or more frequently. The report is to be made available to the governing body and to all students and should contain, in particular, a list of external organisations to which the union has made donations during the period to which the report refers and details of those donations.

The constitution of OUSU requires the publication of such a financial report on an annual basis. The report is to be made available to the Hebdomadal Council and will normally be scrutinised by Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members. The report will be made available for reference by Junior Members at the offices of OUSU and copies will also be made available to OUSU Council representatives of each college Junior and Middle Common Room or equivalent organisation.

(g) The procedure for allocating resources to groups or clubs should be fair and should be set down in writing and be freely accessible to all students.

The constitution of OUSU provides that the procedure for allocating allowances to committees, groups, and other organisations should be specified in Standing Orders. The Standing Orders will be scrutinised by Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members and copies will be made available for consultation at the OUSU offices and will also be made available to OUSU Council representatives of each college Junior and Middle Common Room or equivalent organisation.

( h) If the student union decides to affiliate to an external organisation it must publish notice of its decision, stating the name of the organisation and details of any subscription or similar fee paid or proposed to be paid and of any donation made or proposed to be made to the organisation and such notice is to be made available to the governing body and to all students.

The constitution of OUSU makes provision for these procedures. Notice to the governing body will be given to Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members on behalf of the Hebdomadal Council, and notice to students will be by circulation of notices for display in colleges.

(i) When a student union is affiliated to any external organisation there are to be procedures for the review of affiliations under which the current list of affiliations is submitted for approval by members annually or more frequently, and at such intervals of not more than a year as the governing body may determine, a requisition may be made by such proportion of members (not exceeding 5 per cent) as the governing body may determine, that the question of continued affiliation to any particular organisation be decided upon by a secret ballot in which all members are entitled to vote.

The OUSU constitution makes provision for these procedures. Approval of the current list of affiliations will be sought by means of approval of the annual report on affiliations by the OUSU Council. The Hebdomadal Council has determined that the proportion of members required to secure a secret ballot shall be 5 per cent, and that the result of such a ballot shall be binding for one year.

(j) There is to be a complaints procedure to be available to all students or groups of students who are dissatisfied in their dealings with a union or claim to have been unfairly disadvantaged by reason of their having exercised the right to opt out of membership of the union. This complaints procedure is to include provision for an independent person appointed by the governing body to investigate and report on complaints. Complaints should be dealt with promptly and fairly and where a complaint is upheld there should be an effective remedy.

The constitution of OUSU provides for a two-stage internal complaints procedure. If this procedure has been exhausted without the complaint having been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the matter may be referred in writing to the secretary to Council's Joint Committee with Junior Members. The Hebdomadal Council will appoint an independent person to investigate and report on complaints. The independent person will have, after due consideration, the power to report that the complaint should be rejected summarily or to decide that a full investigation should be undertaken and a report made to the Hebdomadal Council. If a complaint is upheld at this stage, OUSU is required by the terms of its constitution and the statutes of the University to make an effective remedy.

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CONCERTS

Music Faculty

In connection with the symposium on `Concert life in eighteenth- century Britain' (see `Lectures' below), Peter Holman will direct a concert on Saturday, 4 July, entitled `English Classical Orchestral Music', and Timothy Roberts will direct a concert on Sunday, 5 July, entitled `Invocation'. The concerts will be open to the public.

Full details may be obtained from the Administrator, the Faculty of Music, St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1DB (telephone: Oxford (2)76125, e-mail: humaira.erfan-ahmed@music.ox.ac.uk).

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