Navitas UK Holdings Ltd Embedded College Review for Educational Oversight by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

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1 Navitas UK Holdings Ltd Embedded College Review for Educational Oversight by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education February 2014 Annex: Birmingham City University International College Introduction and background Birmingham City University International College (the College) is part of the Navitas UK Holdings Ltd (Navitas UK) embedded college network. The College delivers pathway programmes in partnership with Birmingham City University (the University). These provide a route to an undergraduate or postgraduate degree from the University for international students who do not meet the required course entry criteria for direct entry to the University. At the time of the review the following programmes were being delivered: University Foundation in Art and Design University Foundation in Art and Design (extended) University Foundation in Built Environment Studies University Foundation in Business University Foundation in Engineering University Foundation in Law Universtiy Foundation in Technology First Year Degree in Accountancy and Finance First Year Degree in Built Environment Studies First Year Degree in Business First Year Degree in Economics and Finance First Year Degree in Engineering First Year Degree in Marketing Advertising and Public Relations First Year Degree in Technology Pre-Master's Business (extended) Pre Master's in Business Pre Master's in Law. The College shares responsibility for maintaining academic standards, managing and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities and information on the provision with Navitas UK and the University. Responsibilities are articulated within an overarching framework provided by Navitas UK and the quadripartite Recognition and Articulation Agreement (RAA). The College and University both have responsibility for developing the curriculum; monitoring and review of the provision; learning resources; student admissions, assessment and support; and the accuracy and availability of course related information. The College is responsible for its teaching staff and their development; collecting student feedback; and providing programme information to students, in each case with the support of the University. The Operations Manual sets out the detailed responsibilities regarding the processes and procedures at the College. This is complemented by a set of College Procedures and Regulations (CPRs) which are adaptations of standard Navitas UK Policies and Regulations (NPRs). CPRs cover such areas as attendance, admissions, learning and teaching, student support, student engagement and enhancement. NPRs and CPRs are informed by the Navitas UK Quality Manual. 1

2 Key findings Academic standards There can be confidence that academic standards at the embedded college are managed appropriately and in accordance with the policies and procedures of Navitas UK. Quality of learning opportunities There can be confidence that the quality of learning opportunities at the embedded college is assured and enhanced appropriately and in accordance with the policies and procedures of Navitas UK. Information about learning opportunities Reliance can be placed on the information that the embedded college produces for its intended audiences about the learning opportunities it offers. Good practice The review team noted the following features of good practice at the College: the in-sessional feedback forms enhance staff responsiveness and promote student reflection (paragraph 20) the effective collaboration with students, which facilitates student engagement in quality assurance processes and enhances the student learning experience (paragraph 24) the high level of pastoral support for international students (paragraph 27) the Students in Jeopardy Programme targets the provision of additional support (paragraph 28) the effective use of the Portal to provide comprehensive and current information (paragraph 41) Recommendations The review team makes the following recommendations in relation to this College: The team considers that it is advisable for the College to: review the arrangements for the conduct of academic panels and committees, including their chairing and constitution, to ensure that the operation of each is sufficiently independent (paragraph 7) manage the teaching staff appointment process in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 3.6 in the Recognition and Articulation Agreement, (paragraph 18). The team considers that it is desirable for the College to: make more explicit reference to the use of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) in College documentation (paragraph 10) revise the Operations Manual to make more explicit the University executive management's roles and responsibilities for published information (paragraph 42). 2

3 Detailed findings How effectively do Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College fulfil responsibilities for the management of academic standards at this college? 1 Both Navitas UK and the College demonstrate a clear understanding of and are discharging their responsibilities for the management of academic standards appropriately. The contractual basis for the partnership which exists between the University and the College is outlined within the Recognition and Articulation Agreement (RAA). Responsibilities for the management of academic standards are clearly set out and understood by both parties. The Navitas UK Director of Learning and Teaching/Quality has overall responsibility for the strategic management of the quality and standards of the Learning and Teaching portfolio in the UK. Navitas UK Policies and Regulations (NPRs) are customised to form College Policies and Regulations (CPRs) and are incorporated within an Operations Manual, which is jointly agreed between the University and College. 2 The Navitas UK Quality Manual provides guidance in relation to the governance framework for its embedded colleges. The approach assists in the monitoring and oversight of colleges while also facilitating partnership work and the dissemination of good practice across the Navitas UK network. The College adheres to this guidance and has established a clear and effective governance framework in partnership with the University. 3 The College's Learning and Teaching Board is responsible for key academic processes and reports to the Academic Advisory Committee which is chaired by the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic). A Joint Strategic Partnerships Management Board facilitates the shaping and building of the relationship between the University and the College and is the overarching strategic body within the governance framework. In addition, the College may refer academic matters internally to the Navitas UK Learning and Teaching Forum or to the Navitas UK Learning and Teaching Committee chaired by the Director of Learning and Teaching/Quality and attended by the College Principal. 4 The student body is represented on the College Enhancement Team which reports to the College Learning and Teaching Committee. The Student Council is able to influence the CET agenda, which enables the student voice to be formally reflected within the College governance structure. Students with whom the review team met confirmed that the student experience is placed at the heart of College processes. 5 CPR Quality Standard 1 sets out the Navitas UK policy and procedure for the approval and periodic review of its provision. The review team were provided with a comprehensive list of all programmes formally approved by the University. Although no changes to programmes had been made, staff were clear that any changes to programmes would need to be approved by the University. Programme specifications provide a summary of programme aims and learning outcomes and are approved by the University. Definitive module documents provide module specific learning outcomes and are supported by module guides. The students with whom the review team met confirmed that these documents were easily accessible via the Portal, a virtual learning environment hosted by Navitas UK, and were helpful. How effective is the management of student assessment? 6 Arrangements for the management of student assessment are governed by College policy and are aligned with the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Quality Code). Further guidance in terms of the operationalisation of this policy is provided within the Operations Manual where respective responsibilities are clearly articulated. 3

4 7 The College operates a two-tier system of formal processes to agree assessment outcomes. The College Module Panel, chaired by the Principal, confirms marks at module level and the College Progression Board, also chaired by the Principal, makes decisions with regard to the progression of students to the next stage of study within the College. Mitigating circumstance decisions are made by the Mitigating Circumstance Panel which too, is chaired by the Principal. While the two-tier system provides clarity in terms of governance and reporting arrangements, the review team noted a lack of objectivity associated with the chairing arrangements for panels and boards. There was also a potential lack of objectivity in the arrangements for academic appeals since both appeals and complaints are dealt with by the Learning and Teaching Board, which is chaired by the Principle, as are the assessment boards. It is advisable that the College review the arrangements for the conduct of academic panels and committees, including their chairing and constitution, to ensure that the operation of each is sufficiently independent. 8 College staff are working closely with relevant University staff to establish consistent assessment practices across respective provision. Assessment criteria, internal validation and review arrangements are set out within each definitive module document. Specific requirements in relation to both internal and external moderation are set out in detail and followed by the College. Navitas UK supports a policy of anonymous marking of all final examination scripts and the implementation of this policy was confirmed by both staff and students. It is the responsibility of the Learning and Teaching Board to ensure that all students are fairly assessed. 9 At the commencement of each module the Learning and Teaching Board ensures that the assessment information is posted on the Portal and is also made available to students in the Student Handbook and/or Module Guide. Students with whom the review team met understood their responsibilities in relation to assessment. Students confirmed that assessment guidance was comprehensive and accessible via the Portal. Where appropriate, how effectively are UK external reference points used in the management of academic standards? 10 Compliance with Navitas UK and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education's (QAA) regulatory frameworks is included as an aspect of the College's Learning and Teaching Action Plan. The review team received assurances from both University and College staff that modules and programmes are mapped against The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) as part of the programme approval processes. However, the definitive module document and programme specification examples made available to the team made no direct reference to the FHEQ, but solely to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). It is desirable that the College make more explicit reference to the use of the FHEQ in College documentation. How effectively are external examining, moderation, or verification used to assure academic standards? 11 The use of internal and external moderation is effective in assuring academic standards, as demonstrated by the assessment activity undertaken by the students who commenced in September All assessed work is subject to internal verification and specific requirements are articulated within the CPR concerning assessment. Where cohort numbers are less than 10, the College requires all assessed work to be subject to internal verification. Arrangements for moderation for all forms of assessment are clearly set out within the CPR. University staff fulfil a key role as they are required to approve assessment papers and to act as external moderators for stage two modules. As members of module and progression boards and of the Learning and Teaching Board, link tutors play an important role in ensuring that moderation and verification activity meets University 4

5 requirements. Both College and University staff whom the review team met confirmed their awareness and implementation of these requirements. How effectively is statistical information used to monitor and assure academic standards? 12 As the first intake of students commenced in September 2013 limited data has been generated to date. The College has, however, put in place the appropriate contractual arrangements and infrastructure to capture and make subsequent use of data. The College operates a system to record student data and targets have been set in relation to attendance, retention and progression. Student performance will be monitored and compared with that at other Navitas UK colleges. Monthly, quarterly and annual reports are and will be used to monitor published targets. All reports are received in the first instance by the Learning and Teaching Board. 13 Staff confirmed that when semester one results are available the College will use the Navitas data analysis tool to undertake sophisticated analysis of student performance at module level. Provision has also been made via the RAA for the University to provide the College with tracer study data for further analysis when available. How effectively are responsibilities for managing and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities fulfilled? 14 Navitas UK and the College, in conjunction with the University, manage the quality of learning opportunities effectively and actively pursue their enhancement. Within the College, the key committee with responsibility for managing and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities is Learning and Teaching Board. Its membership includes teaching and professional staff and link tutors. Central to enhancement is the College Enhancement Team which involves College professional and teaching staff, and has student representation. College committees that are concerned with managing and enhancing the quality of learning opportunities link to the Navitas UK governance structures, such as the Learning and Teaching Committee and Forums, through the College Principal and senior staff. The Learning and Teaching Board links to the University through the Joint Strategic Partnerships Management Board and its subcommittees, which together have a remit for ensuring the quality of learning opportunities. Through its links with Navitas UK and the University, the College is able to draw on a range of professional and academic expertise to assist in the management and enhancement of learning opportunities. 15 The College has developed a College Learning and Teaching Action Plan. The plan is prepared annually and maps onto the wider Navitas UK five year Learning and Teaching Strategy. It also serves as a vehicle for delivering continuous improvement within the College. How effectively are external reference points used in the management and enhancement of learning opportunities? 16 Navitas UK and the College make effective use of external reference points in the management and enhancement of learning opportunities. The requirements of the Quality Code are embedded in the policies that Navitas UK and the College have developed for the management of learning opportunities. Navitas UK has undertaken a detailed mapping of its policies and regulations against all sections of the Quality Code. This mapping is available to staff through the Portal. A recent workshop held to brief staff on the requirements of the Quality Code was attended by more than half of the current sessional staff. 5

6 17 The College has access to external academic reference points relevant to the management and enhancement of learning opportunities through its collaboration with the University. Link tutors play a key role in this. The University link tutor's role description includes advising College staff on subject benchmark statements and the Quality Code, as well as providing academic guidance. The University liaises with professional bodies that accredit any programmes that can be studied in part at the College. The University also incorporates externality in its approval and review of validated programmes, such as those at the College. How effectively do Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College assure themselves that the quality of teaching and learning is being maintained and enhanced? 18 In most aspects Navitas UK and the College act effectively to assure them that the quality of teaching and learning is maintained and enhanced. The College is responsible for the appointment and appraisal of teaching staff in consultation with the University. The link tutor's responsibilities include assisting in the appointment of staff at the College and approving staffing appointments on behalf of the University. The RAA lays down that while the College is responsible for engaging teaching staff, they must be approved in writing in advance by the University. The team noted that link tutors were present during the interviews for some but not all teaching staff appointments. The team also noted that while CVs for staff were sent to the University, this appeared to occur after appointments had been made. It is advisable that the College mmanage the teaching staff appointment process in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 3.6 in the RAA. 19 Teaching contracts are issued on a semester basis. Staff with whom the review team met confirmed that the induction programme for new staff was valuable. The College processes require that all new staff are observed and appraised by a member of the College management team during their first semester of teaching. These procedures have not yet been fully implemented. A system of peer review has been initiated. Staff who met the review team said that they found the observation systems valuable. 20 Teaching staff receive feedback on their teaching through end of module and end of semester student questionnaires. A scheme known as Sessional Feedback has also been developed. After each session students are asked to indicate any difficulties they are having and requests that they would like the teacher to take account of in the next session; they also rate their own progress and set their own goals. Teaching staff are able to use the feedback to adjust each session to address student needs and also to provide suggestions and feedback on progress to the individual student. The review team saw evidence that both staff and students found the system valuable. The in-sessional feedback forms, which enhance staff responsiveness and promote student reflection, is good practice. How effectively is student feedback used to assure and enhance the quality of learning opportunities? 21 The College uses student feedback effectively to enhance the quality of learning opportunities. Feedback is collected from all students at key points during their studies; after enrolment, and at the end of modules, semesters and programmes. Feedback is collected electronically via structured questionnaires on the Portal. Navitas UK also engages with the International Student Barometer. Students are made aware of the outcomes of surveys and actions taken to address issues identified through the Student Council and the College Enhancement Team. Feedback gathered this way will contribute to the annual monitoring process. Students were involved in shaping the questionnaires through a working party set up to agree the details of the feedback system. Senior staff who met the team 6

7 indicated that they planned to use a similar approach to involving students in consultation and implementation should comparable issues arise in the future. 22 The College's expectations concerning student engagement are set out in a College policy document. Students elect their own representatives and the College supports the election process. There is a role description for student representatives and the University's Students' Union provided the representatives with training. 23 All student representatives are members of the Student Council which meets regularly with student services staff members and, by invitation, a member of academic staff. The role of the Council is to provide a forum for discussion of all aspects of the student experience. Currently all the student representatives sit on the College Enhancement Panel, which has a wide remit for enhancement. Both the Student Council and the College Enhancement Panel report to the Learning and Teaching Board. Student representatives who met the team indicated that their experience of these bodies was positive and that they provided an effective channel for student views to be discussed and issues addressed. 24 The review team saw a number of examples of student feedback leading to action and enhancement, despite the short time in which the College has been in existence. Following the first Student Council action was taken by the College and its committees to address the need for improved prayer facilities; wireless connections; catering facilities; and information about key programme aspects. Student representatives who met the team indicated that the College listened to their views and was responsive to their needs. The effective collaboration with students which facilitates student engagement in quality assurance processes and enhances the student learning experience is good practice. How effectively do Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College assure themselves that students are supported effectively? 25 Navitas UK and the College act effectively to provide academic and pastoral support to students. In addition to the services provided by staff at the College, students are also able to access the full range of student support services available at the University. The College gathers data on the effectiveness of the support services provided to students through end of semester questionnaires. 26 Students who met the team commented positively about the academic support they received from teaching staff. Tutors were accessible in person and by , and feedback on assessment was helpful and received within two to three weeks. The Sessional Feedback scheme provides additional advice from teaching staff. Information on academic appeals and complaints procedures are contained in the Academic Handbook and students who met the team were aware of these processes. 27 Pastoral support is available from a variety of sources. The main provider is the College Student Services Office, but where appropriate students also have access to University services. In addition students have access to a 24-hour Navitas UK helpline. Students commented favourably on the supportive, family-like culture of the College and the high priority given to pastoral care. The high level of pastoral support for international students is good practice. 28 The Students in Jeopardy programme has been implemented based on a Navitas UK template. It is designed to enhance the student experience and provide timely interventions for students who need additional support for a variety of reasons. All under-18s, disabled students, late-comers, and students struggling with attendance or performance participate in the programme. Students stay in the programme for as long as they need the additional support. Elements of the programme include extra tutorials, remedial work and strict attendance monitoring, depending on the reasons for the students 7

8 entering the programme. The Students in Jeopardy programme, which targets the provision of additional support, is good practice. 29 The College encourages students to take part in extracurricular activities locally and through the Navitas UK-wide social programme. The students are involved in finalising the College's social calendar. How effectively does Birmingham City University International College manage the recruitment and admission of students? 30 Recruitment and admission of students is undertaken by the College. The University issues students with the necessary Confirmation of Acceptance for Study (CAS) forms. Admission requirements are agreed between the College and the University and published in the College's brochure and on the website. Any change to the admission requirements has to be approved by the University. At present the College is at an early stage of development and its numbers are well within the levels that the University can accommodate on its programmes. 31 The policies and processes that underpin the admissions process are set out in a College policy document. The admissions process is undertaken by the College's admissions team which works closely with the University's international office. A member of staff of the international office works from the College admissions office to ensure close liaison. The University is consulted about non-standard applicants. 32 Applicants are asked to disclose any disability at the point of admission so that consideration can be given to whether reasonable adjustments can be made to support the student. 33 All the students who met the team had used agents to undertake the admissions process on their behalf and had had no direct contact with the process. Agents are recruited and managed by Navitas UK who provides them with training and materials. Navitas UK monitors its agents closely. The students who met the team stated that the agents had provided them with helpful and accurate information and advice. 34 Prior to departure from their home country students receive an information pack from the College. On arrival they receive handbooks giving them information about the College, life in Birmingham, and advice on how to manage as an international student. Before classes commence the College organises an orientation week during which new students meet staff, visit the University, and complete the formalities. Students who met the team stated that the week had been very helpful. 35 The College and the University work closely together in marketing the programmes. A Marketing Advisory Committee with membership from both has been set up. The Committee meets each semester and is expected to undertake joint planning; share market intelligence; and ensure that the positioning of the College is aligned with the strategic intent of the partnership. What are the arrangements for staff development to maintain and/or enhance the quality of learning opportunities? 36 In addition to induction and teaching observation mentioned above, College staff have the same status and privileges as honorary staff at the University, which allows them full access to University staff development. A significant proportion of College teaching staff had already taken advantage of attending workshops on assessment and classroom technology. A teaching buddy system has been introduced for those who will be teaching on 8

9 Year 1 programmes to facilitate exchange of ideas between those teaching the same modules at the College and the University. 37 Staff are also able to participate in training and development organised by Navitas for its colleges. The academic and professional staff who met the team stated that there were ample opportunities for them to engage in staff development. How effectively do Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College ensure that learning resources are accessible to students and sufficient to enable them to achieve the learning outcomes? 38 The University provides the physical learning resources for the College in accordance with the RAA. The College uses classrooms, art and design studios, and administrative and social space on one of the University's campuses. At present all teaching takes place within this envelope. However, in the future, some first year students in areas such as engineering, where specialised equipment is required, will be taught jointly with University students in other locations. College students have full access to the library and learning resources of the University. The students who met the team stated that the facilities they used were of high quality, appropriate to their needs, and continuously improving. 39 Staff and students have access to a virtual learning environment hosted by Navitas UK. The Portal provides students with essential current information about the College and their programme, including access to teaching support tools. 40 The Operations Advisory Committee has membership from the University and the College. It has responsibility, among other things, for ensuring that the operating environment of the College supports the provision of high quality learning opportunities. In future the adequacy of learning resources will be reviewed annually through the annual monitoring system. How effectively do Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College communicate to students and other stakeholders about the higher education it provides at this college? 41 The RAA makes provision for the role and responsibilities of both parties in relation to the publication of information about the higher education provided by the College. A wide range of promotional channels and materials are used to communicate to students and other stakeholders. Navitas UK operates well embedded processes and procedures for the selection and monitoring of agents. The College has participated in the dissemination of online material to agents. Feedback from students is used by the College to monitor agent performance. A College International Student Guide, providing contextual information and setting out the programme pathways available, is approved by the partner University and published annually. Students are provided with a Student Handbook and an Academic Handbook which are both made available to the student body on USB sticks, as well as via the Portal. Extensive use is made of the Portal by both staff and students. The Portal acts as a repository for information including the CPRs, definitive module documents and timetables, as well as a means of communicating with students and providing them with survey results. Students with whom the review team met confirmed that the information provided by agents was both comprehensive and helpful. The effective use of the Portal to provide comprehensive and current information is good practice. 9

10 How effective are Navitas UK and Birmingham City University International College's arrangements for assuring that information about learning opportunities is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy? 42 The Teaching and Learning Action Plan and CPRs are used to convey the College mission and values to both staff and students. Processes for application and admission are governed by CPRs and published via the International Student Guide and College website. Students who met with the review team confirmed that the information made available to them was sufficiently comprehensive to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their choice of programme. A system involving the University, the College and Navitas UK is in place for assuring the accuracy of published information, and both staff and students confirmed the accuracy of information provided. Definitive module documents are available via the Portal and accessible to both staff and students. Link tutors, the University marketing team and faculty staff all play a role in reviewing materials prior to publication. Staff from the University stated that final sign-off for published material is the responsibility of the University Secretary. Clarity relating to responsibilities for published information is limited within the Operations Manual and CPRs. It is desirable that the College revise the Operations Manual to make more explicit University executive management roles and responsibilities for published information. 43 CPRs are used effectively to communicate College expectations of both students and staff. Students who met the review team were aware of the College Charter, which is made available to them via the Student Handbook. 44 University staff confirmed that when students complete their programme of study they will be provided with the appropriate transcript and certificate. QAA771 - R June 14 The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 2014 Southgate House, Southgate Street, Gloucester GL1 1UB Tel Web Registered charity numbers and SC

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