UK pathway providers eagerly volunteer for QAA review

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Seeking a clear sector response to the rhetoric set out in articles by The Sunday Times, the Universities UK board commissioned Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education to conduct an independent and rapid review of international pathway programs, with findings expected to be released in early June 2024.

Main concerns included claims that international pathway programs were offering a back door admission route into the sector – that they were allowing international students to buy their way onto programs with lower entry grades.

I think there was probably quite a lot of confusion in some of the media rhetoric as to actually what pathway programs were and how they operated, particularly in terms of things like distinguishing the difference between foundation programs and year one programs but also recognising why these programs exist,” said Rob Stroud, director of assessment services and access to higher education, QAA.

QAA subsequently identified three areas to be explored in its review:

Entry requirements for International Foundation Programs and International Year One Programs

Are entry requirements for IFPs and IYOs equivalent to the entry requirements for domestic students onto equivalent level 3 and level 4 programs in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and equivalent level 6 and 7 program in Scotland?

Are the entry requirements applied consistently for all entry points?

International Foundation Programs

Are the standards achieved by students on IFPs equivalent to those of domestic students and on similar terms?

Are students on IFPs progress onto higher education on equivalent terms to students on domestic foundation programs?

Are the academic standard of IFPs is equivalent to domestic level 3 requirements in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and domestic level 6 requirements in Scotland?

International Year One Programmes

Is the standard of IYOs being appropriately set at level 4 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications or level 7 of the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework?

Are the standards achieved by students on these international programs equivalent to those of the domestic students, and on similar terms?

In terms of progression, how do IYO programmes compare to domestic first years of undergraduate degrees?

Provider participation in the review is voluntary, and Stroud thanked each of those participating provider for its involvement while speaking at the University Pathway Alliance conference, adding that he was “heartened” to see the a high level of engagement from the early stages.

Seeking a sample of 40 providers, QAA wrote to providers asking for their commitment to participating in the review, but Stroud said many requests may have been missed and since, many institutions have requested to participate too late in the process.

Despite this, Stroud said he is “really pleased” that as providers have come forward, there has been “representation across all of the big pathway providers”.

“I’m quite confident in that regard, that when we do make our findings, we’re not actually going to be excluding any of those big pathway providers,” he added.

Stroud emphasised that an important part of the review is highlighting areas of good practice, setting an example for the sector going forward.

“What we want to do is make sure that that it’s a report that is useful both for those stakeholders that have raised concerns and issues in the media that led commissioning of the report,” said Stroud.

If we do identify issues, of course, we are going to let providers know

Rob Stroud, QAA

“But also as the UK’s independent quality body, it’s part of our role to make sure that we can provide practitioners in the sector something that’s useful to help you understand what’s going on out there and highlight where there are potentially areas of good practice.

We’re not trying to embarrass individual institutions or necessarily catch out individual institutions or cause trouble for them,” he continued.

“That said, if we do identify issues, of course, we are going to let providers know… particularly if we see anything in relation to standards, we will offer some feedback on a one-to-one basis for those providers where there might be issues.”

As part of UUK’s wider review into fair admissions and agent behaviour in the UK, in January, it also announced updates to its Admissions Code of Practice and a review into the Agent Quality Framework.


The post UK pathway providers eagerly volunteer for QAA review appeared first on The PIE News.

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