Autumn 2019

Welcome to the autumn 2019 edition of Quality Enhancement News

What's new in the enhancement-led approach to higher education in Scotland and beyond.

In this issue... 

  • Enhancement Themes conference
  • Guide to using evidence
  • Student Transitions: Skills and strategies
  • Beyond the Metrics: The Intangibles
  • Focus On: Graduate skills
  • Theme evaluation and webinars
  • Tweet of the week(s)
  • Resource centre
  • TiP Zone

Call for proposals: Enhancement Themes conference

The call for proposals is closing today... Our conference, 'Beyond Measure? Exploring what counts in Higher Education' will take place on 3 and 4 June 2020 at the Radisson Blu, central Glasgow. We have been seeking proposals from around the globe to address four central questions:

  1. How can we use evidence to support decision-making?
  2. What counts as valid evidence?
  3. How can we ensure we are working in partnership with students?
  4. How can we ensure that we are using evidence ethically?

Join an audience of 450 like-minded staff and students to share thinking: the good, the emerging and the downright challenging. What actually counts in higher education?

The call for proposals closes today, 25 October 2019. This is the last chance to submit your ideas. Submit online and read the
 full information about conference proposals on our website. Proposals from students or joint student-staff contributions are particularly welcome.

Helping students engage with evidence

Students cannot only be the evidence, they can see the evidence and use the evidence.
We are, all of us, living and working 'in an age of abundant data' (Daniel, 2015, p 917).

The Evidence for Enhancement Theme (2017-20) aims to help staff and students as they respond to this rapid growth in the availability of, and demand for, data and evidence. We have helped individuals and institutions reflect on how they are engaging with this swell of data and evidence, on important gaps and inconsistencies to be addressed, and on where new data-driven approaches to enhancing learning, teaching and the student experience might be developed.

Our Guide to Using Evidence comes with a suite of practical resources (such as the data and evidence planner) which are freely available on our website. They have been designed to help students and student association staff to actively engage with data and evidence. They offer an accessible introduction to a range of key ideas and concepts and a range of activities which allow readers to develop their own thinking and confidence in key areas.

You can
access the full suite of resources on our dedicated webpage.
'The brand new Guide to Using Evidence is an incredible tool for student association officers, staff and institutional members. Combining activity-based learning, infographics and a video-based digital glossary, this modular guide is a one-stop shop for all your evidence needs ... This pioneering resource will ensure you've got all the bases covered and, best of all, each chapter is useable on its own so it's easy to use in a pinch.'

Alex Hedlund
Chemistry with Biochemistry undergraduate

Navigating Transitions:
The new resource

With the new academic year just beginning, thousands of students are making one of the biggest transitions of their lives: taking their first steps into higher education.

QAA Scotland's new Navigating Transitions leaflet is designed to help students understand HE transitions through a fold-out map. It signposts students to two resources: our Transition Skills and Strategies materials, and the Student Transitions Map.

Transition Skills and Strategies: a suite of materials that serve to help students understand the skills required for transitioning through HE. The suite contains five reports and 22 customisable resources, including student leaflets, activities for students to work on individually, activities for students to work on in groups, and presentations.

Student Transitions Map: an innovative, interactive tool that presents examples of practice relating to the way students enter, move through and leave university. It is aimed at everyone with an interest in how students enter and transition through higher education, and allows the user to search and filter over 470 examples of practice.
We have also produced Supporting Students to Navigate Transitions - a complementary version of the leaflet that is aimed at anyone who supports students to make these transitions, including tutors, student support staff, and staff in students' associations.

Beyond the Metrics: The Intangibles

Beyond the metrics: The Intangibles is one of the six collaborative cluster projects being complete as part of the Theme, Evidence for Enhancement. This project seeks to provide a renewed understanding of the intangible assets that contribute to the success of higher education.

Access the full report and accompanying workbook on our website.

Focus on: Graduate skills

What do students, graduates and employers think of the skills students gain while at university? We commissioned two studies which provide valuable insights into what the sector does well and where it could develop further. We found most students recognised their experience had equipped them with a broad range of skills. 77% of graduates and 80% of employers agreed that students had the skills needed to prepare them for the workplace. You can find the full research reports, along with resources from our flagship events, on the QAA Scotland website. Our dedicated webpage even allows you to explore key areas for discussion and development.

For 2019-20, our attention will turn to Focus On: Technology in Learning and Teaching ….watch our website for emerging topics.

Theme evaluation

The short-term benefits of the Theme are starting to be realised and, as we move through its final year, we are seeking to understand and record the ways in which the current Enhancement Theme, Evidence for Enhancement, has impacted the student experience. When the Theme launched back in autumn 2017, the sector identified a set of ambitions for what we wanted to achieve by summer 2020. These included:

  • taking advantage of the collaborative approach to influence practice beyond Scotland
  • developing a sector-wide approach to engaging students in looking at, understanding and using data/evidence to enhance their overall educational experience
  • developing systematic evidence-based practices which demonstrate impact and build trust.

We now need to identify the extent to which we have met, or moved closer to meeting, these ambitions. In doing so, we are working with the logic model developed by Professor Liz Thomas. While the model helps us to gather evidence pointing to the ways our work has improved the student experience, we need your help so we have clear information about the impact of institutional activities. Liz Thomas delivered a webinar in early October to support colleagues engaging with the evaluation model - you can visit the resources on our website. The session covered:

  • an overview of the evaluation approach being adopted for this work
  • a review what has been achieved so far, including sharing some of the learning and impact
  • further guidance about what is required in the final months of this programme of work
  • an opportunity to share challenges and successes, ask questions and gains support or reassurance.


Beyond the metrics: identifying, evidencing and enhancing the less tangible assets of higher education

Not everything that matters or is highly valued in higher education is quantifiable or easily measured. This Collaborative Cluster project recently explored this complex area through a series of participatory workshops with a range of staff, students and senior managers across the UK.

The authors have developed a novel conceptual model and associated mapping process to help institutions identify, evaluate and enhance these so-called 'intangible assets'.

This webinar provided an overview of the project, the findings, outputs and some guidance on how they might be used as part of a holistic approach to evaluating the student learning experience.

Our webinar series continues to be updated, you can watch all previous webinars on our website. You'll find materials on data, evidence and learning analytics ready to view, read or listen to as appropriate.

Tweet of the week(s)

Students Using Evidence is a truly pioneering resource, developed with QAA Scotland's partnership with Dr Liz Austen (Sheffield Hallam University) and Professor Stella Jones Devitt (Staffordshire University). But don't just take our word for it!

View the resources freely on our website.

Resource centre

Our latest resources:

Read our latest overview of institutional reports from Year 2 of the current theme, Evidence for Enhancement.

Read our publication on the perception of learning analytics across Scottish HE institutions.

We love to hear about our resources in action. If there's something you find useful, or find yourself revisiting time and time again, you can let us know using the contact details below.

TiP Zone

The University of Strathclyde developed a poster aimed to address the lack of confidence students have in seeking and securing work experience placements. The researchers recognised that students who have participated in work-based learning during their studies have enhanced their employability prospects upon graduating.
This project carried out such a review so that baseline activity across the institution could be established. Additionally, the skills developed during work experience placements were established by surveying relevant students.

On collating and summarising this information a range of resources was identified and developed. These were compiled into a guide to support students in securing internships and placements. This guide includes workshops delivered by the Careers Service and employers, complemented by student interviews with employers to represent their perspective on this process.
'Supporting student transitions has long been a key priority for the University of Stirling and it was a fantastic opportunity to develop and carry out a programme of work related to the QAA Enhancement Theme, ‘Student Transitions’. The work to investigate and develop the ‘student journey’ was set within a framework of projects, focusing on particular groups of students at key transition points.'

View University of Stirling's interactive transitions tool.

You can view hundreds of activities like this through our transition map.
If you have a project or initiative you would like to share, drop us a line at with an overview of what you'd like to share, and we can work together to create a feature for the next newsletter, which we plan on sending in December.

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