What is a Higher Education Review?
In some ways similar to school OFSTED reviews, higher education providers have Higher Education Reviews (HER) to monitor and advise on standards and quality in UK higher education. The reviews are conducted every five to six years by peer reviewers, through an independent organisation called the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), and this year Manchester Met are being reviewed.
Find out more about the review.
The Student Submission
In January 2016, The Union submitted a document called the Student Submission to the review team to be considered as part of their review processes. As part of the this we made some "Next Steps" suggestions for us to work with University staff to improve at MMU. If you are interested in reading more about students' opinions of their academic experience at MMU you can read the whole document here.
1. Follow HLSS' lead to try to avoid bunching assessments together
HLSS have trialled a project to try to avoid bunching assessments into the same few weeks. We have suggested that other faculties follow their lead.
2. Increase students' awareness and understanding of external examination processes
The University employ External Examiners, academics from other institutions, to sit on assessment boards within their field. Every year the External Examiners produce reports for your degree and these are available on your Moodle areas. We have suggested that academic staff explain the processes to students in class and signpost them towards the reports, as well as creating opportunities, where possible, for course reps to meet their External Examiner.
3. Use more frequent forms of summative assessment to provide real world experience
We have suggested that more frequent forms of summative assessment should be used to provide real world experience, to reduce the reliance on major pieces of group course work whilst maintaining a strong link to employability. This could include short placement opportunities, the creation of individual blogs, guest lectures and access to industry professionals throughout your study.
4. Monitor the return of feedback and tell students in advance about what to expect
In The Commitment, the University have committed to returning feedback to students within four weeks on all in-unit assessments. The Union have suggested that departments monitor the return of feedback, to ensure staff have the support to be able to meet the four-week turnaround. We also suggested that students are told in advance in their assignment brief about what types and amount of feedback to expect, when to expect it and how to use it to progress in future assessments.
5. Continue to ensure that students understand grading criteria
The Union recommended that the University continue the good work that has gone into ensuring students understanding grading criteria. We have suggested that it should be compulsory for grading criteria to be laid out and explained to students in advance of assessments.
6. Make sure that changes to academic regulations are communicated to all students
Sometimes the University makes changes to its academic regulations, which can impact on how your work is assessed, how it is submitted or how it is marked, to improve the experience of students at MMU. It is important that any changes are communicated to every single student, therefore The Union suggested that the University revisit their central communications plans to include various forms of communications about regulations.
7. Continue involving students as paid members of Programme Approval, Reapproval and Modification panels
In 2014 and 2015, the University and The Union worked together to recruit paid student members of Programme Approval, Reapproval and Modification panels. These panels ensure that any changes to academic courses are approved and that courses are being run appropriately at the University. This is a sector-leading move as most universities do not pay students to be full members of the panel. The Union suggested that Manchester Met continue this great partnership work involving students at every step of academic quality. We also suggested involving students more in earlier curriculum design stages too, rather than just at the approval panels at the end of the process.
8. Continue the commitment to ensuring that teaching staff engage in research and professional development
Manchester Met have a strong commitment to ensuring their teaching staff engage in research and professional development. The Union recommended that this commitment continues and that robust data is collected to show what types of development staff are engaging in. This data can then be used in promotional material
9. Continue to embed employability into course units, including creative and innovative modes of assessment
The Union recommended that the University continue to build industry and professional links and to embed employability into course units rather than creating standalone employability units. With this, we also recommended that modes of assessments are creative and innovative to ensure you are assessed on skills needed for your future employment.
10. Continue developing faculty level staff development on the use of Moodle
The University are developing faculty level staff development on the use of Moodle as a virtual learning environment and The Union suggested the University continue this work. This will ensure that students are receiving a consistent experience on Moodle across their programme, and that staff are aware of concerns students have with the online platform so that they are able to update and act on them.
11. Collate information to develop and enhance placement activities and opportunities
Currently departments look after placements offered as part of their degree programmes, but there is no central information about the experience of students undertaking placements across the institution. The Union have suggested that the University collate this information centrally, in order to develop and enhance both mandatory and industrial placement activities and opportunities for students.
12. Raise awareness of The Commitment
We suggested that the University work closely with us to raise awareness amongst students of The Commitment. This is a document outlining what the University and Union are committed to doing, and hope students commit to, in order to create the best possible experience at Manchester Met. Find out more about The Commitment.