OfS picks up DQB responsibilities

The Office for Students will take on interim responsibility for quality assurance once QAA demits it role

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

From April 2023 OfS will carry out assessment activities that were previously the purview of QAA under its role as Designated Quality Body (DQB), “on an interim basis”.

QAA of course demitted its role as DQB for England in July, after failing to agree with OfS on a number of issues including the involvement of students in reviews and the publication of commissioned reports which put it in breach of its registration with the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).

Yesterday QAA released an update for what it plans to do before putting on its DQB out of office – for good – at the end of the day on 31 March. It confirmed that it would complete most but not all of the Full Degree Awarding Powers assessments that were commissioned prior to announcing that it would demit its role, and for those still in progress there will be a handover arrangement. We now have confirmation that the handover will be to OfS.

QAA also confirmed that it would complete all Quality and Standards Reviews (QSR) that are in process, and that it might conduct Standards Assessments although there are not currently any commissioned. For the other Degree Awarding Powers assessments – new DAPs, new DAPs probationary monitoring, variation DAPs assessments – it anticipates completing all those that have been requested.

Today OfS has announced that all of the above, plus quality assurance of endpoint assessments for apprenticeships, will fall under its remit from 2023. Will these arrangements prove permanent? For now, OfS simply states:

The OfS will continue to discuss longer-term arrangements with sector representative groups, keeping universities and colleges informed as these discussions progress.

Looking to head off potential worries around whether OfS has the capacity or expertise to perform complex quality assurance work, director of quality Jean Arnold highlighted the fact that it is already conducting quality assessments “as part of its programme of investigations on quality issues” – not least the “boots on the ground” inspections of eight “poor quality” business and management courses currently underway, though as Jim spotted recently the press release has been updated to remove the reference to “poor”.

And while we don’t know who has been recruited to do these investigations, how well they are going, or what the outcome will be, we are told that OfS “will expand our pool of academic experts as our assessment activity increases next year”.

Meanwhile QAA this week has been licensed to carry out accreditation services in Vietnam and continues with its celebration of its twenty fifth anniversary – presumably with nary a glance over the shoulder.

One response to “OfS picks up DQB responsibilities

  1. Of course, according to HERA, the OfS is not permitted to be its own DQB, so that’s… interesting. Presumably this won’t/can’t be a permanent arrangement? Having read the OfS’ quality conditions I am not convinced that they are qualified, despite Ms Arnold’s assurances to the contrary.

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