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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

12.1: QAA HER (2016)

During 2016 the University was subject to a Higher Education Review (HER), conducted by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

The overall aim of Higher Education Review is to inform students and the wider public whether a provider meets the expectations of the higher education sector for:

  • the setting and/or maintenance of academic standards
  • the provision of learning opportunities
  • the provision of information
  • the enhancement of the quality o​f students' learning opportunities.​

Initial documentation for the review - approved through Education Committee - was submitted by the University (and by the Students' Union) in the week commencing 2nd December 2015.

The review itself took place during the week commencing 29th February 2016. A team of experienced peer reviewers (students and staff from other UK higher education institutions) considered the University's documentation (which included additional evidence provided at the request of the team), and met with groups of students (undergraduate, postgraduate and research) and staff (senior staff, including the Vice-Chancellor, and staff from academic departments, colleges and professional support services).

The review team produced a report which was made available by the QAA on 26th May 2016. The review team confirmed that the standards and quality of the University's educational provision met expectations in all areas, and identified two areas of good practice:

  • the comprehensive and high-quality pastoral support for students' personal development and learning provided by colleges, departments and professional services; and
  • the systematic commitment to providing a wide range of extracurricular activities that enrich the student experience.

The review team also made two recommendations for the University, requesting that Durham:

  • establish, consistently apply and monitor a University-wide policy for the timeliness of feedback on assessment; and
  • develop and implement a consistent approach to communication with students to ensure that they are well informed about important issues relating to their learning experience.

The University has developed, through its Education Committee, an action plan for taking forward the two recommendations and the two areas of good practice identified in the review report.

Information on previous reviews undertaken by the QAA (including the 2009 and 2004 Institutional Audits, and the 2012 Review of the Durham-Fudan partnership in China) can be found on the QAA's website.