Guide to Quality and Education for Sustainability in Higher Education

Part 1 - Orientation

Quality Matters

Critical agendas in the Quality landscape

The field of Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Enhancement (QE) in Higher Education operates at several levels, in line with formal policy frameworks and priorities as well as changing theories of learning. In the time frame of this project, the UK Higher Education sector was experiencing several significant shifts in the landscape around curriculum quality, with particular attention to:

In addition to these large scale shifts in the official quality frameworks and their parameters, agencies and staff involved in UK Higher Education have also been responding to specific quality agendas, including:

These changes in relation to the understanding and improvement of quality in Higher Education are reshaping sector views about what matters most – and to whom – in learning and teaching quality. They recognize the growing diversity of providers now operating in the sector and the increasing importance of the perspectives of learners being embedded in quality systems, as their opinions gain greater power.

Why Quality Matters for EfS

In EfS there are several important connections with this changing quality landscape and they provide the context in which EfS can frame its most appropriate modes of engagement with the curriculum:

As Higher Education develops responses to these quality agendas, the approaches needed are likely to involve effective connections to be made between corporate institutional planning and academic development agendas. This inevitably raises issues in terms of leadership and management, as the tensions at these intersections are explored, in the effort to ensure quality whilst also protecting innovation.

Members of the project’s Expert Advisory Board comment on the relevance and potential of EfS in the UK quality assurance landscape:
- Speaker 1: Andrew Smith (Head of Estates and Sustainable Development, HEFCE) comments on importance of the project in looking for appropriate ways to connect EfS with the UK quality mechanism
- Speaker 2: Jane Davidson (Director, INSPIRE, University of Wales Trinity St David) explains the need for strategic themes like sustainability to be reflected through institutional quality processes
- Speaker 3: Virginia Isaac (Director, Sustainable Direction) considers the potential future for EfS as part of the formal quality audit mechanism in HE, noting the steps taken by OFSTED in this area