14th Annual Conference – QSN: The Hot Topics Conference

Thursday 19th Sep 2019 - Friday 20th Sep 2019

************Conference Bookings Are Closed************

The transformation of the quality management landscape continues with great rapidity and intensity in a sector buffeted by daily media headlines and in the midst of potentially seismic changes affecting the sector as a whole. As the new regulator for English Higher Education, the Office for Students continues to adopt a bold, student-focused, risk-based approach, reflecting the significant changes to HE in the last 25 years and seeking to anticipate changes still to come.

Familiar features – notably, the UK Quality Code – have been subject to a fundamental review with QSN Executive members contributing to 11 out of the 12 Quality Code Theme Writing Groups.

The increasing numbers of degree students gaining first and upper second class degrees has been the focus of media headlines, reporting and a recent consultation about putative grade inflation. The latter includes a proposed sector statement about how to protect the value of the honours degree qualifications over time and once again raises the question of effective externality.

As part of the new regulatory framework for HE in England, QAA has been designated to carry out the quality and assessment functions set out in the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 and we now understand the parameters within which QAA will operate in performing these functions. New and existing providers continue to apply to be on the ‘register’. There is also the question of the extent to which this very Anglo centric agenda impacts the rest of the UK.

The TEF has seen a second year of subject-level pilot and we are eagerly awaiting the results of the independent review of TEF being conducted by Dame Shirley Pearce. The Augar review has been published with its more than 50 recommendations. Unsurprisingly, the QAA has moved to a new membership model. TNE in-country review is still on the radar but with clarity required on how it will be funded. Added to this we may soon be navigating Brexit and attempting to ensure that funding mechanisms to support research excellence remain, our global rankings are sustained, academic talent from the EU is retained and universities’ ability to drive growth and generate jobs are not hampered.

These ‘hot topics’ all impact quality practitioners and this year’s conference seeks to enable us to engage across a broad spectrum of current issues. However, our conference will also consider the question of what the changes require of us, as senior quality professionals. In the midst of this uncertainty, what can we do to help secure student success and maintain academic standards?

We are delighted that our Keynote Address this year will be given by Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor, Edge Hill University, whose expertise in sector development and leadership will be of great value to us with the changes we face. We also look forward to welcoming Sue Reece, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), Staffordshire University, Professor Paul Bartholomew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Ulster University, Jennie Walmsley, Data and Research Officer, QAA, Luke Myer, NUS Higher Education Zone Committee, Dr Geoff Stoakes, Head of Special Projects, Advance HE, Douglas Blackstock, Chief Executive, QAA, Rebecca Rhodes, Senior Associate from the University Validation Awards Council (UVAC) and Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor, WonkHE.

As ever, this QSN event offers the opportunity for colleagues to get together in a constructive and supportive environment and I look forward greatly to welcoming new and returning delegates to our 14th Annual Conference.


Chair of QSN

Event Breakdown

Day One
Day Two

Day One – Thursday, 19 September, 2019

Time Description
12:30 Arrival & Registration
13:30 Opening of Conference
Welcome from the Chair and Deputy Chair of QSN, Lee Jones and Dr Victoria Korzeniowska
13:35 – 14:05 Keynote Speech – Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor, Edge Hill University
Present Tense, Future Imperfect? Universities in an Age of Reform
14:05 – 14:35 Sue Reece, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), Staffordshire University
Managing the quality of the student experience: it needs to sit with the whole institution
14:35 – 15:05 Professor Paul Bartholomew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Ulster University
Enhancement from an Ulster University HE Perspective
15:05 – 15:35 Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor, WonkHE
Is Higher Education going to hell in a handcart – understanding the political and policy environment we’re in
15:35 – 16:15 Refreshments – New QSN members join QSN Executive Members over tean and coffee
16:15 – 16:45 Panel Discussion: What are the implications of managing quality in the context of a VFM agenda and reduced student fees?
Dr John Cater, Professor Paul Bartholomew, Sue Reece, Luke Myer, Dr Geoff Stoakes, Douglas Blackstock and Jim Dickinson
17:00 – 18:00 Workshop: What are the implications of managing quality in the context of a VFM agenda and reduced student fees?
Workshop sessions will be facilitated by members of the QSN Executive
19:15 Champagne Reception in Bar – Sponsored by EvaSys Surveys and Exams
19:45 Conference Dinner
After Dinner Reflections

Day Two – Friday, 20 September, 2019

Time Description
08:20 QSN Annual General Meeting
08:55 Welcome from the Chair and Deputy Chair of QSN, Lee Jones and Dr Victoria Korzeniowska
09:00 – 09:25 Douglas Blackstock – Chief Executive, QAA
Sustainability of the Quality Brand of UK Higher Education
09:25 – 09:50 Jennie Walmsley, Data and Reporting Manager, Quality Assessment England, QAA
The data revolutions in Higher Education – the golden opportunity for quality
09:55 – 10:30 Luke Myer – Member of NUS’s Higher Education Zone Committee
Student participation in national quality assurance, and the positive impact for the sector, and for our wider society
10:30 – 11:00 Refreshment break and interaction with workshop outcomes in the lounge
11:00 – 11:30 Rebecca Rhodes, Senior Associate, UVAC
Degree Apprenticeship, Higher Technical Education and T Levels – Opportunities and Challenges
11:30 – 12:20 Parallel facilitated workshops
12:20 – 13:10 Parallel facilitated workshops
13:10 Final Conference Plenary, highlighting key issues for QSN. Closing remarks
Conference evaluation facilitated by EvaSys Surveys and Exams
13:20 Lunch and departure

Parallel Elective Workshops

Friday, 20 September, 2019 – 11:30, repeated 12:20

No. Workshop Title Indicative Content
1 QSN Module Evaluation Special  Interest Group

 (11:30 only)

Dr Victoria Korzeniowska, King’s College London
Keith Swanson, Reading University

Colleagues with an interest in module evaluation and, in particular, the software available and widely used to support module evaluation are invited to this 3rd meeting of the QSN Module Evaluation SIG.

Student Evaluation of Teaching: our brave new world

Newcastle will in 2019/20 implement a number of changes to student evaluations of teaching, which includes the removal of end of module evaluations. Our presentation will remind colleagues of why we have done this and cover what we will be doing instead.

2 Ask Achievability….

 (12:20 only)

Bruce Johnson, Managing Director (Interim), EvaSys Surveys and Exams
Sunny Angelova, Account Manager, EvaSys Surveys and Exams

If you are either an existing customer or new to EvaSys Surveys and Exams then come and ask us any question – how about?

  • Improving the evaluation process and online response rates
  • Recent enhancements in qualitative reporting of free text students’ comments through Sentiment Analysis
  • Reporting methods and outputs for all stakeholders
  • Module Benchmarking for the sector and TEF outputs
  • Exciting new developments in the most recent EvaSys release, V8
3 Protecting the value of undergraduate degrees: the contribution of external examining

External Speaker: Dr Geoff Stoakes, Head of Special Projects, Advance HE


Increasing numbers of degree students gaining first and upper second class degrees has been the subject of much speculation about putative grade inflation over the past few years.

Ensuring that degrees do not lose their value over time is now a condition of continued registration with the Office for Students (OfS) for higher education providers in England and the TEF now requires institutions to address grade inflation data. Strengthened external examining is one way of ensuring against the erosion of academic standards. The Degree Standards project, led by Advance HE, and managed by the Office for Students on behalf of the English, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations has developed professional development packages for external examiners.

This session will summarise the key achievements of the project so far and the main challenges it faces and explore how far a strengthened external examining system can prevent the erosion of academic standards.

Subject level TEF – Implications for quality This workshop has  unfortunately been cancelled as the independent review of the TEF has not yet been published and the presenter would not be in a position to discuss TEF developments. All delegates will be contacted shortly.
4 Data revolutions and implications for quality

External Speaker: Jennie Walmsley, Data and Research Officer, Evaluation and Analytics Team, QAA


An interactive workshop to explore the quality implications of the recent data revolutions in Higher Education, such as TEF; OfS and risk based regulation; the opportunity presented by social media; and the move to in-year reporting with Data Futures. We will explore how these data revolutions can help with quality measures (both internal and external), and what you can do in your organisation to embrace the opportunity they present.
5 Guidance on Degree Outcomes Statements

QSN Facilitated Workshop:

Convenor: Nigel Dandy, University of York

(11:30 only)

In May 2019 the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment published ‘Degree Classification: Transparency, Reliability and Fairness – A Statement of Intent’.

This ‘Statement of Intent’ outlines a series of commitments to protecting the value of UK degrees. The Statement requires awarding bodies in England to publish a ‘degree outcomes statement’ articulating the results of an internal institutional review into its degree classification data, including quantitative trends in student degree outcomes over time, external scrutiny of academic standards and rationale for degree algorithms.

The session will explore progress made and any challenges and opportunities QSN member institutions are facing.

6 Quality and Planning – A Marriage of Convenience?

QSN Facilitated Workshop:

Jon Renyard, University Secretary, Arts University, Bournemouth

(12:20 only)

A general group discussion about issues and shared experiences and plans relating to:

  • Pre-populating Programme Monitoring Reports (PMRs) to underpin annual monitoring approaches and demonstrate progress with relevant Corporate KPIs.
  • Improving the reflective nature of annual reporting
  • SMART and effective actions.
  • The challenges and successes of establishing a single source of data for use across the whole institution and improve transparency of reporting.

The session will ask attendees to outline institutional approaches and provide some reflection on both challenges and successes.

This session replaces the workshop which was to be delivered by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

7 UK Quality Code for Higher Education

QSN Facilitated Workshop:

Dr Julie Blackwell Young, Abertay University

(11:30 only)

  • How QSN member institutions have responded to the new Code?
  • Innovative approaches
  • Sharing of information
8 What is driving enhancement in my institution?

QSN Facilitated Workshop:


Maureen McLaughlin, Director of Education Policy and Quality, The University of Warwick

With all the changes in the external environment, it’s tempting to wonder where and how quality enhancement fits – not least because the growing differences between the external regulatory requirements in the four nations of the UK.  This workshop will start with brief presentations from an experienced quality practitioner from each of the four nations on what they feel is driving quality enhancement in their institutions, in their national contexts.  The workshop will then open this up to all participants, for a discussion of questions such as:

  • Is TEF making a difference? Is it driving quality enhancement?  Can it drive quality enhancement?
  • Are different approaches to quality enhancement emerging in the different UK nations? If so, what are the differences?
  • Is quality enhancement being lost, in the media focus on assurance and regulation?s TEF making a difference – is it driving improvement/excellence, and what does that mean for other quality processes?

Conference Fee

Free to holders of QSN Season Ticket 2019/20 (one member per institution, see below)and QSN Season Ticket Plus One 2019/20 (two members per institution, see below)
£260 for delegates from QSN member institutions
Unsubsidised fee of £450 for representatives from institutions that have not subscribed as members of QSN
The fee includes the Conference dinner, and overnight accommodation at the conference centre for the night of Thursday, 19 September.  Places are limited so early booking is advised to avoid disappointment.  Booking is not restricted to the institutional representative – a nominee can attend in his/her place.

Paying by card
If you would like to pay for your booking with a credit / debit card, please call 0161 275 2163 with your card details once you have received your invoice.

QSN Season ticket 2019/20

The Network offers a QSN Season Ticket.  
For an annual fee of £495, you receive:

  • Institutional membership of QSN
  • One free QSN Conference place
  • Subsequent Conference places at Member rates
  • A free place at (a minimum of) two Symposium events during the year, and member rates for subsequent Symposium delegates.

The Network also offers a QSN Season Ticket Plus One – 2019/20  
For an annual fee of £750, you receive:

  • Institutional membership of QSN for two institutional members
  • Two free QSN Conference places
  • Subsequent Conference places at Member rates
  • Two free places at (a minimum of) two Symposium events during the year, and member rates for subsequent Symposium delegates.

Any additional events during the year (such as extraordinary meetings to consider specific developments) will also be available at a preferential rate.  The place is allocated to the institution, and is not tied to a named individual.

Event Details

This event belongs to the following categories:
Event Begins:
Thursday 19th Sep 2019

Event Ends:
Friday 20th Sep 2019

Event Venue

Aston Business School Conference Centre
Aston University, Aston St Birmingham, B4 7ET United Kingdom

Paying by card
If you would like to pay for your booking with a credit / debit card, please call 0161 275 2063 with your card details once you have received your invoice.

Aston University, Aston St, Birmingham B4 7ET, United Kingdom

Event Registration

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