14th Annual Conference – QSN: The Hot Topics Conference

Thursday 19th Sep 2019 - Friday 20th Sep 2019

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 enters a second year of piloting, as work progresses to develop the subject-level assessment framework. The Augar review with its potential £2,500 headline fee reduction is keenly awaited as the media debate continues on the value for money of higher education. 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 Professor Sue Reece, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), Staffordshire University, Professor Paul Bartholomew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Ulster University, Helen Cullis, Data Analyst, QAA, Luke Myer, NUS Higher Education Zone Committee, Dr Geoff Stoakes, Head of Special Projects, Advance HE and Douglas Blackstock, Chief Executive, QAA.

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 Professor Sue Reece, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience), Staffordshire University
Working Title: 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
Working Title: Enhancement from a Northern Ireland HE Perspective
15:05 – 15:35 Jim Dickinson, Associate Editor, WonkHE
15:35 – 16:15 Refreshments – New QSN members meet with QSN Executive Members
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, Professor Sue Reece, Mr Luke Myer, Dr Geoff Stoakes and Douglas Blackstock
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 Achievability
19:45 Conference Dinner
After Dinner Reflections

Day Two – Friday, 20 September, 2019

Time Description
08:30 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
Working Title – TBC
09:25 – 09:50 Helen Cullis, Data Analyst, Evaluation and Analytics Team, 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
Working Title TBC
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 Achievability
13:20 Lunch and departure

Parallel Elective Workshops

Friday, 20 September, 2019 – 10:30, repeated 12:00

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

 (10:30 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 meeting of the QSN Module Evaluation SIG.

The SIG met for the first time at King’s College London in January 2019 and will hold its second meeting by Skype before the end of the academic year.

2 Degree Standards: External Examining

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

Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC

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.

3 Subject level TEF – implications for quality

External Speaker: TEF Policy Team – TBCQSN Facilitator: TBC
Content to be updated shortly
4 Data revolutions and implications for quality

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

Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC

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 Quality and Planning – A Marriage of Convenience? TBC

External Speaker: Nina Anderson-Knox, ‘Head of QuEST’, University of the West of Scotland

Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC

At UWS our Quality Enhancement Support Team (QuEST) and our Strategic Planning team have worked together to develop an online, pre-populated Programme Monitoring Report (PMR) to underpin our annual monitoring approach and demonstrate progress with relevant Corporate KPIs.  The aim was to improve the reflective nature of the reporting, support the identification of effective actions, establish a single source of data for use across the whole institution and improve transparency of reporting.  In this session I will outline our approach and provide some reflection on year one of operation.
6 Working Title: Degree Apprenticeships

Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC

Content to be updated shortly
7 Working Title: What is driving enhancement in my institution?
Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC
Content to be updated shortly
8 Working Title: Implementing and embedding the new UK Quality Code

Lead QSN Facilitator: TBC

Content to be updated shortly

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.

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

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

Event Registration

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