Independent HE launch pilot validation project in partnership with OU and QAA

This post reproduces the press release from The Open University on 8 September 2016, which includes a statement from Independent HE’s Chief Executive. You can view the original on the OU’s website here. Our Chief Executive goes into more detail on the project with a blog post here.

OU Announches Five New Validation Partners Ahead of Pilot Project

Five new providers are joining The Open University’s degree validation programme, ahead of a pilot scheme with alternative provider representative body Independent Higher Education and HE’s quality assurance agency QAA to create an exemplar validation model for the sector.

Hundreds of students will be benefitting from new OU validated qualifications which offer a flexible route into Higher Education, from a spectrum of providers: Christie’s Education, Ballet West, New College Durham, Leeds City College and Sheffield College.

The new partners highlight a growth in this area for the OU and emphasise its thorough and efficient validation service. All five new partners received the go-ahead to run degree courses just over six months after first approaching the OU, bringing current partnerships to 30, with more discussions in the pipeline.

Validation opens up the market

The pilot scheme will see the OU, working with QAA and Independent HE, developing a model to further increase efficiency, removing barriers to institutions seeking validation whilst upholding the quality and standards essential for a sustainable and reliable validation service.

Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at The Open University said: “Validation is an important way to open up the market and make HE qualifications accessible. Our long-standing expertise in this area, validating awards for nearly 25 years, is the engine behind this exciting pilot project which could steer the future of how FE Colleges and alternative providers operate.

“The OU is very pleased to welcome on board our five new partners. This pilot will help us to develop a model which widens provision further still, but does so in such a way that means students’ interests are always at the forefront.”

New partners highlight growth for OU

Christie’s Education is a leading specialist provider in postgraduate degrees in art and the art market. Studying at Christie’s Education provides graduates with the practical skills, hands-on involvement and research experience needed to reach leadership positions in all areas of the art world. Christie’s Education is unique in being wholly owned by Christie’s International Plc.

Christie’s Education will be offering five OU-validated postgraduate degrees: four MAs, and one MSc in Art, Law and Business.
Jane Hay, International Managing Director of Christie’s Education, said: “The Open University has real depth of expertise and focus in validation from which we will benefit. We have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with University of Glasgow in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and now we are looking forward to working with an English validating partner as we transition towards becoming an exclusively postgraduate institution.”

Ballet West, based in Scotland, will have its Foundation Degree in Dance and BA (Hons) in Dance validated by the OU, with over 100 students enrolling in total. Gillian Barton, Principal and Artistic Director at Ballet West said: “The partnership with The Open University is a big step forward for Ballet West in developing our BA (Hons) degree in Dance. The association with an organisation of such international standing will bring enormous benefits to our staff and students.”

Pilot project will help to set benchmark

The pilot project will test a more efficient approach to validation which could operate right across the sector to include FE Colleges and alternative providers.

Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Independent HE, said:

“Working alongside the OU and QAA on this pilot project offers us a unique opportunity to test a better model for validation which gives students the guarantees of quality they require while streamlining processes to ensure that student fees are spent on the student experience, not unnecessary bureaucracy.

“At its best, validation is a great way for new higher education institutions to develop their provision while learning from a more established partner. But it is also a critical part of the regulatory infrastructure which in recent years has too often failed to deliver the efficient, transparent and reliable process the sector needs.

“The Open University has a first-class reputation for validating high-quality new provision, which made it the natural choice for us to partner with on this pilot. The lessons we learn together will help to set a UK-wide benchmark for excellent validation which protects standards while facilitating innovation and supporting student choice.”

The pilot aims to create a model which will:
– Create a more efficient and transparent process for establishing a relationship with a validator
– Seek alignment and harmonisation of documentation between validating bodies, QAA and other regulators
– Create greater trust between validators and regulators
– Create a more open, non- competitive system to minimise barriers for high quality new providers to enter the market
– Support increased autonomy for providers as they mature

The maintenance of quality and standards is critical to the integrity of the awards made through validation and the exemplar model is designed to ensure that they are upheld. All potential providers will need to meet the minimum required standards, continuing the OU’s existing robust, risk-based approach to validation.

  • On 8th September 2016