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  4. External regulatory context

External regulatory context

As a provider operating across the four UK nations, the Open University is subject to the quality assessment requirements of the funding/regulatory bodies within each nation.  

In England, it is a registered provider of the Office for Students (OfS) and is bound by the OfS conditions of registration including those conditions relating to quality (B1-B5).  The University’s relationship with OfS is managed by the University Secretary’s Office who also co-ordinate activity across relevant internal stakeholders to enable proactive management of OfS initiatives relating to registration. 


QAA logo in English and WelshQuality Enhancement Review 2021

To satisfy the requirements of the funding bodies in the other nations, the University is subject to a six yearly Quality Enhancement Review (QER) undertaken by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.  The University’s last QER took place in March 2021 and it received a positive judgement, which means that the reviewers deemed that it has robust arrangements for securing academic standards, managing academic quality and for enhancing the quality of the student experience. The University has produced an action plan in response to the affirmations and recommendations arising from the QER, as well as demonstrating how it will capitalise on the commendations.

  • A copy of the report is available on the QAA website.

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework

The TEF assesses excellence in teaching at universities and colleges, and assesses how each higher education provider ensures excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study. The Office for Students is developing a new framework for the TEF during 2021 taking into account a recent independent review instigated by government and findings from a subject-level TEF pilot that the OU participated in.

TEF is managed within the University by the Office of the PVC (Students).


The UK Quality Code for Higher Education

The UK Quality Code provides a series of reference points for UK higher education providers to help them assure the standards and quality of their provision.  Alignment with the expectations and core practices of the Code is a regulatory requirement for all UK higher education providers, and common practices are also mandatory in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.   The Code also includes a set of 12 Advice and Guidance documents that reflect best practice in the sector and that the University uses to support delivery of a robust quality assurance framework.

The University has produced a detailed mapping document demonstrating how its systems and processes align with the requirements of the Code. 


The European Standards Guidelines (ESG)

The ESG are a set of standards and guidelines for internal and external quality assurance in higher education across Europe and are a baseline regulatory requirement of the quality assessment framework in Wales.  To ensure alignment against the standards, the University has mapped its processes against the guidelines.


Other external reference points

The UK national qualification frameworks set out the different levels of higher education qualifications across the four nations and the requirements for each level. Alignment with the relevant framework is mandatory for all nations.  There is one framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications) and one for Scotland (the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework).  Alignment with the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales is an additional requirement for providers operating in Wales.  

The University’s own internal levels framework aligns fully with these national frameworks and is reviewed on a regular basis.

Subject Benchmark Statements describe the nature of study and the academic standards expected of graduates in specific subject areas. They show what graduates might reasonably be expected to know, do and understand at the end of their studies.

Characteristics Statements describe the distinctive features of qualifications at particular levels within the national qualification frameworks in terms of their purpose, general characteristics and generic outcomes, but do not include subject level detail. 

Although Subject Benchmark and Characteristics Statements are no longer a formal part of the regulatory framework in England, they remain so in Scotland and Wales. The University’s qualification approval, monitoring and review processes require reference to the statements where appropriate for a subject/qualification area.