The OU has a visit coming up this spring from the “Quality Assurance Agency” (QAA). QAA is the organisation that is responsible for checking university courses meet the right standards (like OFSTED do for schools). As well as safeguarding standards, they look to improve the quality of UK higher education and ensure students receive the higher education they are entitled to expect.
Before QAA visits, paperwork has to be submitted to explain more about the university – you’ll be glad to know that because students are at the heart of what universities do, there is also a submission from students, either as part of the university’s document or separately.
Here at the OU Students Association, we were very keen to make our submission our own, separate from the OU’s. Over a year ago, we set up a team to do this, led by two extremely dedicated and hard-working “Lead Reps”, Barbara Tarling and Sandra Summers, who coordinated everything and galvanised us all into action, together with 2018-20 and 2020-22 Central Executive Committee members. The team has been working on this for over a year.
The themes for the submission were set by the university, but we also decided we needed a section on the student experience of the OU’s pandemic changes.
Our role is to highlight what is going well and should be continued, where changes to policy and process may be required and any significant issues encountered by students. We used the feedback that you have given to the University and listened to what you have been telling us on social media to make sure that the submission would reflect your views.
Please do read the submission! But here are a few highlights of what we mentioned:
- Reduction in the number of face to face tutorials and the move to online teaching.
- The move to more online-based materials has caused greater issues for students who find they need books to study or have poor broadband connections.
- The ongoing issues with the provision of alternative format study materials for students with disabilities.
- The changes in the nature of OU students, including more younger students and an increase in the number studying at full-time intensity who may need additional support.
- … and of course, the various changes made during the pandemic.
The team, along with selected student representatives will be attending a session with QAA in under a month. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss the OU student experience in-depth!
Sarah Jones, President 2020-2022
Cath Brown, President 2018-2020