Teaching Matters

Enhancement-led Institutional Review by Tina Harrison

Outcomes of ELIR - successes and areas for improvement

Every four years the University has an “Enhancement-Led Institutional Review” (ELIR) which looks at our work in managing teaching quality and improving the student learning experience. Organised by the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAAS) the ELIR allows the University as whole to take a step back and reflect on what is special or different about Edinburgh, what is working, what isn't, and what is on the horizon.

The 2015 Report

At the end of 2015, the University achieved the highest possible judgement of “effectiveness” for managing academic standards and the student learning experience. That rather anodyne language conceals a vast amount of work both in preparing materials for the ELIR review team, but also in preparing its two visits to the University in October and November 2015.

On each occasion there was a breakneck schedule of meetings with academics, students, and professional services colleagues, fed by various new pieces of information that panel asked for. The final Technical and Outcome Reports (a detailed report, and a summary report of the main findings) are now published on the QAAS website. They have been well worth waiting for as they identify many areas of “positive practice” where the University is doing particularly well. 

Quality Assurance Agency review reports for the University of Edinburgh

The outcomes - where we did well

One unique development specifically highlighted was The Edinburgh Award – an employability scheme established by the University’s Careers Service in collaboration with the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA). 

The award recognises extra-curricular activities such as volunteering as well as involvement in initiatives such as the Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS) in which students “buddy” or mentor other students. Students who participated in The Edinburgh Award felt they had gained really useful skills. One participant said:

I already felt confident with talking to students and was comfortable with presenting material. However I had previously not considered in such detail, how the act of discussion with students is such an informative tool in gauging a person’s abilities. The process of achieving the University of Edinburgh Award has made some of the skills that I already possessed stronger and more explicit.

Other areas that the report commended included our progressive and effective approach to online distance programme development and delivery; our strong commitment to internationalisation of the student experience; and the significant role of the Institute for Academic Development in supporting and developing staff and students.

More details are available in the Technical and Outcome Reports and the Case Studies document produced for ELIR.

Case Studies document

Further successes

The report also recognised the University’s strategic commitment to enhancing learning and teaching and our effective use of self-evaluation for continuous improvement, in particular through our internal quality assurance processes, use of management information, and the recently developed External Examiner Reporting System.

Edinburgh’s success in the latest ELIR is a demonstration of the unambiguous priority the University has to provide a really outstanding learning and teaching experience for all our students. Our success is a tribute to all members of the University community who have been involved, not just in the review but in our ongoing efforts to educate, develop, and support our students.

Where we can improve

The Technical and Outcome Reports also set out (again in that anodyne language) some “areas for further development”: that is, things we could be better at.

Top of the list was to look hard at the support we give PhD students, both in developing their doctorates but also their wider career development. We were also asked to look at: specific aspects of the personal tutor system, building on the positive progress since we launched the system; student representation at school and college level, building on the existing strong relationship we have with EUSA at institutional level; assessment and feedback; and the ways in which we recognise and reward contribution to teaching.

All these are areas we are currently working on and the ELIR has confirmed these as top priorities.

In March 2017 we will provide a follow-up report on actions taken – and no doubt begin after that to turn our minds to the next ELIR which will likely follow two years later!

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Developing your own learning and teaching

If you’re thinking about developing your own learning and teaching in the areas identified by the ELIR, there are plenty of resources available.

Practical applications