- Postgraduate researchers
- Vitae Researcher Development Framework
- RDS endorsements
- The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s (QAA) mission is to safeguard the public interest in sound standards on higher education (HE) qualifications and to inform and encourage continuous improvement in the management of the quality of HE. To this end QAA carries out institutional audits of higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland, institutional reviews in Wales and enhancement-led reviews in Scotland.
The Academic Infrastructure is a term used by QAA to cover a set of UK-wide nationally agreed reference points for higher education.These reference points give higher education providers a shared starting point for setting, describing and assuring the quality of the learning experience and standards of higher education awards or programmes which include research degrees.
The Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education: Section one, postgraduate research programmes is part of the Academic Infrastructure. It presents 27 precepts providing clear guidance on the Funding Councils’, Research Councils and QAA’s expectations in respect of the management, quality and academic standards of research programmes.
Three precepts relate to the development of researchers:
- Precept 18: ‘Institutions will provide research students with appropriate opportunities for personal and professional development’.
- Precept 19: ‘Each student's development needs will be identified and agreed jointly by the student and appropriate academic staff, initially during the student's induction period; they will be regularly reviewed during the research programme and amended as appropriate’.
- Precept 20: ‘Institutions will provide opportunities for research students to maintain a record of personal progress, which includes reference to the development of research and other skills’.
The guidance for Precept 19 makes reference to the Research Councils’ expectations of the skills that their funded researchers should have on completion of their degree programmes, expressed as the ‘Skills training requirements for research students’ Appendix 3 of Section One of the Code of practice. This statement is commonly known as the ‘Joint skills statement’ (JSS). The JSS states that ‘it is not the intention of this document to provide assessment criteria for research training’. The skills and attributes may be present on commencement, explicitly taught, or developed during the course of the research. The JSS is provided as guidance to institutions to use as appropriate.
The Researcher Development Statement (RDS) is an evolution of the Joint Skills Statement. It is anticipated that the RDF would be incorporated into the code of practice, replacing the JSS in a similar way. As with the JSS, there is no expectation that HEIs need to provide formal training opportunities for researchers for all areas identified within the RDF:
Institutions will wish to use their experience of structured training and education to establish personal and professional development opportunities for the benefit of students. The extent to which research students are required to take advantage of these opportunities will normally be negotiated through the supervision process, taking account of subject and individual needs.
(Section One, Precept 19 guidance)
The FAQs provide more information on specific aspects of the RDF and QAA Code of practice:
- Will the QAA incorporate the RDS into the CoP for research degree programmes?
- What will be the status of RDS in the QAA Code of practice: will institutions have to comply with it?
- Will the RDS be included in QAA institutional audit?
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