General programme validation manual

By Chris Lee,2014-04-11 22:23
14 views 0
General programme validation manual

    General Programme Validation Manual 2010



    Comhairle na nDámhachtainí Ardoideachais agus Oiliúna, Éire

    General Programme Validation Manual


    Short title General Programme Validation Manual

    Reference code: Version: Date of issue:

    05/07/2010 E.2.4 1.1


    General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    General Programme Validation Manual
























General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    1 Introduction

    This document applies to the validation of all programmes based on prescribed courses of study. It assumes familiarity with HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria. It supplements

    this with information about how HETAC conducts validation. It also describes how an

    application for validation should be presented.

    Validation by HETAC is an external quality assurance procedure which is consistent with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

    It is equivalent to the ex ante programme accreditation process used in some other

    European countries.

    2 Information for applicants

    The validation process begins when a provider makes an application to HETAC. If the 1application is successful the process ends when HETAC issues an Order of Council an

    Approved Programme Schedule and a Certificate of Programme Validation (see Appendix 1).

    Providers should consult the following documents when preparing for validation:

    ; Core Validation Policy and Criteria is the basis for all of HETAC’s validation

    processes. It sets down the core processes and general criteria which are used

    by all validation processes. All applications for validation will need to be

    prepared with reference to it.

    ; Assessment and Standards is about the assessment of learners. It is intended to

    be suitable for all types of programmes and providers. It is produced for the

    attention of and use by those involved in the development of programmes

    (among others). It explains certain key concepts that are critical to validation.

    Among these are minimum intended programme learning outcomes and

    programme and module assessment strategies.

    ; Awards Standards is a series of publications which describe the standard to be

    acquired by learners in particular fields of learning (i) before a higher education

    and training award may be made by HETAC or by a recognised institution to

    which authority to make awards has been delegated by HETAC, or (ii) who

    request from HETAC recognition of an award made by a body other than HETAC

    or a recognised institution to which authority to make awards has been

    delegated. This implies that they describe the learning required to pass. Some

    awards standards are broad: e.g. engineering, business, and others are narrower:

    e.g. computing, art and design, architecture, nursing, social care, etc)

    ; Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher

    Education Area (ENQA) sets out minimum standards for providers’ internal

    quality assurance procedures as well as the external quality assurance

    procedures of agencies such as HETAC. Part 1 of this document is addressed to


     1 Certain terms have a precise technical meaning in the context of this document and may have important nuances which differ from conventional meanings. These terms are set in blue italics typeface where they first appear and, except where a specific cross-reference is provided, are defined in Section 4, Interpretations.


General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    ; Policy for Collaborative Programmes, Transnational Programmes and Joint

    Awards provides special validation criteria and quality assurance guidelines for

    programmes with a collaborative and/or transnational dimension.

    ; Policies, actions and procedures for Access, Transfer and Progression for

    Learners (NQAI) sets out specific policies, actions and procedures on: credit,

    transfer and progression routes, entry arrangements, and information provision.

    Under each of these headings, the respective roles of key stakeholders the

    NQAI, HETAC and FETAC and providers are specified. A summary of

    procedures that apply to providers in relation to each of the policy areas is

    provided in Addendum 3 of that document.

    ; Principles and Operational Guidelines for the Recognition of Prior Learning in

    Further and Higher Education and Training (NQAI 2005) sets out the principles

    and operational guidelines for the recognition of prior learning in further and

    higher education and training established by the National Qualifications

    Authority of Ireland following consultation with stakeholders.

    ; Principles and operational guidelines for the implementation of a national

    approach to credit in Irish higher education and training (NQAI 2006) sets out

    the national approach to credit in higher education and training. It is intended

    to complement the National Framework of Qualifications. The Framework is an

    outcomes-based awards system, and that the national approach to credit is

    compatible with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation system (ECTS).

    ; ECTS User’s Guide (European Communities 2009)

    ; Accumulation of Credit through Certification of Subjects Policy (This scheme is

    subject to more recent policies e.g. Assessment and Standards and policy on


    ; Research Degree Programme Policy and Criteria provides detailed information

    for prospective providers of research degree programmes including professional

    doctorate programmes.

    ; Fee Schedule for HETAC Services sets out the fees for validation and other

    HETAC services.

    See the Section 5 for information about where to obtain these documents. They are all available online.

    3 The General Programme Validation Process

    The process is governed by HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria. This section provides

    additional detail.

    The new programme development process is the responsibility of the provider. The provider should not assume that deficiencies in this development process can be compensated for by validation. Development must thought through and be completed prior to applying for validation. However, the validation process will often lead to the enhancement of the programme.


General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    3.1 Preparing, describing and presenting the new programme

    The information about the programme should be prepared with the validation process in mind. It should provide sufficient information to enable the expert panel to judge whether

    or not the programme will enable the target learners to achieve the minimum intended

    programme learning outcomes.

    An application for validation must supply a detailed description of the programme, its context, its educational objectives and its target learners and their characteristics. The General Programme Validation Template (Appendix 3) should be used for this purpose. The

    description should be accompanied by a Proposed Programme Schedule (Appendix 1). The

    programme assessment strategy and module assessment strategies (see HETAC’s

    Assessment and Standards document) must also be provided.

    Applicants should refer to HETAC’s Policy and Draft Guidelines on Minor, Special Purpose and

    Supplemental Awards 2008. In particular, any minor awards associated with the programme should be identified clearly. See the Appendix 1Section 2.1.3 for the meanings of these

    classes of award-types.

    The proposed programme’s target learners should be identified. This is necessary so that the

    expert panel can satisfy itself that the proposed programme can meet their learning needs. The prerequisite learning (knowledge, skill and competence) should be specified along with any other assumptions concerning the target learners (e.g. adult learners, part-time learners, international students, learners who are preparing for entry into a particular profession). The minimum intended programme learning outcomes must be clear, unambiguous and consistent with the relevant Awards Standards. The expert panel must satisfy itself that these are consistent with the relevant Awards Standards.

    The provider must also provide a critical self-assessment of the proposed programme

    against the applicable validation criteria. The basic criteria for validation are set out in section 3 of HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria. The policy and criteria are

    supplemented by more specialised policy and criteria in the following documents:

    ; Policy for Collaborative Programmes, Transnational Programmes and Joint


    ; Research Degree Programme Validation Policy and Criteria

    The Qualifications (Education and Training) Act requires that where a programme of higher education and training is organised or procured, in whole or in part, by a provider (“the first mentioned provider”) and is provided, in whole or in part, by another provider (“the second mentioned provider”), the first mentioned provider shall consult with the second mentioned

    provider before making an application for validation. HETAC will regard such an arrangement as collaborative provision and the programme concerned as a collaborative programme in the sense of HETAC’s Policy for Collaborative Programmes, Transnational Programmes and Joint Awards. This policy calls for the establishment of a consortium agreement and

    additional quality assurance procedures for the collaborative provision.


General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    If the proposed programme is transnational, in the sense of HETAC’s Policy for Collaborative

    Programmes, Transnational Programmes and Joint Awards, HETAC should be consulted at an

    early stage in planning.

    In summary the following shall be provided:

    ; Proposed Programme Schedule (see Appendix 1)

    ; Programme Information supplied using the General Programme Validation

    Template (see Appendix 3) this includes:

    ; Minimum Intended Programme Learning Outcomes

    ; Profile of the Proposed Programme’s Target Learners

    ; Programme Assessment Strategy

    ; Module Assessment Strategies

    ; (Critical) Self-assessment Report

    ; Consortium Agreement(s) (when applicable)

    ; Any additional/specific quality assurance procedures required for the


    3.1.1 Submission of an application

    Six printed copies of the application together with an electronic version should be

    sent to the Director of Academic Affairs at HETAC. Applications must be

    accompanied by the appropriate fee. The current schedule of fees is available on the

    HETAC website.

    3.2 Processing of applications

    Applications will be processed in accordance with the seven-step process set out in HETAC’s

    Core Validation Policy and Criteria.

    The first step includes a desk check. HETAC will check that the application includes all of the elements required in section 3.1 (see section 4.4 Core Validation Policy and Criteria for

    complete information about the seven steps in the process).

    3.2.1 Timeline

    Complete applications are normally processed in the order of arrival at HETAC. The

    targeted timescale for completion of the validation process is twenty weeks from

    the date of acknowledgement of the submission document.

    Timescales can, however, vary significantly depending, for example, on the dates

    scheduled for meetings of HETAC’s Academic Committee.

    Providers should apply in sufficient time for the validation process to be completed

    before the planned commencement date of the programme.

    Providers should also bear in mind that a programme may not be advertised as

    leading to a HETAC award until an Order of Council and Certificate of Approval have

    been received.

    3.2.2 Communication protocols

    Formal communications regarding key stages of the external assessment process will

    be between the HETAC representative as nominated by its Director of Academic


    General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    Affairs (hereafter the validation manager) and the provider’s registrar (or equivalent)

    or his or her nominee. Routine or incidental communications may involve others. 3.2.3 Formation of the expert panel

    Expert panels are formed by HETAC under the direction of the validation manager. The expert panel is constituted on a case-by-case basis in accordance with HETAC’s

    Core Validation Policy and Criteria and Participating in an evaluation panel as an

    expert assessor: Guidelines.

    Before an expert panel is formally approved the provider is invited to comment on the constitution of the expert panel and should at this stage declare any information that might give rise to a conflict of interest (actual or potential, real or apparent). The expert panel must be approved by HETAC’s Director of Academic Affairs before

    members are appointed formally.

    3.2.4 The Expert Panel Chairperson

    One expert panel member is appointed by HETAC as the chairperson to the expert panel. The chairperson is responsible for representing the expert panel, for chairing meetings of the expert panel and for chairing sessions at the site-visit. The chairperson will represent the expert panel following the site visit. He or she, for example, will be consulted by HETAC when any modifications to the draft expert panel report are required (see section 4.4 of HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and


    3.2.5 The Expert Panel Secretary

    A member of the HETAC executive will normally serve as secretary to the expert panel, alternatively an expert panel member will be appointed by HETAC as the secretary to the expert panel. The secretary is responsible for the compilation of the draft expert panel report (see section 4.4 of HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and

    Criteria) in consultation with the chairperson.

    3.2.6 Induction of the Expert Panel and Information Provided to the Expert

    Panel Following Appointment

    HETAC will arrange for the expert panel to be briefed on the validation policy and criteria and the broader context for validation.

    The information provided (in due course) to each expert panel member (in printed and electronic forms): includes the relevant documents from the lists in section 2

    and section 3.1 along with:

    ; Agenda for the site visit

    ; Details about the membership of the expert panel

    ; Template for an expert panel member to communicate his/her initial



General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    ; Travel and Subsistence Claim Form/Information

    3.2.7 Expert Panel Member’s Initial Impressions

    Panel members are required to consider the application in the context of HETAC’s

    validation policy and criteria and to submit brief confidential written initial

    impressions to the validation manager prior to the site visit. A template for this

    report is provided in Annex 5. These submissions are considered to be transients of

    the deliberative process and will be destroyed when the panel report is finalised.

    3.2.8 Site Visit

    The site visit (i.e. visit to and meeting with the provider and see section 4.4 of

    HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria) includes the following steps:

    ; Previous evening briefing and preliminary meeting

    ; Visit provider following agreed agenda

    ; Conclusion of meeting brief feedback to provider

    3.2.9 Draft Expert Panel Report

    The expert panel secretary prepares a report in consultation with the members of

    the expert panel. Normally the report should be with HETAC within three weeks of

    the site visit (see section 4.4 of HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria).

    4 Interpretations

    Access The process by which learners may commence a programme of

    education and training having received recognition for

    knowledge, skill or competence required. (See the NQAI

    document Policies, actions and procedures for Access, Transfer

    and Progression for Learners.)

    Approved Programme Programme schedule for the validated programme at the point of Schedule validation or as legitimately amended following validation. See

    HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria 2010 (HETAC

    Reference E.1.8).

    Awarding body An awarding body is a body that makes awards namely: HETAC or

    a recognised institution with delegated authority to make awards.

    Award An award which is conferred, granted or given by an awarding

    body and which records that a learner has acquired a standard of

    knowledge, skill or competence.

    Awards Standards Together with the award type descriptors of the NFQ, the awards

    standards describe the learning, in terms of knowledge, skill and/

    or competence, that is to be acquired by learners before

    particular higher education and training awards may be made.

    The awards standards describe the learning required to pass. See

    HETAC’s Assessment and Standards 2009 for more details.

    Award title See Appendix 1Section 2.1.1.

    Award-type descriptor An award-type descriptor is a description of a class of named

    awards sharing common features and level. Award-type

    descriptors are determined by the National Framework of


    Capstone Capstone modules and stages are designed to provide an

    opportunity for learners to integrate learning attained in other

    modules and stages. They are always necessary. An example of a


General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    capstone module is the process by which a learner produces a

    dissertation under supervision. (Assessment and Standards 2010)

    Certificate of Programme A certificate issued to a registered provider by HETAC which Validation confirms that specified programme(s) are validated and which

    sets out the intakes approved and conditions of validation.

    Conversion programme This is a loosely defined term. It normally signifies a programme

    designed to enable a graduate to acquire a qualification in a new

    field building on learning in another field at the same NFQ level.

    Critical self-assessment A self assessment against the validation criteria which outlines

    the proposals strengths, assumptions and weaknesses (e.g. risks,

    vulnerabilities). A self-assessment which only reveals strengths is

    not a critical one.

    Delegated Authority HETAC may delegate authority to a recognised institution of the

    Council (i.e. an institution specified under section 24 of the

    Qualifications [Education and Training] Act 1999) to make awards.

    ECTS See ECTS Users’ Guide (2009) ‘ECTS credits are attached to the

    workload of a fulltime year of formal learning (academic year) and

    the associated learning outcomes. In most cases, student

    workload ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 hours for an academic year,

    whereby one credit corresponds to 25 to 30 hours of work.’

    ESG Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European

    Higher Education Area. Published by ENQA in 2005 and available


    Expert Panel See HETAC’s Core Validation Policy and Criteria 2010 (HETAC

    Reference E.1.8) and also Participating in an evaluation panel as

    an expert assessor: Guidelines 2009 (HETAC Reference H.4.3)

    General Programme See Appendix 3.

    Validation Template

    Institutional Review Policy See ‘Policy on Institutional Review of Providers of Higher

    Education and Training’, December 2007 (HETAC Reference H.1.1)

    Major Award See Appendix 1 Section 2.1.3.

    Minimum Intended The interpretation here is from Assessment and Standards 2009.

    Programme Learning The minimum achievement (in terms of knowledge, skill and Outcome Programme Learning competence) that the learner is certified to

    have attained if he/she successfully completes a particular

    programme (i.e. passes all the required assessments). The

    minimum intended programme learning outcomes define the

    minimum learning outcomes for a particular programme at the

    programme level. These must always be specified by the provider.

    If the programme allows substantial choice, there may need to be

    variant forms of the minimum intended programme outcomes

    e.g. a programme might allow a person to choose from a number

    of specialisations.

    A learner who completes a validated programme is eligible for the

    relevant award if he or she has demonstrated, through

    assessment (including by recognition of prior learning),

    attainment of the relevant minimum intended programme

    learning outcomes.

    In addition to minimum intended programme learning outcomes,

    the programme provider may aspire to describing other ‘intended

    programme learning outcomes’ beyond the minimum. In this


General Programme Validation Manual 2010

    document, ‘intended learning outcomes’ refers to all or any of the

    intended outcomes, including the minimum ones. ‘Minimum

    intended learning outcomes’ refers exclusively to the minimum

    ones. The minimum intended programme learning outcomes

    identify the principal educational goal of the programme

    effective assessment helps learners to attain that goal. Minimum

    intended programme learning outcomes are developed and

    maintained by providers. Programmes are designed to enable

    learners to achieve minimum intended programme learning

    outcomes. Minimum intended learning outcomes are specified

    for each of a programme’s constituent modules.

    The number of learning outcomes in a statement of intended

    learning outcomes is variable (depending, for example, on the

    semantics and the level of explicitness used). This is not a proxy

    for credit.

    Teachers and learners may strive for additional learning outcomes

    that are beyond the minimum. In addition to ‘minimum intended

    programme learning outcomes’, providers may describe other

    levels of intended programme learning outcomes beyond the


    See also intended learning outcomes in Assessment and

    Standards 2009.

    Minor Award See Appendix 1 Section 2.1.3.

    Module A programme of education and training of small volume. It is

    designed to be capable of being integrated with other modules

    into larger programmes. A module can be shared by different

    programmes. See HETAC’s Assessment and Standards 2009 (p.53)

    for a more elaborate definition.

    Module Assessment See HETAC’s Assessment and Standards 2009 (p14).


    Learning Environment Learning environments are diverse. Teachers and other learners

    are part of a learner’s learning environment. Learning

    environments have both physical and social structures. Learners

    interact with the learning environment; the environment

    responds to the learner, and the learner to the environment.

    (Assessment and Standards 2009.)

    Order of Council This is a declaration on behalf of the Council that a programme is


    Prerequisite Learning Knowledge, skill and competence to be attained prior to

    enrolment on a programme or module.

    Programme A ‘ “programme of education and training” means any process by

    which learners may acquire knowledge, skill or competence and

    includes courses of study or instruction, apprenticeships, training

    and employment.’

    Programme Assessment See HETAC’s Assessment and Standards 2009 (pp. 13-14).


    Proposed Programme See Appendix 1.


    Provider A ‘provider of a programme of education and training’ is a person

    who, or body which, provides, organises or procures a

    programme of education and training.


Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email