Belfast Metropolitan is a large further education college with over 1,400 full-time HE students. The College has been able to deal readily with governing body academic assurance due to its arrangements for academic oversight.
The Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland already requires colleges to submit an annual Quality Improvement Plan covering both FE and HE provision. This collation of qualitative and quantitative information is, in principle, similar to the academic assurance reports that universities have been developing in recent years, in part prompted by the CUC Code and in preparation for governing body academic assurance. The Plan provides a valuable potential building block for governing body assurance.
The Plan is scrutinised by the Curriculum, Quality and Engagement Committee which has a role akin to that of an academic board in a higher education corporation. Unlike an academic board, the Committee membership includes eight members of the Governing Body (one of whom is Chair), giving lay governors a direct insight into academic affairs, both FE and HE. The Committee has delegated authority from the Governing Body for all higher education academic affairs.
Alongside these academic governance arrangements, the College has an exclusive channel for the oversight of the management of higher education provision. A Higher Education Co-ordinators Forum of staff involved in HE advises the Higher Education Quality Forum which ultimately reports to the College Executive. The HE Forum has a key role in disseminating good practice and preparing for external reviews.