Ulster University is a chartered institution where the ultimate authority rests with Council but with Senate having delegated responsibility for the oversight of all academic matters. Alongside this framework the University has responded to the new academic assurance requirement by channelling information through, and seeking the advice of, the Audit Committee.
The Audit Committee already has a responsibility to advise the governing body on risk and the University sees academic assurance as, in part, a way of identifying and addressing risks to academic quality and standards. As in other universities, management prepare an annual report (the Academic Assurance Report) that collates a wide range of reports and data, from both internal and external sources. This has been enhanced to support governing body academic assurance. The report is scrutinised by the Audit Committee which in turn provides advice to Council.
The University has thus taken the significant step of recognising that academic assurance is about risk and given that risk is a Council responsibility, it is appropriate to see the challenge from an audit perspective. At the same time, Council and Senate are in dialogue about how the relationship between those two bodies needs to evolve as Council’s academic assurance role becomes embedded. Typically, institutions are seeing academic assurance as a bilateral challenge for their governing bodies and senates/academic boards. At Ulster University it is very much a matter of triangulating those two entities with the Audit Committee.