Five new validation partners and a new pilot project

Five new providers are joining The Open University’s degree validation programme, ahead of a pilot scheme to test a better model for the sector.

A string of five new validation agreements begin this month allowing hundreds of students the chance to benefit from new OU validated qualifications which offer a flexible route into Higher Education, from a spectrum of providers: Christie’s EducationBallet West,  New College Durham, Leeds City College and Sheffield College.

The new partners highlight a growth in this area for the OU and emphasise its thorough and efficient validation service. All five new partners received the go-ahead to run degree courses just over six months after first approaching the OU, bringing current partnerships to 30, with more discussions in the pipeline.

New partners will benefit from OU's expertise

Christie’s Education is a leading specialist provider in postgraduate degrees in art, and the art market, and will be offering five OU-validated postgraduate degrees: four MAs, and one MSc in Art, Law and Business.

Jane Hay, International Managing Director of Christie’s Education, said: “The Open University has a Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships, and we believe that this gives them a real depth of expertise and focus in this area from which we will benefit.

"We have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with University of Glasgow in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and now we looking forward to working with an English validating partner as we transition towards an exclusively postgraduate institution operating under the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.”

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Christie's Education is a new validation partner for the OU

Ballet West, based in Scotland, will have its Foundation Degree in Dance and BA (Hons) in Dance validated by the OU, with over 100 students enrolling in total.  Gillian Barton, Principal and Artistic Director at Ballet West, said: “The partnership with The Open University is a big step forward for Ballet West in developing our BA (Hons) degree in Dance. The association with an organisation of such international standing will bring enormous benefits to our staff and students.”

Increase efficiency and remove barriers

Alternative provider representative body Independent Higher Education and HE’s quality assurance agency QAA are partnering with the OU to create an exemplar validation model which could operate right across the sector, to include FE colleges and alternative providers.  The pilot scheme aims to further increase efficiency, removing barriers to institutions seeking validation whilst upholding the quality and standards essential for a sustainable and reliable validation service.

Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at the OU, said:

Validation is an important way to open up the market and make HE qualifications accessible. Our long-standing expertise in this area, validating awards for nearly 25 years, is the engine behind this exciting pilot project which could steer the future of how FE Colleges and alternative providers operate. This pilot will help us to develop a model which widens provision further still, but does so in such a way that means students’ interests are always at the forefront.

The maintenance of quality and standards is critical to the integrity of the awards made through validation and the exemplar model is designed to ensure that they are upheld. All potential providers will need to meet the minimum required standards, continuing the OU’s existing robust, risk-based approach to validation.

Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Independent HE, said:

Working alongside the OU and QAA on this pilot project offers us a unique opportunity to test a better model for validation which gives students the guarantees of quality they require while streamlining processes to ensure that student fees are spent on the student experience, not unnecessary bureaucracy.

"At its best, validation is a great way for new higher education institutions to develop their provision while learning from a more established partner. But it is also a critical part of the regulatory infrastructure which in recent years has too often failed to deliver the efficient, transparent and reliable process the sector needs.

"The Open University has a first-class reputation for validating high-quality new provision, which made it the natural choice for us to partner with on this pilot. The lessons we learn together will help to set a UK-wide benchmark for excellent validation which protects standards while facilitating innovation and supporting student choice."