The Quality Assurance Policy (CH)

Contents

  1. Quality Assurance Policy
  2. Institutional Probity
  3. Design and Approval of Programmes
  4. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment
  5. Student Admission, Progression, Recognition and Certification
  6. Teaching Staff
  7. Learning Resources and Student Support
  8. Information Management
  9. Public Information
  10. On-Going Monitoring and Period Review of Programmes

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1. Quality Assurance Policy

This document presents the Quality Assurance Policy of Woolf GmbH (hereinafter ‘Woolf’). Woolf exists to promote academic excellence, broaden access to higher education, and guard values that are humane, democratic, and international.  Above all, Woolf values freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry, and freedom of expression. Woolf’s mission statement is publicly available (link).

Institutional autonomy and academic freedom are core Swiss values for higher education institutions. They are central to the academic excellence of Woolf’s teaching and research, the quality of decisions taken by Woolf’s governing bodies, and the ability of Woolf as a Swiss institution to compete and cooperate on a global scale.

The guiding context for the formulation of Woolf’s Policy of Internal Quality Assurance consists of the following:

  1. ENQA, et al., ‘Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)’ (Brussels: EURASHE, 2015)
  2. ENQA, et al., ‘Considerations for Quality Assurance of E-Learning Provision: Report from the ENQA Working Group VIII on Quality Assurance and E-Learning’ 26 (Brussels: ENQA, 2018).
  3. Die Bundesversammlung der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, ‘Bundesgesetz über die Förderung der Hochschulen und die Koordination im schweizerischen Hochschulbereich’ (414.20).
  4. Der Hochschulrat, ‘Verordnung des Hochschulrates über die Akkreditierung im Hochschulbereich’ (414.205.3).
  5. Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance, ‘Institutional Accreditation’ (Bern: 2018).

Woolf’s Policy of Quality Assurance is publically accessible on the Woolf platform at woolf.education.

Woolf uses online, in-person,  and blended learning techniques for course delivery. The QA regulations and records at Woolf are in each case fully captured online in the Woolf software platform. The QA measures and mechanism for each kind of learning  is supported by the same software and processes. In cases of in-person or blended learning, the physical premises are required to be fit for purpose, without posing physical harm to students or teachers, and with adequate permission having been granted for use of the space.

This Quality Assurance Policy is reflected in the rules of the Woolf software platform, which encodes and enforces compliance with the QA Policy and logs an auditable record of that compliance.

a. Research and Education (Learning and Teaching)

Woolf supports a Humboldtian relationship between research and teaching. The Humboldtian model affects several domains at Woolf. Together these help to ensure that student learning is informed by recent research.

  1. Faculty standards (See §6. Teaching Staff). All full Faculty Members at Woolf must have been awarded a research doctorate, and only Faculty can serve on each college’s Academic Board, and only members of the Academic Board can approve of curriculum before it is viewed by students.
  2. Curriculum standards (see §11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes). Degrees are composed of courses, and courses are composed of curriculum that must contain academic publications from the last ten years (and in the case of business or technology courses, the last 5 years). All curriculum is built with Woolf’s software, which benchmarks and monitors course content for conformity with Woolf’s QA standards. Only compliant courses can be submitted to a college’s Academic Board for approval. All courses are cyclically reviewed by the Woolf’s Quality Assurance, Enhancement, and Technology Alignment Committee (QAETAC). Woolf’s software enforces compliance with curriculum standards and ensures that courses must meet all of the research standards for curriculum and be peer-review approved by Woolf and by a college’s Academic Board before becoming available to students.
  3. Course innovation. All faculty members are encouraged to develop innovative, new curriculum for existing courses and degree programmes. Moreover, all of Woolf’s constituent member colleges are encouraged to propose new degree programmes. Woolf’s rigorous QA standards are captured in the degree and course creation software, thereby increasing the level of compliance with QA standards and making innovation possible with greater confidence.
  4. Academic resources. Woolf’s library offers the resources necessary to pursue research-led teaching and learning, including access to hundreds of millions of open-access research papers, including access to CORE, the largest aggregator of university-sponsored, recently published, open-access research papers in the world. As part of its commitment to expanding access to higher education, Woolf supports Open Educational Resources in teaching and research.
  5. Research Seminars. Instructors and graduate students are encouraged to start or join ongoing research seminars, which are recorded and made available for online distribution. Research seminars are a forum for work in progress for both experienced scholars and research students, often representing the leading edge of research prior to its formal publication.
  6. Research degrees. Woolf’s research degrees require students to write a dissertation or thesis which makes an original contribution to scholarly knowledge. Dissertations and theses at the EQF 7 and higher levels are supervised by PhD-holding Faculty members, and require a viva voce examination conducted by an independent scholar. Research degrees require students to engage with research-based scholarship, and they require students to undertake appropriately difficult research tasks on a regular basis as part of the learning process.
  7. b. Academic Integrity and Freedom

Woolf ensures the academic freedom and integrity of its activities by providing all Faculty members with the ability to propose new courses of their choosing, the ability to propose new colleges (see §1. g. Collegiate Organisation), the ability to create new academic research groups of their choosing, the ability to participate in the social discussions of the community, and the right to participate in the processes of the institution, including voting in the Faculty Council.

Faculty and students can report obstructions to their academic freedom according to the procedures described in §1. h. Red Flag Procedures. Academic integrity and independence of scholarship is regularly reviewed according to the policy in § 11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes, including regular surveys and peer-review.

c. Academic Fraud

Academic records are created and stored in Woolf’s software platform. Woolf’s procedures to protect against academic fraud begin with the verification of both the identity and prior academic credentials of every member of Woolf, including both instructors and students. Members have their identity verified by a professional verification service provider, and their credentials verified and matched to their identity. Members are thereafter confirmed in their identity through the use of a private password or similar digital gatekeepers. All academic activities are connected to the real identities of teachers and students.

All students accept the terms of the Woolf Academic Handbook during their enrolment, which identifies multiple forms of plagiarism as misconduct with academic consequences, including a penalty grade of zero. Woolf further employs third party software to check against plagiarism. All cases of academic fraud or plagiarism should be reported using the red flag procedures (§1. h. Red Flag Procedures).

When courses are examined viva voce, an examiner other than the student’s instructor or supervisor is present to participate and ensure the proceedings are conducted fairly.

All academic activities (including teaching and learning) occur as college activities, and thus faculty and students must, in addition to verifying their identity and credentials, also be accepted by their peers in a college. All courses and colleges must be validly composed and verified by QAETAC (see §1. g. Collegiate Organisation) are subject to cyclical peer-review according to § 11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes.

d. Unjust Discrimination and Intolerance

Unjust intolerance or discrimination is not tolerated at Woolf. The red flag procedure should be used by students and staff in all cases of unjust discrimination or intolerance (§1. h. Red Flag Procedures). Violations of the policy are treated with the utmost seriousness. The investigation of claims of unjust discrimination or intolerance follows the escalation of appeals procedure described below, §1. h. Red Flag Procedures.

Members of Woolf are expected to treat each other with dignity and respect. Woolf defends and encourages civility and freedom of discourse. Limits on the freedoms of members, including the freedom of expression, are accountable to the wider faculty body through the Faculty Council or its subcommittees and these deliberative processes are open to scrutiny.

e. Corporate Structure

Woolf GmbH is registered in the commercial register in the Canton of Aargau and is located at Täfernstrasse 16, 5405 Dättwil Aargau.

Woolf is overseen by its Managing Officers.

The  Managing Officers of Woolf are appointed by the shareholders and are responsible for corporate compliance and fiduciary duties.  One Managing Officer must have Single Signatory Power, meet the criteria for and be appointed as the Head of Institution (see §1.f) and thereby also participate in the Academic governance of the institution. If the Managing Officer with Single Signatory Power does not meet the criteria for Head of Institution, then they must appoint another Head of Institution meeting those criteria.

The sole shareholder of Woolf is Woolf Inc., a Delaware corporation, having its registered address at 548 Market St, PMB 78990, San Francisco, California 94104, USA. Woolf Inc. is a technology company created to increase access to high quality higher education by developing software systems that monitor and track quality assurance standards defined by Woolf’s academic and regulatory authorities. Woolf Inc.’s software platform has the following purpose:

  1. Codify the quality assurance standards of Woolf in software rules and workflows
  2. Ensure that the degrees and credentials are widely recognized by demonstrating how educational activities meet the rigorous QA standards defined by Woolf and its regulators
  3. Reduce the operational burden of education administration by using software to manage complex workflows, compliance requirements, and record keeping

Woolf Inc. affirms and supports the Quality Assurance Policy of Woolf. Woolf Inc. services Woolf by providing and implementing a software platform that codifies the QA policies defined by Woolf and the regulatory requirements of Switzerland. Woolf inc. reduces Woolf’s administrative workload while increasing the confidence of Woolf’s Quality Assurance, Enhancement, and Technology Alignment Committee; this allows Woolf to create an inspectable record of compliance of all educational activities managed through the Woolf software platform.

Woolf Inc. services Woolf in the area of technology management, maintaining

rigorous standards of software system management described in Woolf Inc.’s ‘Technology and Security Policy’. This includes automated procedures to ensure continuity of service in case of site-specific software or hardware failure, and ensuring the implementation of information management processes described below in ‘§8. Information Management’.

f. Academic Governance

The academic Head of Institution is the final authority in academic affairs and is, by default, the Managing Officer with Single Signatory Power of Woolf. The selection criteria by which the Managing Officer with Single Signatory Power is chosen are thus the criteria by which the Head of Institution is chosen.  If the Managing Officer with Single Signatory Power does not meet the criteria for Head of Institution, then they must appoint another Head of Institution meeting those criteria.

The criteria for the  Head of Institution are as follows

  1. Must be be in possession of a research doctorate at the EQF 8 level
  2. Must have a record of published peer-reviewed academic work
  3. Must have not less than five years of experience in higher education

The Faculty Council of Woolf is immediately below the Head of Institution. The membership of the Faculty Council is composed of all active verified faculty members of Woolf (see §7. Teaching Staff). The Faculty Council’s decisions are delivered within the framework of this QA Policy to the Head of Institution, which has the executive authority to implement them. The Faculty Council operates as a democratic body in which membership is required to propose a vote and a majority is required to pass a vote. Motions passed in council are subject to review by the Head of Institution.

The committees of the Faculty Council are composed of Faculty members chosen by Council election, as well as, ex officio, the Head of Institution.  The Faculty Council may convene without the Head of Institution, provided a quorum of 60% is present.

The committee responsible for monitoring and improving quality across the institution is the Quality Assurance, Enhancement, and Technology Alignment Committee (QAETAC). QAETAC is composed of two Faculty Representatives elected by the Faculty Council from the membership of the Faculty Council; student input, which is invited by the Faculty Representatives on the basis of student surveys or student participation; the Head of Institution (ex officio); the Compliance Officer, appointed by the Head of Institution; and the Advisor for Equality and Diversity, appointed by the Head of Institution. The Committee passes its recommendations directly to the Head of Institution, except where the committee determines that a vote must first be proposed in Council. The committee holds regular annual meetings, and extraordinary meetings once per month, at the discretion of the chairman of the meeting. Meetings may be convened synchronously in person or online provided there is a digital record of the meeting’s proceedings, and meetings may be convened asynchronously with committee actions conducted asynchronously via exchanged messages and videos  when committee members agree on the format. The Head of institution may appoint further members to the  Committee in order to handle specific areas of subject-matter expertise, such as legal or technical experts.

QAETAC is tasked with promoting a culture of excellence that reflects the Woolf QA Policy in line with the Woolf Mission Statement (link). QAETAC formulates adjustments to existing policy, or to its implementation, and delivers these recommendations to the Head of Institution, except where the committee determines that a vote should first be proposed in Council. QAETAC is responsible for internal processes of Quality Assurance, including cyclical reviews of colleges and their committees, degrees, courses, and  curriculum. QAETAC is responsible for ensuring that the software platform captures  and guards the QA Policy in its rules and approval flows. QAETAC is responsible for updates to the Woolf Academic Handbook and this QA Policy.

QAETAC is responsible for ensuring that policies will lead to higher quality outcomes for students and faculty members across all levels of the institution. QAETAC reviews student feedback gathered through on-going monitoring and period survey, which is elicited regularly at the end of courses, and QAETAC regularly elicits faculty feedback (see §11 On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes). Surveys provide both students and faculty members the opportunity to make recommendations beyond the survey questions. (See further, §8. Information Management.)

QAETAC is the highest committee for the resolution of all member disputes, including disputes within or between colleges, between students and teachers, students and students, and teachers and teachers. The process of dispute escalation is described in §1. h Red Flag Procedures. QAETAC receives notification of the dispute, and the associated record of the complaint; QAETAC may provide the parties to the dispute an opportunity to provide further information before formulating its recommendation for the Head of Institution.

The Academic Finance Committee is responsible for making recommendations to the institution and the colleges about the allocation of funds for activities, staff support, and resources. The Academic Finance Committee is composed of two Faculty Representatives elected by the Faculty Council from the membership of the Faculty Council; student input, which is invited by the Faculty Representatives on the basis of student surveys  or student participation; the Head of Institution (ex officio); he Compliance Officer, appointed by the Head of Institution; and the Advisor for Equality and Diversity, appointed by the Head of Institution. The Committee formulates its budgetary recommendations and delivers them to the Head of Institution, except where the committee determines that a vote must first be proposed in Council. Meetings may be convened synchronously in person or online provided there is a digital record of the meeting’s proceedings, and meetings may be convened asynchronously with committee actions conducted asynchronously via exchanged messages and videos  when committee members agree on the format. The Head of institution may appoint further members to the  Committee in order to handle specific areas of subject-matter expertise, such as financial or legal experts.

g. Collegiate Organisation

Woolf is digitally organised into colleges on the model of the University of Oxford and University of London. Colleges are a central component in fostering an environment of quality assurance and continuous quality enhancement. Woolf’s collegiate organisation strengthens the institution through diversity, competition, and loyalty. Colleges bear responsibility for the support of their members, including both teachers and students.

Like the University of Oxford, Woolf’s colleges are self-governing entities within the Higher Education Institution, each controlling its own membership, internal activities, and financial allocations. Digital colleges consist of groups (free associations) of their members (see §7. Teaching Staff) offering degrees and courses that have been approved by Woolf through  the software platform (see §3. Design and Approval of Programmes).  It is expected that the diversity of colleges will increase over time, both geographically and linguistically.  Within the remit of the QA Policy, colleges can enrol students  and set tuition prices.

Like the University of Oxford and the University of London, colleges do not need to specialise in any particular topic, and may admit students in all those fields represented by the valid Faculty and Instructors of the college. Colleges present an opportunity for students and faculty to form a community of learning within a larger institution, and to encounter diversity of academic disciplines, scholarly seniority, and culture. All college members are also encouraged to contribute and participate in intercollegiate activities, such as institution-wide seminars. Woolf’s colleges (including their Deans and Academic Boards)  are publicly listed at https://woolf.education/colleges.

Woolf colleges are all equally subject to this QA Policy, which has been formulated within the framework of Switzerland’s HEdA and the Ordinance and with reference to the European Higher Education Area, and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. Woolf’s colleges are geographically and linguistically diverse, but all colleges are equally subject to Swiss standards of academic excellence and cyclical QA review which are managed through the Woolf software platform (See §10. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes).

It is expected that from 2023, sufficient anonymised data will have been gathered for colleges  to compete with each other for standing in collegiate rankings; rankings will be public and depend upon QA metrics which are subject to review by the Faculty Council. This collegiate competition is one mechanism by which Woolf promotes the enhancement of quality in the institution.

All colleges are equal members of Woolf and share the same required governance structure which is enforced and managed through the Woolf software platform. That structure consists of a Dean, Academic Board, Teachers, and Administrators. Approval workflows involve the segregation of duties between Woolf and the college, and within the college between specific  roles. College role requires having a verified identity and educational background and meeting the requirements of the role.  The requirements of the roles, and the division of responsibilities, maintains an environment of high academic standards.

Dean

All colleges have a Dean, who is the main contact for the college. The College Dean is normally the organiser of the college or appointed at the time that the college forms; Deanships do not have Woolf-defined term limits, though colleges may set their own internal limits on the role. The only qualifications required to be a College Dean are those required to be a member of a college (see §7 Teaching Staff).

Academic Board

Valid colleges must appoint and maintain an Academic Board with not less than two members. Academic Board  members must hold a research doctorate at the EQF 8 level. In cases where an academic discipline’s highest doctorate is a professional doctorate (such as music), and Woolf approves of the appointment of the Academic Board member to the college, then at least one other Academic Board member must hold a research doctorate at the EQF 8 level.

The primary purpose of the college’s Academic Board is to uphold the academic integrity of the college and maintain an environment of quality assurance and enhancement. In particular, the Academic Board serves as a review committee for curriculum within the college. Although QAETAC must approve of the creation of all new degrees and courses, including approval of their curriculum content; and although QAETAC is responsible for cyclical internal audits ( See §3. Design and Approval of Programmes), the Academic Board remains responsible for overseeing all curriculum adjustments within the college, and their  withdrawal of approval for any curriculum change on a course prevents the change from being made available to students.

In addition to the curriculum review at the start of each cohort of students, the Academic Board is tasked with evaluating the record of student engagement with the curriculum and approving of the grades accorded to students before those grades are released and added to the students’ permanent academic transcript. During this process, students can be graded as failed, or the academic board may ask questions of the teachers on the course.

Faculty, Instructors, Professional Experts, and Administrators

All teachers must register their account on the Woolf software platform and have their identity and education record verified. Faculty members must have a verified PhD and be a member of a valid college. All Faculty members are members of the Woolf Faculty council, regardless of their college. Instructors must have a verified graduate-level qualification. Industry Experts must have at least five years of experience in the relevant industry of instruction, and be approved by both Woolf and their college. Administrators must have a verified identity and are able to manage membership invitations, basic software configurations for the college, and the assignment of members to committees to which they are eligible.

h. Red Flag Procedures

Woolf's red flag procedure provides a formal avenue to report obstructions to academic integrity and freedom (§1. b. Academic Integrity and Freedom ); unjust discrimination (§1. d. Unjust Discrimination); cheating, fraud, serious disagreements; and mitigating circumstances (§4. h. Mitigating Circumstances). Reports can be sent directly to redflag@woolf.education.

A red flag report should be submitted in the case that a member seeks to make an allegation of serious misconduct or to report on any of the issues above (obstructing academic integrity and freedom, unjust discrimination, cheating, fraud, serious disagreements, or mitigating circumstances). In the case of a minor misunderstanding or disagreement between members, then the matter should first be addressed for resolution by the parties, or where involving a student, the college support contact (see §4. g. Student Support).

The escalation of issues raised through the red flag procedure is as follows:

  1. If involving a student, a red flag report will initiate a meeting with the Teacher and the parties concerned.
  2. If the one who submitted the red flag is not satisfied that the matter is resolved, then it will be escalated to the College Dean (or to a committee designated by the College Dean). If involving faculty members, then the issue is reported directly to the College Dean.
  3. For both students and faculty, after the Dean’s decision, the parties involved may accept or appeal the decision; if there is an appeal, the issue will be assigned to QAETAC for review.
  4. The Head of Institution has the final judgement in all matters pertaining to red flags (see §1. f. Academic Governance).

2. Institutional Probity

Woolf operates with yearly financial statements and regular budget plans approved by the Head of Institution of Woolf.

The Academic Finance Committee is responsible for making budgetary recommendations about the allocation of funds for the different departments, staff, and resources, including recommendations on the basis of democratic consensus in the Faculty Council (on the Academic Finance Committee see §1. f. Academic Governance).

The final budget is formulated by the Head of Institution and takes into consideration the proposals of the Academic Finance Committee, and where relevant, the Faculty Council. Meetings of the Head of Institution have their minutes and membership recorded by the Secretary.

Woolf’s budgets are implemented by the Head of Institution. The Head of Institution, the Secretary, the legal representative, and the members of Woolf’s body corporate are fit and proper persons with qualifications commensurate to their role.

3. Design and Approval of Programmes

Programmes at Woolf reflect the European Qualifications Framework for workload, course level, and learning outcomes (including skills, knowledge, and competences). Programmes indicate the geography of the target audience whenever that audience is more restricted than Woolf’s stated global agenda. All Woolf admissions procedures reflect prerequisites for course level, and mutual respect for the training of other institutions (see §5. Student Admission, Progression, Recognition and Certification).

Courses at Woolf indicate the course level, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the teacher-learner dynamics and, when appropriate, peer-learning dynamics.

Any Faculty member can propose a new programme using Woolf’s software tools. Programme composition in the Woolf software platform requires provable adherence to a range of Quality Assurance standards, which are  benchmarked and scored; these include  EQF prerequisites for students and teachers relative to the EQF level of the programme, student workload allocated to specific lessons and assignments, peer-reviewed literature, grade weights, and learning outcomes. Compliant programmes must be submitted to the college’s academic board for review and approval and submitted centrally to QAETAC for review and approval. Only after both approvals are in place can students see the programme.

a. Tutorial Teaching

Woolf provides teaching in many different styles, including large synchronous and asynchronous lectures, research discussion seminars, and the Oxbridge style of tutorial teaching.

In a Woolf tutorial, a small group of students discuss their work with a faculty member. Tutorials are used in the natural sciences and the humanities, and they are used at all course levels.

During the tutorial, students will discuss and defend their written work while investigating the subject matter of a submitted assignment with a faculty member for about 75 minutes. Students read key sections of their assignment aloud for discussion. Reading their own writing aloud strengthens a student’s presentation skills, and benefits the other students in the tutorial. Faculty members ask all participants about how, in their assignment, they have addressed the issue under consideration, or how they view the topic in light of the reading.

Towards the end of the tutorial discussion, the next assignment is surveyed, and faculty members are permitted to adjust next week’s assignment prompt, tailoring it to the student’s interests or weaknesses. Adjustments to the assigned prompt should highlight key areas within the scope of the resources available as part of the course.

b. Course Resources

All courses state, prior to student application, the resources required to complete the course successfully. Courses normally include a digital version of all the resources required for the successful completion of the course; where this is not possible, courses must publicly specify whether further outside resources will need to be purchased for the successful completion of the course. Woolf’s central digital library contains over 200 million academic resources for both course creation and student use.

Appropriate academic resources consist of peer-reviewed academic publications, and recorded lectures by academics holding domain-specific research-based qualifications. For courses with an employment or skills-based focus, domain specific expertise of more than ten years is a qualification for acceptable content and should be combined with scholarly materials.

c. Form of Assessment

All courses state the assessment techniques used. Academic assessment at Woolf is of two kinds: regular and cumulative.

Regular assessment applies to the continuous evaluation of student progress, concentrating on submitted assignments or submitted dissertation components, and the ability of the student to respond to issues raised during a teaching session or by faculty feedback.

Cumulative examination requires a student to deepen, extend, and synthesise the scholarly engagements initiated in their prior work. Cumulative assessment is normally in the form of long essay or portfolio submission, or in the case of research projects, a dissertation or thesis or portfolio; cumulative assessment may include oral examination or proctored written examination.

For criteria and methods of assessment see §4. a. Criteria and Method of Assessment.

d. Course Design

Faculty members propose new courses using Woolf’s course proposal tools. These tools gather and align information in order to define the student workload in terms of ECTS. Upon submission by a faculty member, the new course proposal is reviewed by QAETAC for formal compliance with Woolf’s Policy of Quality Assurance, after which the course is reviewed by the college’s Academic Board.

e. Technical and Media Support

Technical and Media Support is provided during both the design and delivery of programmes via (a) direct chat contact, (b) a contact phone number, (c) guidance documentation in the Support Centre, and (d) email support at support@woolf.education. Technical support requests are routed to a central pool, sorted by nature and severity, and directed to the most relevant expert; the Head of Institution is responsible for ensuring that technical and media support is adequately provided at all times and may appoint technical support officers. For further information on Student support see below §4. g. Student Support.

f. Indication of Staff for Engagement

Students are provided a clear understanding of which staff members will interact with them. Each course has its faculty members and instructors on the course publicly listed; when a student applies successfully to the course, they will receive an invitation to enrol which indicates the specific teachers on the course, if the student accepts the offer of enrolment. Offers to enrol are made through a college, and this provides students with recourse to the Dean of the College, who is also listed (for example, §1. h. Red Flag Procedures). Students are further assigned a college point of contact to provide independent support, as described below in below §4. g. Student Support.

g. External Stakeholders

External stakeholders are invited to participate in the design and review of programmes.  Woolf has engaged in voluntary external peer-review of many of its programmes, and invites feedback on the creation of new programmes.

Engagements with external universities and businesses are subject to the guidelines of this Quality Assurance Policy. External partners seeking to propose new academic courses at Woolf must do so according to the same standards as faculty members, namely, they must verify their identities and credentials, join a college of peers, and be subject to peer review, and propose a course according to §3.d. Course Design.

QAETAC or the Head of Institution seeks feedback from external stakeholders, particularly in cases of employment- or skills-focussed courses; feedback sources include industry experts, potential employers, industry-specific employment data, and students. In cases of pure academic courses, QAETAC or the Head of Institution actively seeks feedback from external scholars and potential students. In each case, QAETAC requests feedback by email or conference call. Recommendations are submitted to the Head of Institution, which is responsible for the design and enhancement of programmes.

4. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment

Courses at Woolf are designed to encourage students to take an active role in shaping the learning process, and the assessment of students reflects this approach.  The (a) Criteria and Method of Assessment as well as criteria for marking is published in advance, (b) procedures are in place to verify the identity of all students participating in the assessment, and (c) student records are kept in Switzerland.

a. Criteria and Method of Assessment

The criteria for and method of assessment as well as the marking criteria are published in advance, stated on all programme offerings, are visible before a student enrols in a course, and are available on the Woolf platform for consultation.

The criteria for and method of assessment as well as criteria for marking are formally published in advance, annually in the Woolf Academic Handbook, which is binding and valid for the years stated on the Handbook. The Woolf Academic Handbook is subject to review by QAETAC, which gathers faculty feedback and submits its recommendations for revision to the Head of Institution. The Handbook is publicly available on the Woolf platform and is given to every student and faculty member.

The marking scheme employs grade descriptors for the assignment of marks, and faculty provide individual feedback in conjunction with their marks. All faculty are required to familiarise themselves with the marking scheme and the grade descriptors; faculty who seek to develop further their competences in the skill of marking are encouraged to approach another faculty member for co-marking. All faculty are required to provide marks according to the stated marking criteria and grade descriptors. Students receive marks according to the grade descriptors and additional written feedback on their weekly tutorial essays, and thus students have regular feedback and engagement with the marking criteria and advice on the learning process.

b. Identity of Students being Assessed

Students have their identity verified by a professional verification service provider, and their credentials verified and matched to their identity. Students are thereafter confirmed in their identity through the use of a private password or other digital gatekeepers, and the regular confirmation through face-to-face video conference calls. When courses are examined viva voce, an external examiner is present to participate and ensure the proceedings are conducted fairly. When courses are examined by long essay or project, the academic supervisor regularly checks the identity of the student and queries the student’s comprehension of the submissions; Woolf uses a third-party provider to check against plagiarism. All cases of academic fraud or plagiarism should be reported using the red flag procedures (§1. h. Red Flag Procedures). For further, see above §1.c. Academic Fraud. All courses are subject to cyclical peer-review according to § 11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes.

c. Storage of Records

For the storage of student records, see §8. Information Management.

d. Tutorial Teaching

Woolf provides teaching in many different styles, including large synchronous and asynchronous lectures, research discussion seminars, and the Oxbridge style of tutorial teaching. Tutorial teaching consists of small classes of students studying directly with a professor; classes are rigorous, and the learning outcomes include skills of independent thinking, logical analysis, problem solving, and intellectual flexibility.

The tutorial teaching method used by Woolf is particularly fit for providing student-centred learning. Tutorial teaching provides a highly personal learning experience because every tutorial discussion is tailored specifically to the interests, strengths, needs, weaknesses, and style of a small number of students (normally 2 or 3, but at least 1 and at most 8). All tutorial courses indicate the maximum number of students per tutorial class.

By design, degree courses with small class sizes may allow greater student choice in selection because fewer students are required to join a class in order for it to run; this may allow more optional courses to be offered as part of the course.

Tutorials are used both in the natural sciences and the humanities. Preparing for a single tutorial requires 2-3 days of work. A student must review about 200 pages of material (depending on the subject) and prepare a piece of written work – whether mathematical problems or an essay. The student must then be ready to discuss and defend their written work directly with a professor for 75 minutes. At the end of the tutorial the student receives written feedback and a mark on the submitted work and associated discussion.

Tutorials are mentally demanding and personally engaging. Tutorial teaching produces high quality domain-specific learning outcomes because students must learn materials for themselves, before presenting their work to a professor in their own words for examination twice per week. By requiring students to describe and analyse topics in their own words, tutorials engage and extend a student’s existing range of abilities

Tutorial teaching produces high quality domain-agnostic learning outcomes because students must be prepared to organise and present an assignment twice per week, and be prepared to think analytically and creatively about what they have done. Students must learn to present their viewpoint, even while being prepared to adopt a new position in light of the evidence and under the examination of the teacher.

Teachers of tutorials are provided with guidance on tutorial teaching, and tutorials are periodically observed by a second faculty member; both the student and faculty member are notified in advance of tutorial observations. The cycle of tutorial observations is under the direction of QAETAC (see §1. Policy for Quality Assurance).

At the end of every tutorial, the professor and student examine the essay question in the syllabus scheduled for the next week’s tutorial essay. These may be adjusted slightly within the existing scope of the course’s reading list, in view of the student’s weaknesses and interests. It is normally expected that the final essay question will be suggested entirely by the student on the basis of the course’s assigned reading list. See §3. Design and Approval of Programmes for the formation of the course’s content; for feedback on courses from tutorial teachers and students see also §1. Policy for Quality Assurance.

e. Cumulative Assessment

Cumulative assessment is directed towards the student’s own work, providing an opportunity to deepen, refine, and synthesise the prior weeks of a course.

Cumulative examination requires a student to deepen, extend, and synthesise the scholarly engagements initiated in their prior work. Cumulative assessment is normally in the form of long essay or portfolio submission, or in the case of research projects, a dissertation or thesis; cumulative assessment may include oral examination or proctored written examination.

All students must declare their submitted work to be of their own efforts and online proctoring techniques, which are at the discretion of QAETAC, will be required. QAETAC also conducts periodic reviews of marking practices in order to ensure uniformity of implementation across courses and colleges, and in such cases requires scripts to be marked twice, including by new examiners (see §1. f. Academic Governance).

Examination of a dissertation or thesis will in all cases require that the examiner hold an equivalent or higher degree. Dissertations are marked both by the supervising tutor and by another faculty member of Woolf. Their marks will be averaged, but any spread greater than five points that cannot be immediately resolved by the two markers will trigger a review by a third faculty member for final decision. In addition to marks following the stated grade descriptors, dissertations are examined viva voce. The examiner must be a faculty member different than the supervising tutor. Faculty are required to have observed an oral dissertation or thesis examination before examining students viva voce; Woolf provides its faculty with resources to ensure their alignment with the assessment method. It is normally expected that a viva voce examination will not lower the mark of a dissertation.

Examinations of a doctoral thesis will in all cases require that the examiner hold a research doctorate, and that the examiner be a different faculty member than the supervising tutor. Faculty are required to have observed an oral dissertation or thesis examination before examining students viva voce; Woolf provides its faculty with resources to ensure their alignment with the assessment method.

Student records are stored in compliance with the European Qualifications Framework – see §8. Information Management.

f. Student Support

Colleges make available a point of contact for students, should they require extra academic support related to the academic progress, particularly where these may benefit from an independent point of view.

Students or faculty members in need of technical support for their engagement with the Woolf platform should, in the first instance, consult the digital guide and troubleshooting FAQ (see §7. Learning Resources). If students or faculty need further technical support, they should contact the designated support person at their college, or email support@woolf.education or chat with the support team at help.woolf.education.

All users of the Woolf platform are responsible for the maintenance of their own equipment, including their technological hardware, software, and internet connection. Users of the Woolf platform, including all enrolled students, must accept the Technology Agreement, by which they attest that they possess the technical infrastructure needed to engage successfully with the Woolf software platform – including the hardware and software necessary to make a video conference call over the internet, compose and submit typewritten work to the Woolf platform, and engage over extended periods of time with digital resources at the direction of their tutors. See §5. Student Admission, Progression, Recognition, and Certification.

g. Mitigating Circumstances and Appeals

The regulations for assessment take into account mitigating circumstances and provide a clear avenue for handling appeals and complaints.  When serious circumstances (‘Mitigating Circumstances’), beyond the control of a student or faculty member, adversely affect academic performance or tutorial support, the appeal related to the Mitigating Circumstances must be submitted using Woolf’s red flag procedure (see above §1. h. Red Flag Procedures).

Mitigating Circumstances may include but are not limited to serious medical problems, domestic and personal circumstances, major accidents or interruptions of public services, disturbances during examination, or serious administrative or procedural errors with a material effect on outcomes.

Mitigating circumstances do not normally include a member’s personal technology problems, including software, hardware, or personal internet connection failures; employment obligations or changes in employment obligations; permanent or sustained medical conditions (unless there is a sudden change of condition); or circumstances where no official evidence has been submitted.

Mitigating circumstances are normally only considered when a red flag has been submitted for the issue before the deadline of an affected assignment, or within two weeks of a cumulative examination. Proof of mitigating circumstances may result in an extended deadline or examination period, or the possibility to retake an examination; it will not result in any remarking of existing submissions or exams. Woolf’s red flag procedures provide clear procedures for the escalation of issues raised (see above §1. h. Red Flag Procedures).

5. Student Admission, Progression, Recognition, and Certification

a. Admissions Criteria

Woolf’s admissions criteria are implemented consistently, in a transparent manner, and with inspectable records. Admissions criteria reflect Woolf’s position as seeking tier-one university status. The minimum eligibility requirement for admissions to each Woolf programme includes the educational prerequisites for EQF level and the required application materials or tests, which are together stated publicly on the programme. For example, admission at the EQF 5 level requires a baccalaureate or completion of an EQF 4 education. These requirements are codified in the electronic application system, and students are required to provide full evidence to prove that they meet the requirements. Should the Higher Education Council (Schweizerischen Hochschulkonferenz) issue specific requirements for admission to any programme, these requirements will be adopted.

All Woolf admissions procedures reflect respect for the training of other institutions. Woolf places a high value on equitable access and the benefits of intercultural exposure, which is furthered by admission of international students. When it is uncertain whether the training of another institution can be mapped onto the EQF prerequisites for a program, Woolf introduces other forms of evidence as a requirement for admission (tests, portfolio materials, essays, and other samples of academic work); this evidence is reviewed by the Academic Board of the Woolf college for approval, and these materials form part of the auditable admissions record for the student.

Generally admissions at Woolf are limited and are thus awarded on a competitive basis, always taking into account the following criteria,  which are reviewed by the Academic Board:

  1. The EQF prerequisites for education
  2. Evidence of academic ability, including both proven and potential excellence (and including periods of prior learning, both formal and formal)
  3. Aptitude of the student to benefit from the education offered in the course, such as, online tutorials or supervised, independent research
  4. Competence and interest for pursuing the course subject

Applicants are always evaluated on the basis of evidence submitted in their application; that evidence consists of a record of their prior educational achievements (with an opportunity to describe periods of both formal and informal learning), and those publicly described selection criteria which are stated on the programme in line with the approved requirements of the degree. The admissions criteria are defined centrally at Woolf, and the admissions process is conducted by college administrators and members of the Academic Board, and the process is subject to regular cyclical review by Woolf’s internal QA practice.

b. Admissions Process

Students must follow the instructions stated on the Woolf platform for the programme to which they apply. All students must submit the requested evidence for the course, including a record of their prior educational achievements, and those documents required by the programme. Students are informed of the expected start date of the programme before they apply, and the outcome of their application is delivered, using the contact details provided by the student.

Students are admitted to a course of study by Woolf’s administration, by college administrators, and by faculty members who teach the course at the college (on Woolf’s colleges see §2. Institutional Probity). Course offerings state whether application submission and assessments are open and ongoing, and they state the start date of programmes. Students may apply to multiple colleges.

College admissions must include a review by one administrator and one academic, except where the student is already a college member, in which case the approval of one administrator is sufficient for admission to the course. All applications are always reviewed according to the three criteria (stated above) and on the basis of the evidence submitted (listed above). The applications are overseen by the College Dean (see §2. Institutional Probity). In the case that disagreement arises within an admissions committee about whether to admit a specific student, the College Dean makes the final decision. In the case of any allegation of procedural misconduct, or inappropriate discrimination or prejudice, then a red flag should be submitted according to the normal procedure (see §4. h. Mitigating Circumstances).

All students are oriented and inducted into their course in the following manner. Students are informed of the requirements for successfully completing their course; course-specific orientation information is stated on the course materials on the Woolf platform. All newly enrolled students are further assigned, as a part of their programme, contact points for academic and college questions (see §4. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment). Colleges are encouraged to supply their students with further orientation or guidance material.

c. Progression, Recognition, and Certification

All requirements for course progression are applied uniformly, stated in the course description, and students must acknowledge their understanding of the course description and its requirements before enrolling in the course; this includes a statement on cheating and plagiarism. All courses state the minimum grades required for progression, and all grades reflect the stated marking criteria and grade descriptors (see § 5. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment).

Students who dissent from the marks they have received should follow the normal procedure for red flagging outlined in §1. h. Red Flag Procedures.

The methods used to recognise and validate student progression apply specifically to online or blended learning, and these are uniformly applied across the institution’s colleges. These methods include the capture of data relevant to progression, including the submission of weekly or final essays, attendance at tutorial meetings, the mark and written feedback received on submitted work and examinations, and the accumulation of relevant grades with an average meeting the stated requirement for successful course completion. Student records, including the official transcript of successfully completed courses and grades, are stored digitally according to the policy found in §8. Information Management.

Students who complete a course of study receive a digital certificate and access to a copy of their transcript. Certificates and transcripts provide contextual information on the credit earned, including the EQF level, number of ECTS credits and their associated workload.

6. Teaching Staff

All teaching (including tutorials, supervisions, and lectures) is provided by competent academics or industry experts with qualifications commensurate to their role. All teachers are also expected to have relevant teaching experience in the domain of their expertise. All faculty members at Woolf are expected to be in possession of a research doctorate meeting the EQF Level 8 qualification in the domain of their teaching or supervision; moreover, they are expected to have a record of research or a research agenda reflecting the capacity for research. Other teaching staff are called Instructors or Professional Experts. They are used in this course to provide domain-specific academic and industry insights, including teaching during synchronous sessions and feedback on student work. Instructors and Professional Experts operate under the supervision of staff with PhDs. Instructors must be in possession of a level EQF 7 qualification. Domain Experts must have at least 7 years of industry-specific professional and/or management experience and are under the direct authority of the Faculty members. All staff must receive pedagogical training before engaging with students.

Woolf uses clear, fair, and transparent processes for teaching recruitment, conditions of employment, and professional advancement. Notices of availabilities are publically listed on the Woolf platform and, when available, other sites visited by academics. Criteria for teaching positions, including any associated conditions of on-going employment, are clearly stated. Applications for teaching are reviewed by the Academic Board of the college, or a committee of the Board, until a position(s) is filled. Notices state the supporting documentation required as evidence for the review of an applicant. All applicants are required to demonstrate their competence for the teaching position by providing a copy of their credentials to be verified before the position is filled. This policy applies to all teaching roles of Woolf, including from any teaching services provided by third party vendors, which are subject to the same process of review. In all cases, the final decision for filling a role in accordance with the criteria stated on the public notice is made by the Academic Board.

Woolf’s QA policies and procedures apply consistently to full-time, part-time, ad hoc, and third-party teaching activities. All teaching activities fall within the scope of the QA Policy. Teaching staff, including part-time or ad hoc teaching, staff are directed towards updates and developments in their field as well as the methodological requirements for their programmes. All Faculty Members are encouraged to discuss innovative forms of teaching, formulate how these may be implemented, and propose those implementations in the Faculty Council (see §2. Institutional Probity). At the end of all teaching courses, students provide feedback on their teaching experience, and twice per year faculty provide feedback by survey, as described in §1. Policy for Quality Assurance. All teachers are expected to maintain a record of positive student outcomes, and teaching activities are periodically reviewed or observed (see §4 d. Tutorial Teaching). In cases of disagreement, or suspected misconduct, fraud, or prejudice; a red flag should be submitted, as described in §1. h. Red Flag Procedures.

The link between teaching and research (or, where relevant, practice) is supported by Woolf’s model of tutorial teaching, which encourages engagement by both tutors and students with specialised scholarship, and stimulates students and tutors to engage in the discovery or creation of new knowledge (see §4. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment). All courses are subject to processes of quality enhancement to improve student outcomes, including the course’s continued engagement with the best scholarship (see §1. Policy for Quality Assurance).

7. Learning Resources and Support

a. Learning Resources

Courses offered by Woolf are designed for online or blended learning. The required course materials are clearly indicated on courses before students enrol. Courses include with the tuition price open-source resources by permalink and copyright compliant course packets; wherever courses require the purchase of additional outside materials, the course provides clear information for students to understand what the cost of addition materials will be, before the student enrols in the course, and wherever possible, practical guidance should be provided on the acquisition of the required materials from diverse vendors.

Woolf’s central digital library contains over 200 million academic resources for both course creation and student use.

Sufficient funding is allocated by the Head of Institution for Woolf’s technical infrastructure; the Head of Institution is responsible for ensuring that Woolf's the digital infrastructure has the following features: (1) Automated procedures to ensure continuity of service in case of site-specific equipment or software failure; and (2) Backup systems that include real-time mirroring of data with onsite and offsite backups.  See §8. Information management.

b. Diverse Student Requirements

The needs of diverse student populations are considered, and students are informed about the requirements and responsibilities they must accept by enrolling in a programme at Woolf. All users of the Woolf platform, including students, must accept the Technology Agreement, by which they attest that they possess the technical infrastructure needed to engage successfully with the Woolf software platform; see §4. g. Student Support.

c. Support

All resources are fit for purpose, accessible, and students are informed about the services available to them. Students (or faculty members) in need of technical support for their engagement with the Woolf platform should, in the first instance, consult the digital guide and Support Centre (see §4. g. Student Support), or contact the designated support person at their college, if their college has one. If students or faculty need further technical support, they should email support@woolf.education. Technical support personnel are highly trained and provided the opportunity for continued professional development.

For other matters of student support, see §4. g. Student Support.

8. Information Management

Student and teacher records begin with a verification of identity and credentials by a professional verification service provider; the identity of the student or teacher is thereafter continuously confirmed through the use of (1) a private password and other digital gatekeepers, and (2) the regular confirmation through face-to-face video conference calls which are central to the personalise education provided.

Student records include information on admissions, student details, and assessment. Information about students is collected at enrolment, during and at the end of every programme, at departure, and, where possible, by follow-up after departure. The information that is gathered attends to the following metrics: the profile of the student population (including, where relevant, vulnerable groups); student progression, success and drop-out rates; student satisfaction with the programmes; the adequacy of learning resources and student support available; and the career paths of graduates. Information is gathered from the profile information of students and by survey; information is analysed by QAETAC, as described in §1. Policy for Quality Assurance, in order to formulate improvements in quality on the key metrics described above.

Digital records are stored on a distributed cloud system with servers in multiple global locations. Woolf archives student records in Switzerland. Archival data for storage of greater than 40 years is achieved through virtual tape storage and similar advanced techniques, and provides a robust backup system for student records. Woolf’s data backup systems are in line with the highest standards for international enterprises. Woolf uses server systems that are maintained by a professional technical staff. The data architecture is designed for redundancy and automatic continuity of service in cases of site-specific failure, and the hardware is regularly updated across the system.

9. Public Information

Information on the Woolf platform is displayed about the teaching activities and programmes; including the selection criteria for admissions; the qualifications awarded (including EQF level and ECTS); the regular and summative assessment procedures used; the learning resources and opportunities available; the potential career pathways of those completing the course; and, when sufficient information is available, the pass rates and post-course employment information of prior students on the programme.

Sufficient information is available for prospective applicants to be able to make an informed choice in terms of the knowledge, skills and competences they are likely to have developed on successful completion of the programme. Information is displayed publicly and is meant to be useful for prospective and current students considering the learning outcomes they should expect to acquire if successfully completing a programme; as well as for graduates, other stakeholders, and the public.

10. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes

On-going monitoring and periodic review and revision of study programmes aim to ensure that the programmes and resources remain appropriate, and to create a supportive and effective learning environment for both faculty and students. Actions planned or taken as a result of the monitoring and periodic review of programs is communicated to those all concerned.

Woolf’s unique Accreditation Management System is used by Woolf staff for the ongoing monitoring of quality assurance.

On-going and periodic monitoring is the responsibility of QAETAC and the Head of Institution, as described in §1. Policy for Quality Assurance. The scope includes the periodic observation of teaching, see §4. d. Tutorial Teaching. In line with §3, Design and Approval of Programmes, external stakeholders are consulted in the formation of new programmes, and in the periodic review of programmes; where those programmes expressly aim for employability, stakeholders from the world of work are consulted, as described in §3. g. External Stakeholders. Where relevant, external stakeholders will include the input of External Quality Assurance.

The on-going review of programmes includes surveys that query both students and faculty (as described in §2. Institutional Probity and above in §1. Policy for Quality Assurance) about the perceived changing needs of society, and members of QAETAC are directed to third party publications to help them stay abreast of developments in the education sector.

On-going monitoring and periodic review, including through surveys and external consultations, seek to discover whether programmes are up to date (containing the latest relevant research); appropriate to the needs of society (including the need to prepare citizens of communities; to maintain a broad, advanced knowledge base; to prepare graduates for the workforce; and to provide educational opportunities for personal development); appropriate and balanced in their workload; effective for student progression and completion; appropriate and effective in their regular and summative assessment; meeting the expectations of students; and supported by appropriate services for the programme.

QAETAC formulates recommendations on the basis of the results of the on-going monitoring and periodic review of programmes, which are delivered to the Head of Institution for final decision (as described above in §1. Policy for Quality Assurance). Actions taken as a result of periodic review are communicated to stakeholders, including teachers and students.

Regular external quality assurance reviews will examine all Woolf QA policies to ensure that it is fit-for-purpose, and that it addresses QA requirements in line with the scope and complexity of the education services that Woolf provides.