The Policy of Quality Assurance

The Policy of Quality Assurance

Policy for Quality Assurance

This document presents the Policy of Internal Quality Assurance (QA) used at Woolf Education Ltd (hereafter ‘Woolf’). Woolf exists to promote academic excellence, broaden access to higher education, and guard values that are humane, democratic, and international. Woolf  is a licensed higher education institution with license number 2019-015.

The guiding context for the formulation of Woolf’s Policy of Internal Quality Assurance consists of the following: ENQA, et al., ‘Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)’ (Brussels: EURASHE, 2015);  ‘Annex 1 – National Quality Assurance Framework Standards Amended to also cover Online/Blended Learning’ (Malta: National Commission for Further and Higher Education, 2017);  and Huertas, Biscan, 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). Woolf’s Policy of Quality Assurance is publically accessible on the Woolf platform.

Woolf uses online and blended learning techniques for course delivery. The QA measures and mechanisms at Woolf apply specifically to online and blended learning, and in both cases QA is supported by the same software and processes. In cases of 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.

Research and Education (Learning and Teaching)

Woolf supports a relationship between research and taught content – by encouraging the formation of new, diverse, and interdisciplinary modules; by requiring modules to include academic publications from the last ten years; by requiring new modules to undergo peer review; and by encouraging the balanced use of primary and secondary scholarships as a criteria of internal peer-review of new modules (see §11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes). Woolf’s tutorial courses 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.

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, the right to be assessed by their scholarly peers, 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.

Academic Fraud

Woolf’s procedures to protect against academic fraud begin with the verification of both the identity and prior academic credentials of every faculty and student member. 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 other digital gatekeepers, and the regular confirmation through face-to-face video conference calls, which are central to tutorial courses. When modules are examined viva voce, an external examiner is present to participate and ensure the proceedings are conducted fairly. When modules are examined by long essay, the academic supervisor regularly checks the identity of the student and queries the student’s comprehension of the submissions; Woolf further deploys 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).

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 modules and colleges are subject to cyclical peer-review according to § 11. On-Going Monitoring and Periodic Review of Programmes.

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 democratic and deliberative processes that are open to scrutiny.

Corporate Structure

Woolf operates in multiple countries in order to provide the best support to its member colleges.

Woolf is a Maltese company, having its registered office at 66, Old Bakery Street, Valletta, VLT 1454, Malta. Woolf is overseen by its Board of Directors, serviced by its Secretary, and represented in Malta by its Legal Representative.

The Director of Woolf is appointed by the shareholders. The Director must be in possession of a doctorate, have a record of published peer-reviewed academic work, and have not less than five years of experience in higher education. The Secretary of Woolf is appointed by the Director of Woolf. The Secretary must have a record of administrative work. The Legal Representative of Woolf is appointed by the Director of Woolf. The Legal Representative of Woolf must be available in Malta for regular communications with the National Commission for Further and Higher Education, and must have a record of experience in communication with academic and accreditation bodies.

The sole shareholder of Woolf is Woolf Inc., a Delaware corporation, having its registered address at 251 Little Falls Drive, Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware, 19808, USA. Woolf Inc. affirms and supports the quality assurance policies of Woolf.

Woolf Inc. supports Woolf in the area of online programme management, specifically implementing software systems with 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 in §8 Information Management. Woolf Inc. is responsible for providing and implementing of software that supports and enforces compliance with the QA Policy of Woolf.

Academic Governance

The academic Head of Institution is the final authority in academic affairs and is, by default, the Director of Woolf. The selection criteria by which the Director is chosen are thus the criteria by which the Head of Institution is chosen.

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 Board of Directors, 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 are required to pass a vote. Motions passed in council are subject 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 and Secretary. The Head of institution may appoint further members to a Committee.

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; the Head of Institution (ex officio); the Secretary of Woolf (ex officio); and the Advisor for Equality and Diversity, appointed by the Head of Institution. The Committee passes its recommendations directly to the Board of Directors, except where the committee determines that a vote must first be proposed in Council. The committee holds regular meetings twice per year, and extraordinary meetings once per month, at the discretion of the chairman of the meeting.

QAETAC is tasked with promoting a culture of excellence that reflects the Woolf QA policy in line with the Woolf Mission Statement. QAETAC formulates adjustments to existing policy, or to its implementation, and delivers these recommendations to the Board of Directors, except where the committee determines that a vote should first be proposed in Council.

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 at the end of all modules, and QAETAC elicits faculty feedback twice per year (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 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 Board of Directors.

The Academic Finance Committee is responsible for making recommendations about the allocation of funds for the different departments, staff, 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; the Head of Institution (ex officio); the Secretary of Woolf (ex officio); and the Advisor for Equality and Diversity, appointed by the Head of Institution. The Committee is tasked with formulating budgetary recommendations and delivering them to the Board of Directors, except where the committee determines that a vote must first be proposed in Council. The committee holds regular meetings once per year, and extraordinary meetings once per month, at the discretion of the chairman of the meeting.

Collegiate Organisation

Woolf is digitally organised into colleges on the model of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. These digital colleges appear on the software platform used by Woolf. Colleges consist of groups (free associations) of faculty members (see §7. Teaching Staff) offering approved degree courses on 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. All colleges have a College Dean, who is the main contact for the college. The College Dean is unanimously elected at the time that the college forms; Deanships do not have term limits, and a college may elect a replacement at any time through a simple majority vote on the Woolf software platform. The only qualifications required to be a College Dean are those required to be a member of a college (see §7 Teaching Staff).

Colleges are an important component in fostering an environment of quality assurance and continuous quality enhancement (see §1. Policy for Quality Assurance). Colleges compete with each other for standing in collegiate rankings; rankings are public, automatic, and depend upon a number of metrics of quality assurance, which are subject to review by the Faculty Council. This competition is one mechanism by which Woolf promotes the enhancement of quality in the institution.

Red Flag Procedures

Woolf's red flag procedures provide 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 Academic Advisor (see §4. g. Student Support).

The escalation of issues raised through the red flag procedure is as follows. If involving a student, a red flag report will initiate a meeting with the Academic Advisor and the parties concerned. 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. 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. The Board of Directors has final the final judgment in all matters pertaining to red flags (see §1. f. Academic Governance).

Institutional Probity

Woolf operates with yearly financial statements and regular budget plans approved by the Board of Directors of Woolf. In years where the turnover is in excess of €50,000, the institution shall have audited accounts.

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). Information about the annual allocation of funds is published every year in the Woolf Academic Handbook.

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

Woolf’s budgets are implemented by the Board of Directors. 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.

Design and Approval of Programmes

Programmes at Woolf reflect the Malta 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 pre-requisites 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.

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.

Course Resources

All courses state, prior to student application, the resources required to complete the course successfully. Modules normally include a digital version of all the resources required for the successful completion of the module; where this is not possible, modules must publicly specify whether further outside resources will need to be purchased for the successful completion of the module.

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.

Form of Assessment

All courses state, prior to student application, the assessment techniques used. Academic assessment at Woolf is of two kinds: formative and cumulative.

Formative 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 tutorial 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; cumulative assessment may include oral examination or proctored written examination.

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

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 and the Board of Directors for formal compliance with Woolf’s Policy of Quality Assurance, after which the course is peer-reviewed internally by faculty members with domain expertise.

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 Board of Directors 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.

Indication of Staff for Engagement

Students are provided a clear understanding of which staff members will interact with them. Each course has a lead tutor who is publicly listed; all other faculty members on the course are also listed; when a student applies successfully to the course, they will receive an invitation to enrol which indicates the specific tutor who would conduct the weekly tutorial meetings, 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 an Academic Advisor to provide independent support, as described below in below §4. g. Student Support.

External Stakeholders

External stakeholders are invited to participate in the design and review of programmes.  Woolf in engages the National Commission for Further and Higher Education for the external peer review of new accredited programmes.

Engagements with external universities and businesses are subject to the guidelines of this Policy for Quality Assurance. 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 Board of Directors 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 Board of Directors 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 Board of Directors, which is responsible for the design and enhancement of programmes.

Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment

Modules 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) the records of the assessment procedures and grading are kept in Malta.

Three areas of student input are notable: (d) Tutorial Teaching, (e) the supervised Selection of Essay Topics, and (f) the Cumulative Assessment, which is directed towards the student’s own work.

Students are provided with personal (g) Student Support to help them succeed in their academic studies.

All members of Woolf are provided with tools for handling (h) Mitigating Circumstances and the Escalation of Issues and Appeals.

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 Board of Directors. 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.

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, which are central to tutorial courses. When modules are examined viva voce, an external examiner is present to participate and ensure the proceedings are conducted fairly. When modules 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.

Storage of Records

Records of the assessment procedures and grading are kept in Malta. For the storage of student records, see §8. Information Management.

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 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 modules 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).

Selection of Essay Topics

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 module’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 module’s assigned reading list. See §3. Design and Approval of Programmes for the formation of the module’s content; for feedback on modules from tutorial teachers and students see also §1. Policy for Quality Assurance.

Cumulative Assessment

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

Cumulative examination requires a student to deepen, extend, and synthesise the scholarly engagements initiated in their prior work. Cumulative assessment is normally in 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 modules 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 Malta Qualifications Framework – see §8. Information Management.

Student Support

In addition to providing their core weekly tutorial lessons, teachers must make available one hour per week of a ‘digital open office hour’ that can be booked by their own tutorial students, should they require extra academic support that cannot be provided within the normal tutorial sessions. All new students are required to book an extra session during their first week studying with Woolf.

Moreover, every student is also assigned an Academic Advisor, who is a faculty member from within the student’s own college, and who acts as the first point of contact for non-technical academic issues related the student’s progress, particularly where these may benefit from an independent point of view. Thus every faculty member not only oversees their own students, but must also provide, on an exchange basis, availabilities that can be booked per week, per outside student, should the need arise, by their Academic Advisees.

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.

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.

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 affect 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).

Student Admission, Progression, Recognition, and Certification

Admissions Criteria

Woolf’s admissions criteria are implemented consistently and in a transparent manner. The minimum eligibility requirement for all admissions to Woolf consists of the MQF prerequisites for course level. (Thus, for example, admissions to an MQF Level 7 course require the applicant to posses an MQF Level 6 degree of not less than 180 ECTS in a subject domain that prepares the student for commencing the course.) All Woolf admissions procedures reflect respect for the training of other institutions.

Places for study at Woolf are limited and are thus awarded on a competitive basis, always taking into account the following three criteria:

  1. Evidence of academic ability, including both proven and potential excellence (and including periods of prior learning, both formal and formal).
  2. Aptitude of the student to benefit from a personal education, namely, tutorials and supervised, independent research
  3. 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 inform learning), a statement of motivation, a writing sample, two reference letters, and (at the discretion of a college) an admissions interview. The admissions process is conducted by faculty members who teach on the course to which the student is admitted.

Admissions Process

Students begin their applications by following 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, a statement of motivation, writing sample, and two reference letters. Students are informed of the expected date of a decision on their application 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 faculty members who teach the course at a single college (on Woolf’s colleges see §2. Institutional Probity). Course offerings state the dates of college application assessment and decisions. Students may apply to multiple colleges but may only accept a single place of study.

Faculty members in a college admitting students to a course must form an Admissions Committee of not less than 2 in order to review and rank applications. All applications are always reviewed according to the three criteria (stated above) and on the basis of the evidence submitted (listed above). The applications which are approved for acceptance are forwarded to the College Dean for final review and approval (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 before they enrol in a course; course-specific orientation information is stated on the course materials on the Woolf platform before the student enrols. All newly enrolled students are further required, during their first week of study, to book an induction meeting with a tutor for a question and answer session (see §4. Student-Centred Learning, Teaching, and Assessment). Colleges are encouraged to supply their students with further orientation or guidance material.

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 modules 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/MQF level, and the learning outcomes in line NCFHE regulations.

Teaching Staff

All teaching (including tutorials, supervisions, and lectures) is provided by competent academics 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 MQF 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.

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 Board of Directors, 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 Education Ltd, 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 Board of Directors.

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 modules, 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 modules are subject to processes of quality enhancement to improve student outcomes, including the module’s continued engagement with the best scholarship (see §1. Policy for Quality Assurance).

Learning Resources and Support

Learning Resources

Courses offered by Woolf are designed for online or blended learning. The required course materials are clearly indicated on modules before students enrol. Modules include with the tuition price open-source resources by permalink and copyright compliant course packets; wherever modules require the purchase of additional outside materials, the module 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.

Sufficient funding is allocated by the Board of Directors for Woolf’s technical infrastructure; the Board of Directors 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.

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.

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.

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 Malta. Archival data for storage of greater than 40 years is achieved through virtual tape storage, 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.

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/MQF level and ECTS, or where relevant EVET, credits); the formative 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.

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.

On-going and periodic monitoring is the responsibility of QAETAC and the Board of Directors, 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 formative 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 Board of Directors 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 EQA/NCFHE 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.