USTLG Summer 1998 meeting – TQA visits

Edward Boyle Library, University of Leeds


Terry Bucknell University of Leeds
Julie Hesmondhalgh University of Salford
Ruth Jenkins University of Birmingham
Alex Lankester Ovid Technologies

Report by Carole Rhodes

The Summer meeting of the University Science and Technology Librarians’ Group was held on 29 June 1998 at the University of Leeds. The theme was Teaching Quality Assessments and about 38 people attended.

Terry Bucknell, Subject Consultant for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds Library, gave an overview of the TQA process. He covered the assessment method, including the production of a Self Assessment Document by the academic department and the visit by a team of assessors to carry out peer review. Library provision is covered under Learning Resources, one of the six aspects which are graded from 1 (aims not met) to 4 (aims fully met). The average total score is 20, with very few aspects scoring a 1. 42% of scores are 4, 50% are 3. It is easiest to score a 4 for Student Support and Guidance, whereas the aspects most likely to score 2 are Quality Assurance and Learning Resources. It is only possible to compare scores within a subject area and within the same sector and in general Scientific subjects get lower scores than the Social Sciences.

TQA is to change in the period 1998-2000, becoming known as Subject Review and giving greater emphasis to learning outcomes and Dearing’s four skills formulation (transferable skills etc). The visits will place less emphasis on observation of teaching and more on student work, external examiners’ reports and cooperation with professional bodies. Beyond 2000, it is likely that the TQA process will be replaced with common standards for qualifications, institutional teaching and learning strategies and codes of practice.

Terry and the other speakers recommended consultation of the SCONUL ‘Aide-memoire for Assessors when evaluating Library and Computing services’, which gives examples of the questions that may be asked.

Terry also cited:

  • Rhodes, Carole, ‘Teaching Quality Assessments visits and how to survive them’, SCONUL Newsletter, 12, Winter 1997, pp. 15-16
  • Brown, Sally, Downey, Bill, Race, Phil, ‘500 tips for academic librarians’, Library Association Publishing, 1997.

He finished by indicating what Assessors are interested in: book and periodical stock, study space, modern library catalogues, annual acquisitions expenditure, evidence of usage and good liaison between Library and department. Two TQA tips were: expect the unexpected and don’t panic!

Julie Hesmondhalgh, Faculty Coordinator with Academic Information Services at the University of Salford, gave an account of her experiences of a Building and Landed Property TQA. This was complicated by the fact that it covered two departments, Building and Surveying, from two recently merged institutions, University College Salford and the University of Salford. Academic Information Services covers both Library and Computing provision and this is also multi-site. A useful part of the documentation AIS provides for its TQAs is a specially amended part of its Learning Resources Strategy Document, which lists specific strategic objectives (eg providing learning resources, monitoring feedback), together with details of their implementation and supporting evidence.

Although Julie described the TQA experience as a stressful one, she found that it had positive outcomes: more effective liaison, improved facilities, regular provision of reading lists and a feeling of membership of the academic departments.

Ruth Jenkins, Engineering Liaison Librarian with Information Services at the University of Birmingham, gave details of how she has supported TQA. Information Services covers Library, Computing, AV, Lecture theatres … and the aim is to provide a seamless integration of services to students. There is a philosophy of planning upgrades to accommodation around the QA process, so for example PC provision is reviewed the summer before a visit. Information Services inputs to the Self-Assessment Document and reviews reading lists months in advance. Subject specialists talk through the SCONUL ‘Aide-memoire’ with academics and produce a background paper customised for the department’s needs. During the visit, the assessors meet with the appropriate Liaison Librarian and the Director of Information Services.

Ruth also highlighted the benefits of TQA: enhanced provision of reading list materials, an increase in information skills training, more effective communication and good PR.

The final presentation moved away from TQA: Alex Lankester of Ovid Technologies spoke of Ovid’s bid to provide access to Inspec for the national academic community. CHEST has invited Ovid, SilverPlatter and UMI to tender to provide an interface to Inspec, in conjunction with UK academic hosts. The service will be online and Web-based and will be confirmed in September 1998.

Ovid’s proposal for Inspec is for it to be accessed via a Java client Web interface. The search features include mapping to appropriate subject headings, a permuted index and a thesaurus tool. Subject headings and author names are hypertext linked. It is possible to email, print and save results, set up automatic SDIs and connect to a document ordering capability.

In the future, Ovid is looking at subject clusters, e-journals, natural language mapping, multi-file searching and de-duping. User statistics will be delivered.

Trial access to the Ovid interface is available at:
Username: ovidtest
Password: blueeyes2 (until 9 July 1998),
hihopes3 (until 23 July 1998)

Alex demonstrated INSPEC Pre-Release (May 1998).

Carole Rhodes, Engineering Librarian,
University of Liverpool, Harold Cohen Library,
Ashton Street, Liverpool, L69 3DA.
Tel: 0151 794 5409 Fax: 0151 794 5417