Academic Quality Assurance

The Sydney College of Divinity Council recognises that academic quality assurance is critical to it’s ability to self‐assure its higher education operations. Our academic quality assurance framework helps to demonstrate that quality is assured in every course of study provided with  Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) accreditation.

Sydney College of Divinity (SCD) is an ecumenical consortium of private colleges, known as our Member Institutions (MIs). We have two entities who deliver our awards directly, the SCD Korean School of Theology (delivering awards in Korean) and the Graduate Research School (delivering research degrees). Together, the Member Institutions and the entities are our teaching bodies.

Quality assurance objectives of academic standards and outcomes is achieved through systematic, established internal processes for quality assurance and the maintenance and, through these processes, improvement of academic standards and academic integrity. Sydney College of Divinity standards are based on the Higher Education Standards Framework (Provider Registration Standards, Provider Accreditation Standards, and Qualification Standards), as demonstrated to and accepted by TEQSA and as reinforced in the revision of academic governance through implementation of the Cusick Report. Our processes also continue to require the maintenance of equivalent standards of institutional and staff performance across the Sydney College of Divinity. It is against these that the performances of all our teaching bodies are gauged.

Quality assurance arrangements for the Member Institutions thus involve requirements both to adhere to SCD’s application of the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 and to maintain equivalence with each other in this respect. The College through its Korean School of Theology delivers, centrally, Korean-medium versions of most of the same coursework awards, and the same academic standards and expectations apply for the Korean school as for the MIs. Since the research degrees are delivered only through the Graduate Research School, centrally, the specific question of equivalence with other parts of SCD does not arise, only basic adherence to the College’s application of the Higher Education Standards Framework.

Overview of the Sydney College of Divinity’s Academic Quality Assurance

An outline of the key factors is listed

1. Academic Governance and the Office of the Dean

The Sydney College of Divinity’s fully centralized system of academic governance lies at the heart of its academic quality assurance. Each of the teaching bodies is involved in the common entity with the others, and each has an inherent responsibility to the others for observing SCD’s shared policies and procedures. The relationship of each teaching body to the Office of the Dean supports and is supported by the interrelationships of each teaching body with the others through SCD’s academic governance and its instruments. These two relational approaches, through academic governance and through Office activity, come together in the membership of one or more Officers on Academic Board and each of its committees:

  • Academic Board
  • Coursework Committee
  • Discipline Coordinators Committee
  • Research Committee
  • Standing Committee
  • Student Support and Administration Committee

2. Instruments of Academic Governance

The Terms of Reference for the respective Committees of Academic Board point to the essential links between academic process and quality assurance across SCD’s academic operation. These include, with regard to all coursework delivered across SCD, the following key instruments:

  • accreditation of teachers with reference to the one set of criteria in accord with the Higher Education Standards Framework (Coursework Committee);
  • academic classification and promotion for permanent faculty and, optionally, sessional faculty (Classification and Promotions Committee, through the Dean to Academic Board);
  • required use of a common set of Course Unit Outlines (CUOs) as the basis for all units taught, with agreed allowance for addition and adaptation but preserving the key elements including outcomes (Discipline Coordinators Committee);
  • required use of a common Course Unit Booklet (CUB) template with unit and staff information and expectations of students for all units delivered, together with verification of CUBs each semester (Discipline Coordinators Committee);
  • monitoring of student results each semester (Coursework Committee);
  • Discipline Moderation (Discipline Coordinators Committee);
  • Institutional Academic Moderation (Coursework Committee Committee);

and, with regard to research degrees:

  • thesis supervision and examination arrangements (Research Committee).

3. Quality Assurance through the Office of the Dean

The Dean and four senior Office staff collectively referred to as ‘Directors’ have responsibility for particular areas of the overall Sydney College of Divinity operation. The Dean has oversight of the whole enterprise, together with high-level institutional duties, and the four Directors have responsibility with matters indicated by their titles: Academic Director, Research Director, Academic Registrar, and Chief Operating Officer. Together with support staff, the Dean and Directors, in the very nature of their operational roles, exercise ongoing quality control in the centralized management of SCD both as a single entity and as a consortium.

4. Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a constant factor in the Sydney College of Divinity’s academic quality assurance, as our academic performance is measured against the Higher Education Standards Framework, Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), and other Government expectations, on the one hand, and sector practice, on the other. Our external sector benchmarking has been heightened, especially through the Theology Higher Education Consortium Benchmarking Network, which is the 2015 formulation of the 2013 benchmarking agreement between Sydney College of Divinity, Australian College of Theology and University of Divinity. This arrangement means that the three major private theological consortia, which have enough in common to make detailed distinctions or parallels significant, call on each other for information or quality checks (e.g. on policies) as the need arises and also schedule benchmarking meetings to address a program of exchanges regarding issues of mutual concern.

External benchmarking occurs in various ways:

  • SCD membership of the HEPP-QN
  • SCD participation in the broad benchmarking exercises of the Council of Deans of Theology, the Council of Private Higher Education, and Deans and Directors of Graduate Schools
  • Use of external experts as consultants for major reviews
  • Occasional use of external experts as consultants for occasional reviews of major policies, such as Student Grievance
  • Frequent use of external experts as presenters at SCD Strategic Planning Days and professional development events
  • Regular Discipline Moderation, panels with external experts
  • Regular Institutional Academic Moderation, panels with external experts
  • Ongoing input from external academic members of Council, Academic Board, and committees, including the Dean’s External Advisory Panel
  • Opportunities through the participation of SCD personnel on committees or in Departments/Schools of other HEPs and universities
  • Ongoing consultation of other HEP and university websites for comparative information regarding policies and possible academic developments, such as possible academic partnerships and joint doctorates
  • Regular participation in research conferences and other forums, including some mounted by SCD or its MIs
  • A sound and increasing level of peer-reviewed publications in the field implicitly benchmarked by external academics for journals or academic book publishers with regard to the discipline

In addition, the fact that the College is structured as a consortium means that the application of SCD policy and procedure across its teaching bodies provides a kind of internal benchmarking.

5. SCD-Specific Areas for Quality Assurance

Our processes and standards of academic quality assurance are equally robust  for the three special factors that are relevant for SCD:

  • Offshore delivery
  • Delivery in a language other than English
  • Third-party involvement

Sydney College of Divinity’s academic quality assurance framework seeks to link our academic governance practices, comprising of quality assurance policies and procedures, with the key aspects of academic quality assurance that are referenced in the TEQSA Threshold Standards. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the academic quality at SCD’s teaching bodies email us at [email protected]