COVID-19 and PRIs:
Guidance on interruption to programme delivery:
Coronavirus and accreditation
In light of the ongoing pandemic preventing physical accreditation visits, the Engineering Council has updated its guidance on COVID-19 and accreditation with effect from 23 December 2020. The changes made are intended to provide more clarity and flexibility in virtual visit activity, informed by feedback from the Professional Engineering Institutions (PEI’s) on their experience to date.
The provisions in this guidance will remain in place until 31 December 2021 unless further revised or extended by the Registration Standards Committee.
At the discretion of the accrediting PEI:
- a virtual visit may be carried out, using video conferencing, virtual laboratory tours, and electronic submission of assessed work and other information;
- a one-year extension to accreditation may be granted;
- accreditation activity may be postponed if:
- neither a virtual visit nor extension of accreditation is possible or appropriate, or
- a virtual visit does not provide sufficient and satisfactory evidence for accreditation to be awarded.
To comply with the Registration Code of Practice (RCoP) it remains important to ensure that all decisions are carefully thought through and documented, a comprehensive audit trail is maintained, and that PEIs remain confident that students graduating from an accredited programme will have achieved the required learning outcomes.
Following a virtual accreditation visit, and in line with normal PEI decision making processes, the following decisions may be made:
- to award a full five years accreditation (plus any appropriate backdating or extension, with RSC permission sought where RCoP requires), without a follow-up visit; or
- to award a shorter period of accreditation, with any subsequent extension up to the permitted five years subject to satisfying the PEI's requirements/conditions to be demonstrated through a follow-up visit or other monitoring as required by the PEI; or
- not to accredit, until the PEI’s requirements/conditions have been met, and demonstrated through a follow-up visit or other monitoring activity as required by the PEI.
PEIs are encouraged to take a risk-based approach to determining the period of accreditation and whether an on-site visit is required before confirming accreditation. A risk-based approach may consider evidence from previous engagement with the department, for example previous accreditations and/or knowledge of the department from advisory visits, and whether sufficient and satisfactory evidence has been seen. PEIs should not unconditionally accredit for the full five years in instances where they have not seen sufficient evidence to be confident that all students graduating have demonstrated/will demonstrate the required learning outcomes. Other factors may also be taken into account, for example those included in the Guidance Note on waiving the requirement for an academic accreditation visit, available on the Partner Portal.
Where PEIs determine that a follow up visit is needed, whether before or after accreditation has been confirmed, the format of such visits, and who should participate, are at the discretion of the PEI. For example, they could decide to delegate this to a local registrant member or an academic liaison officer, or they may decide that one or more member(s) of the original accreditation panel needs to be involved.
PEIs are encouraged to maintain contact with the provider during the period of accreditation, for example through an annual check-in to confirm whether there have been any changes. This could be delegated to staff or a local liaison officer and handled through correspondence/phone call etc. There is no need for PEIs to introduce an extra interaction if they routinely maintain contact with providers of accredited programmes between accreditation visits.
A University Impact Report template has been created to assist providers in submitting relevant information about adjustments to programme delivery and/or assessment, including those arising from factors other than COVID-19, that have had an impact on programmes that needs to be notified to the accrediting PEI(s).
PEIs may plan for virtual visits until the end of 2021 calendar year in line with this guidance. The Registration Standards Committee (RSC) will review the situation in May 2021 to decide whether there is a need to extend beyond that to inform planning for 2021/22 accreditation activity.
PEIs are encouraged to capture feedback on their experience of virtual visits and share this with each other and the Engineering Council. This, together with feedback from international partners, will enable the Registration Standards Committee to consider whether virtual accreditation could continue in the longer-term.
In respect of other meetings or registration-related processes that may be affected, the Engineering Council would also recommend PEIs maintain a full audit trail of any variances from their normal procedures.
Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) guidance
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published guidance related to Covid-19. This includes examples of HEI and PSRB approaches, with topics including academic standards, lab based assessment, and work based learning including apprenticeships and study abroad.
CPD Sampling Guidance
The Engineering Council has received queries and comments from the PEIs on the maintenance of competence by registrants during the closure of most workplaces, and self-quarantining, due to the recent outbreak. During this time it is anticipated that the nature of CPD undertaken by all professionals will change.
- Many forms of learning, like lectures, on-the-job workplace learning, mentoring etc will likely be interrupted during the outbreak, and in some cases not take place at all. PEIs are encouraged to be flexible both in how they support, and monitor the CPD of their registrants.
- PEIs have, in recent years, greatly increased their degree of digital provision and support of learning, including CPD. Registrants should be encouraged to make the most of such resources during the outbreak.
- It is anticipated that CPD sampling will continue during the outbreak. Samples generally cover the past 12 months, and sampling systems are conducted online. However, PEIs are invited to notify the Engineering Council about any extenuating circumstances that might interrupt CPD sampling.
- There may also be instances of registrants selected as part of a sample and CPD assessors whose time may be limited due being involved in essential work e.g. NHS staff. In terms of the former, please consider exempting such individuals from the sample and, for the latter, please contact the Licensing department, firstname.lastname@example.org, in order for us to liaise with other institutions regarding the possible use of their assessors.
Any comments or queries not covered by this CPD guidance can be sent to email@example.com