Over the last few years, Progamme Specifications (known at Warwick as Course Specifications) have emerged as the linchpin of the new national framework for quality assurance. The Dearing Report (1997) initiated the idea that each degree offered in UK higher education should have a "Programme Specification", whose principal purpose would be to define the Learning Outcomes of the degree, i.e. the knowledge and skills which graduating students would be expected to have. More detailed guidance on the drafting of Course Specifications was subsequently published by the Quality Assurance Agency, focusing in particular on the function of the Specification in setting out in some detail the explicit relationship between Learning Outcomes, the curriculum and assessment.
The expectation at national level is that the internal quality management systems of universities should be focused on whether the Learning Outcomes of an award, as articulated by the Specification;
- Are achieved by students as demonstrated by their performance in formally assessed work
- Are appropriate to the position of that award within the National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (i.e. reflect the relevant generic level descriptor within the Framework), and
- Reflect any relevant Subject Benchmark statements published by the QAA for the discipline.
Additionally, the implementation of Course Specifications is closely linked to the task of meeting the requirements of the HEFCE and QAA concerning information about higher education (HEFCE 2011/18, Provision of Information about Higher Education). All course specifications have been publicly available on the University's website since 2004.