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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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The consultation sets out proposals for a quality assessment system that secures an excellent student academic experience and maintains confidence in degree standards. The proposals recognise the increasing diversity and dynamism of the sector, uphold its outstanding international reputation, and seek to foster excellence and innovation in learning and teaching in the particular context of individual universities and colleges. 

The consultation marks the second stage of a review of quality assessment which began earlier this year with a wide-ranging discussion with the sector and other stakeholders. It draws on this discussion, on commissioned research [Note 1], and on the advice of the Steering Group chaired by Professor Dame Shirley Pearce CBE [Note 2]. 

Professor Dame Shirley said: 

‘The Steering Group made recommendations to the funding bodies on the basis of very thorough and inclusive discussions and widespread debate about the best way to deliver a quality assessment system that puts the student needs at the centre, pays greater attention to outcomes rather than process, is risk-based rather than formulaic, and which looks to reduce the administrative burden on institutions.’ 

The proposals build on three key elements of arrangements already in place: 

  • A shift from process-driven assurance to analysis of student academic outcomes. A number of respondents to the first phase of the review wished to see this shift. It builds on existing institutional activity to drive excellence and innovation in learning and teaching in the context of an institution’s own mission, location and modes of delivery, and the nature of their student body. 
  • Strengthening the existing external examining system to protect the integrity of academic standards. There was strong support in the first phase of the review for the external examining system, but recognition of the need for further modernisation and professionalisation. 
  • An enhanced role for universities’ and colleges’ own assurance systems. Governing bodies would confirm that their senates or academic boards were reviewing the quality of their students’ academic experience and (for institutions with degree awarding powers) academic output standards, and provide assurance that there were appropriate action plans in place where necessary. 

The consultation also asks for views on a strengthened approach to dealing with serious risks to the integrity of academic standards or the quality of the student academic experience. 

The proposals confirm the primary responsibility of providers with degree awarding powers to safeguard academic standards, and of all providers for the quality of their students’ academic experience. They also make clear that there will continue to be a need for strong, informed externality [Note 3]. The funding bodies are part of this co-regulation, but the consultation also envisages the involvement of other organisations. 

The Government has committed to the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework in England. HEFCE and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are working together to ensure that the quality system in the round provides a strong, complementary and proportionate approach. 

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: 

‘Excellent teaching and learning is a crucial element of a world-leading and internationally competitive higher education system, and a key priority for this Government. We are committed to introducing a Teaching Excellence Framework as part of a wider approach to quality. In the meantime, I encourage you to respond to the consultation being published today by the three funding bodies, and I look forward to seeing the responses, which in turn will help to shape our thinking on a TEF later in the year.’


  1. See the consultation document and associated research reports.
  2. See the review of quality assessment.
  3. Externality is built into our proposals, for example, in the following ways: external examining, the use of peer review as part of institutional review processes, calibration of degree standards, the involvement of professional, statutory and regulatory bodies, and through funding body accountability mechanisms.
  4. The consultation will run from 29 June until 18 September in England and Northern Ireland, and until 31 August in Wales.