Why we are conducting the review
The higher education sector is increasingly diverse and continues to evolve.
The UK funding bodies are legally responsible for assessing the quality of education at the universities and colleges they fund or are considering funding.
So the review provides an opportunity to consider the most appropriate future arrangements for this dynamic environment.
Phases of the review
We ran an informal listening exercise which sought views on a range of high-level principles and issues from January until March 2015.
In the first stage of the review we sought views on the broad purpose and parameters of any future arrangements for quality assessment in HE.
We produced a document with questions designed to stimulate a wide-ranging discussion and debate about high-level issues.
The document aimed to explore these fundamental questions before the review looks at more practical matters, such as the design and development of new arrangements.
Read the discussion document
Responses to the phase one discussion document
Consultation on specific proposals
In June 2015, we published proposals for a new approach to quality assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The analysis of the consultation responses has now been published.
Responses to the consultation
Responses to the consultation broadly supported the proposals. For all questions, more respondents agreed with the proposals than disagreed.
There was clear support in a number of areas, including:
- the proposed principles for future approaches to quality assessment, especially the view that ‘one size’ of quality assessment can no longer ‘fit all’
- the removal of repeated external cyclical review against baseline requirements for established providers, unless there was evidence of a serious problem
- approaches to embedding external scrutiny
- a shift in focus away from a provider’s processes to place student outcomes centre stage
- the use of existing funding body accountability mechanisms to monitor, and to seek and test assurances from, individual providers
- investigation and intervention when things go wrong
- peer review of providers seeking entry to the publicly funded sector, followed by a probationary period for these new entrants.
In two areas the difference between the number of responses which agreed and those which disagreed was narrower. These were proposals to:
- place more emphasis on the role of a provider’s governing body
- strengthen the external examining system.
This suggests that, for these areas, further careful reflection and adjustment will be necessary.
Letter to accompany the quality assessment review consultation
Following the formal consultation phase we expect to undertake more detailed design and to pilot aspects of any new arrangements in 2016-17.
Following a review of the pilot activities, any new arrangements will be fully implemented in 2017-18.
Governance and supporting documentation
A steering group guided and advised the funding bodies throughout the discussion and consultation phases. This Steering group has now been dissolved.
Quality Assessment Review Steering Group
The Quality Assessment Review Steering Group supports and advises the funding bodies in the oversight and management of their proposal to review the way in which they meet their respective statutory obligations for quality assessment.
The Steering Group:
- led and shaped the debate about how best quality assessment should be conducted in the future
- oversaw the mechanisms to gather a wide range of perspectives, and the forums to ensure that these are heard, discussed, and considered carefully
- gathered intelligence on the operation of quality assessment in other international systems and in other sectors within the UK
- drew on evidence from experts as it deemed appropriate.
The Steering Group provided oversight of:
- the processes adopted to gather views
- the analysis of future quality assessment needs
- the development of a specification of requirements
- the implementation phase for any new arrangements.
Steering Group meeting summary reports
1 October 2015: Summary report
23 April 2015: Summary report
1 April 2015: Summary report
7 January 2015: Summary report
4 December 2014: Summary report
Terms of reference and administrative arrangements
Impact assessment for Quality Assessment Review
Previous letters to vice-chancellors and principals
We are keeping vice-chancellors and principals updated on our plans for quality assessment in UK higher education via a series of letters. Letters sent already are available below