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Quality assurance system

The quality assurance system for English higher education (HE) comprises a number of elements.

These are:

Institutions’ own internal quality assurance systems and processes


The UK Quality Code for HE

The UK Quality Code for HE is developed and maintained by QAA, through consultation with the HE sector. It is central to QAA’s work in assuring standards and quality. It sets out the expectations that all providers of UK HE are required to meet in order for students to have a high-quality learning experience.

The Quality Code gives all HE providers a shared starting point for setting, describing and assuring academic standards, and the quality of the learning opportunities they provide. It is the core reference point for QAA’s review activity.

Read more about the code


Higher Education Review

HE Review is the current method QAA use to review HEFCE-funded institutions.  Its overall aim is to inform students and the wider public about whether a provider meets the expectations of the HE sector for:

  • the setting and maintenance of the academic standards of awards
  • the quality of student learning opportunities
  • the quality of information about learning opportunities
  • the enhancement of student learning opportunities.

HE Review is a more risk-based method than previous review methods. It is based on a process of peer review and aims to safeguard quality and standards, help improve the student experience, and address any public concerns about quality in HE.

QAA reviews all HEFCE-funded institutions under this method approximately every four to six years, depending on the review track record of the institution.

More about Higher Education Review


Publication of information about higher education

The information institutions provide about their HE provision is one of the four key areas the HE review assesses.

Provision of information covers a wide range of information. This covers:

  • Unistats web-site
  • Key Information Sets
  • the National Student Survey (NSS)
  • Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey.

More about the publication of information about higher education


External examining

External examining is one of the main ways to maintain a UK threshold for academic standards. It is an integral part of quality assurance.

The UK Quality Code for HE covers the system for external examining.

More about external examining


QAA procedure for investigating concerns about standards and quality

QAA also investigates situations where a provider may be failing to meet the expectations set out in the UK Quality Code for HE. 

QAA uses the term ‘concerns’ to mean concerns about standards, quality and the information that providers make available.

Where a concern indicates serious systemic or procedural problems, QAA investigates it through its ‘concerns procedure’.

More about the QAA procedure for investigating concerns about standards and quality


Addressing unsatisfactory quality

The approach to addressing unsatisfactory quality seeks to ensure that any institution should have two opportunities to make improvements.

Where the QAA’s Higher Education Review results in an unsatisfactory judgement  on an aspect of the quality of an institution's provision – in other words, where the judgement is  ‘does not meet UK expectations’ or ‘requires improvement to meet UK expectations’ - an institution is given opportunities to make improvements through:

  • the QAA’s review follow-up process
  • then, if necessary, a process led by HEFCE.

This approach reflects the principles of a more risk-based approach to quality assurance. It aims to be responsive and proportionate to institutional circumstances giving greater weight to the student interest, and protecting the reputation of individual institutions and the sector as a whole.

Sector impact assessment

We have formally assessed the impact of the revised policy on the HE sector in terms of regulatory burden, equality and diversity, and sustainable development.

Sector impact assessment of addressing unsatisfactory teaching quality in HEFCE-funded institutions

Download the Impact assessment for unsatisfactory quality policy as PDF (92 KB) | ‌Download the Impact assessment for unsatisfactory quality policy as MS Word (67 KB)

Contact

For more information about the quality assurance system contact qualityassessment@hefce.ac.uk.

Page last updated 8 June 2016