CURRENT REVIEWS

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

The review will evaluate the way in which and to what extent the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) fulfills the criteria for ENQA membership and thus the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. The evaluation is scheduled to finish June/July 2018.

Background and context
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) was established in 1997. It is an independent body, a registered charity and is a company limited by guarantee. It is governed by its Board.

QAA is a UK-wide agency covering England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, within a higher education system that is devolved, i.e. higher education policy is determined by each nation. QAA itself operates as a single entity across the whole of the UK with offices in Gloucester (head office), Cardiff, Glasgow and London.

QAA works with a diverse range of higher education providers (HEPs), both public and private. All HEPs in the UK are autonomous and independent; they are not owned by the state. There are around 600 higher education providers, of which 164 are degree awarding bodies in the UK (excluding those further education colleges that offer HE) and c. 3 million HE students. QAA assures and enhances quality through a number of review methods and is also responsible for the stewardship of the Quality Code, which sets out the expectations for all UK HE.

Since its last review, the landscape for quality assurance in HE in the UK has undergone several reviews and has changed significantly. This has impacted on how QAA works with the devolved nations and on the activities that it undertakes.

A Quality Assessment Review, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), in partnership with the Higher Education Funding Council, Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DELNI) led to a re-conceptualisation of QA in HE in England and Northern Ireland. QAA now operates parts of the system for QA in those two nations. A similar evaluation took place in Scotland. QAA has a UK remit for international work, including review of transnational education and for enhancement, in particular through its stewardship of the Quality Code and through ELIR, the enhancement-led institutional review method applied in Scotland. It continues with its work on Access to Higher Education and provides advice to government on Degree Awarding Powers.

In relation to the key recommendations in QAA’s last ENQA review, which were related to the development of a risk-based approach to quality assurance, this matter is high on the agency’s agenda at the moment, as the new regulatory framework for England and Northern Ireland seeks to develop that notion further and to successfully operationalise it, thus impacting on the current and future work of the agency.

A further change to QAA’s portfolio of work is that it is working with HEFCE, which has been contracted by the government (Department of Education) to support the latter’s work on the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), particularly around the development and implementation of the assessment framework and process, and the development and training of TEF Officers and Assessors.

A bill reforming Higher Education and Research regulation in England passed through Parliament in 2017 and is expected to come into force in spring 2018, not long after the ENQA review panel visits QAA in February 2018. The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 creates a new Office for Students (OfS), responsible for maintaining a register of higher education providers in England. The OfS can designate an independent body to have responsibility for quality assessment as part of a co-regulatory system. QAA intends to become the designated quality body.

Due to the changes referred to above (which will be discussed in full in the self-assessment report for the review), QAA has needed to move to a different operating model that is appropriate for the new operating environment. The agency has adjusted its resourcing accordingly.

All the matters raised above will be considered in detail in the self-assessment report produced for the review.

QAA has been a member of ENQA since 2000 and is applying for renewal of membership.

QAA has been registered on EQAR since 2013 and is applying for renewal of registration.

Review process
The process is designed in the light of the Guidelines for ENQA Agency Reviews and in line with the requirements of the EQAR Procedures for Applications.

The evaluation procedure consists of the following steps:

  • Formulation of the Terms of Reference and protocol for the review;
  • Nomination and appointment of the review panel;
  • Self-assessment by QAA including the preparation of a self-assessment report;
  • A site visit by the review panel to QAA;
  • Preparation and completion of the final evaluation report by the review panel;
  • Scrutiny of the final evaluation report by the ENQA Review Committee;
  • Analysis of the scrutiny by the ENQA Board and their decision regarding ENQA membership;
  • Follow-up of the panel’s and/or ENQA Board’s recommendations by the agency, including a voluntary follow-up visit.

Review panel
The panel is composed of the following members:

    • Milan Pol, Dean and Professor of Education, Masaryk University, Czech Republic – Chair, academic (ENQA nominee)
    • Aurelija Valeikienė, Deputy Director, Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education (SKVC), Lithuania – Secretary, quality assurance professional (ENQA nominee)
    • Ellen Hazelkorn, Policy Advisor, Higher Education Authority, Emeritus Professor and Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU), Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland – Quality assurance professional (EUA nominee)
    • Adrian Stan, PhD student and periodontology resident, University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Victor Babes”, Timisoara, Romania – Student (ESU nominee)

QAA’s self-assessment report is available here.

This review is being coordinated by Lindsey Kerber.