We use cookies on this website. If you continue to use the website, we will use cookies to maximise your experience and help us to improve.

To find out more about cookies, how we use them and how to remove them, see our privacy and cookies statement.
safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education


​​​​​QAA terms explained

This glossary explains terms that are frequently used in our work and publications.

Click on the appropriate letter(s) to find​​​ your required explanation.​

This glossary is also available in Welsh. Mae'r eirfa hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg​​.

  • academic award

    ​​See award​.​
  • academic credit

    See credit​.​
  • Academic Infrastructure

    ​​​The core guidance developed and maintained by QAA in partnership with the UK higher education community and used by QAA and higher education providers until 2011-12 for quality assurance of UK higher education. It has since been replaced by the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Quality Code).​
  • academic quality

    ​A comprehensive term referring to how, and how well, higher education providers manage teaching and learning opportunities to help students progress and succeed.
  • academic standards

    The standards set by degree-awarding bodies for their courses (programmes and modules) and expected for their awards. See also threshold academic standard.​
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma

    ​​​​The qualification designed to enable adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with broken education histories, to enter higher education.
  • accessible information

    Information presented or made available in appropriate formats so that it can be found and understood by all intended audiences.
  • accreditation

    A process for verifying or approving a higher education programme, or provider, by an authorised external organisation. Programmes can be accredited by a professional or regulatory body such as the General Medical Council.
  • accreditation of prior certificated learning (APCL)

    The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past prior to entry to a course of study, and for which the learner was awarded some form of official recognition.
  • accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL)

    The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past prior to entry to a course of study, but not in the context of formal education or training.
  • accreditation of prior learning (APL)

    The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past (perhaps as the result of a previous course, self-directed study, or active experience), which is taken into account when admitting a student to a course of study. (See also recognition of prior learning​.)​
  • admission with advanced standing

    Admission to a programme at a stage other than the initial stage, on the basis that a student so admitted is exempted from part of the programme, owing to equivalent prior learning that can be certified or evidenced.​

  • admission(s)

    The process of applying for, and gaining entry to, a course (programme of study). Higher education providers have their own processes in place governing decisions about selection and entry.
  • alternative providers

    Independent colleges and universities that offer UK higher education, which may be operating for profit or have charitable status, that do not receive direct recurrent grant funding from one of the higher education funding councils. (Alternative providers may be eligible to apply to have specific courses designated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for student support purposes)

  • annual monitoring

    Checking a process or activity every year to see if it meets expectations for standards and quality.
  • anonymous marking

    The marking of students' submitted work without their identity being revealed to the person carrying out the marking at the time the work is marked, so that the assessment is unbiased.
  • approval

  • articulation arrangement

    A process whereby all students who satisfy academic criteria on one programme are automatically entitled (on academic grounds) to be admitted with advanced standing to a subsequent part or year of a programme of a degree-awarding body. Arrangements, which are subject to formal agreements between the parties, normally involve credit accumulation and transfer schemes​.​
  • assessment criteria

    The knowledge, understanding and skills that markers expect a student to display in an assessment task, and which are taken into account in marking the work. These criteria are based on the intended learning outcomes​.​
  • assessment regulations

    The rules governing assessment of a programme of study including the marking scheme, the pass mark, the requirements for progression to subsequent levels or stages of a programme and the award and classification requirements (for instance credits​ to be achieved and specific marks to be attained).​
  • audit

    See Institutional audit, Audit of collaborative provision​.​
  • audit of collaborative provision

    ​​​​​A process used until 2011 by QAA to assess the academic standards and quality of higher education delivered through a collaborative arrangement between a degree-awarding body in England or Northern Ireland and a partner organisation in the UK or elsewhere (see collaborative arrangements). This process was only used in situations where the collaborative arrangements were too complex to be reviewed by a normal or slightly modified Institutional audit​.​
  • award

    ​A qualification, or academic credit, conferred in formal recognition that a student has achieved the intended learning outcomes and passed the assessments required to meet the academic standards set for a programme ​or unit of study.​
  • awarding body

  • awarding organisation

    An organisation authorised to award a particular qualification, typically an organisation recognised by Ofqual to award Ofqual-regulated qualifications