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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​​.

  • degree

    A higher education qualification at one of several levels, determined by the depth and breadth of study and awarded only for achievement in full of the outcomes set out in the appropriate qualification descriptor in the relevant qualifications framework. See foundation degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree.
  • degree awarding powers

    The right to confer degrees, which is granted by statute, by Royal Charter or by the Privy Council following a recommendation from QAA. Institutions may apply for the right to award foundation degrees, taught degrees and research degrees, and there is a separate application process for each. See also degree-awarding body and university title.
  • degree-awarding body

    ​​A UK higher education provider (typically a university​) with the power to award degrees, conferred by Royal Charter, or under Section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, or under Section 48 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992, or by Papal Bull, or, since 1999, granted by the Privy Council on advice from QAA (in response to applications for taught degree-awarding powers​, research degree-awarding powers or university title.​​
  • delivery organisation

    ​An organisation that delivers learning opportunities on behalf of a degree-awarding body. This may be a higher education provider without degree-awarding powers, a degree-awarding body other than that granting the award, an employer or another organisation approved by the degree-awarding body.​

  • descriptor

  • designated body

    ​An organisation that has been formally appointed or recognised to perform a particular function. QAA has been recognised by UK Visas and Immigration as a designated body for the purpose of providing educational oversight.

  • Developmental Engagement

    (DE) A method of review used by QAA to explore and comment on the provision of higher education courses by working closely with staff from the university or college concerned, and focusing on a theme or subject. This method is designed to help higher education providers enhance their management of higher education. It forms the first stage of Integrated Quality and Enhancement Review (see also Summative Review​).​
  • diagnostic assessment

    ​Evaluation of how well a learner is prepared for a given programme or unit of study within it, identifying any strengths, gaps in knowledge, or shortfall in necessary understanding and skills. ​

  • differentiated judgements

    (In a QAA review) Separate judgements respectively for the provision validated by separate degree-awarding bodies​.​ ​
  • diploma of higher education

  • discipline

    ​A defined area of academic study.​

  • distance learning

    A course of study that does not involve face-to-face contact between students and tutors but instead uses technology such as the internet, intranets, broadcast media, CD-ROM and video, or traditional methods of correspondence - learning 'at a distance'. See also blended learning​.​ ​
  • doctor of philosophy

    ​​​​​​​​​​​​(PhD or DPhil) See doctoral degree​.​​​
  • doctoral degree or doctorate

    A higher education qualification awarded for a programme of original and largely independent study and research (typically lasting at least three years), located at level 8 in The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at level 12 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.

  • double marking

    ​Assessment of students' work by two or more independent markers as a means of safeguarding or assuring academic standards by controlling for individual bias.  ​

  • dual award or double award

    The granting of separate awards (and certificates) for the same programme by two degree-awarding bodies who have jointly delivered the programme of study leading to them. See also multiple award.
  • due diligence

    ​​Enquiries relating to the governance, ethos, status, capacity, reputation and general suitability of a potential delivery organisation or support provider to satisfy the requirements of a degree-awarding body for an arrangement to deliver learning opportunities.​​