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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​​.

  • in the public domain

    ​​(Referring to information) Placed where it is readily available to everyone.

  • indicative information

    ​​Information that provides an overview or outline of a topic but makes no claim to be fully comprehensive.

  • Indicator

    ​​​​​​​A statement in the Quality Code that reflects sound practice and through which providers can demonstrate that they are meeting the relevant Expectation.​
  • institution

  • Institutional Audit

    ​(IA) The process used by QAA until 2011 to report on how, and how well, higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland safeguarded quality and standards. 

  • Institutional Review

    ​​(IR) A method of review used by QAA to assure the standards and quality of higher education. Institutional Review (Wales) is the quality assurance process applicable to Welsh institutions. Institutional Review (England and Northern Ireland), or IRENI, is the review process used from 2011 to 2013 to review higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland.

  • institution-led review

    In Scotland, one of a series of reviews carried out by the higher education institutions, following guidance from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and covering all subject areas, over a maximum of a six-year period. The precise review method used is determined by the individual institutions but certain agreed features are shared across the sector (and are set out in the SFC guidance). These include the use of agreed external reference points, the involvement of students, and the use of review panel members from an institution other than the one being reviewed.

  • Integrated Quality and Enhancement Review

    ​​(IQER) The method used by QAA until 2011-12 to review higher education provision within further education colleges in England (still used in Northern Ireland). 
  • international benchmarking

    ​​The activity of identifying, considering, comparing and learning from developing practice internationally and aiming to share and learn from it in a series of themes relevant to higher education in Scotland.

  • joint award

    An arrangement under which two or more degree-awarding bodies together provide a programme leading to a single award made jointly by both, or all, participants. A single certificate or document (signed by the competent authorities) attests to successful completion of this jointly delivered programme, replacing the separate institutional or national qualifications..​

  • knowledge transfer (or knowledge exchange)

    Applying the results or outcomes of higher education research activities so as to benefit wider society and the economy. This could be through the development of commercial applications or by contributing to the effectiveness of public services for example. These activities may be undertaken through ‘knowledge transfer partnerships’ (KTPs).