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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

QAA statement on the future of quality assessment

Date 07/10/2014

​Sir Rodney Brooke, Chair of QAA's Board of Directors, said:

'HEFCE has informed us that it intends to consult on the future of its quality assessment arrangements in fulfilment of its current statutory responsibilities, and then to put its contract for quality assessment out to competitive tender.

'The UK higher education sector is world class. The arrangements adopted to fulfil HEFCE’s statutory responsibilities should build on the established principles and strengths of the current system of independent quality assurance and co-regulation, which serves the needs of the funding councils and higher education institutions, is always on the side of the student and underpins the strong international reputation of UK higher education. 

'A core strength of the current UK-wide framework is that it goes beyond the statutory duty of individual funding councils, and embraces standards, enhancement and the quality of public information. This provides independent assurance for students and safeguards the public interest in the quality of higher education. This is what QAA, an independent charity, was established in 1997 to do.

'QAA has internationally recognised expertise in providing quality assurance and enhancement to an exceptional standard. In recent years, we have continued to adapt the quality assurance framework to meet the needs of a growing and dynamic sector, working with HE, FE and alternative providers. We look forward to continuing the development of quality assessment, protecting the public interest and supporting the UK higher education sector's international reputation for excellence.'



  • QAA is an independent charitable body established in 1997 (see further note below)
  • QAA is the only quality assurance body in Europe judged to be fully compliant with all the European Standards and Guidelines for higher education quality assurance.
  • QAA's Board includes nominees from the representative bodies, the funding councils and NUS, together with independent members. Its company members are UUK, GuildHE, Universities Scotland and Higher Education Wales.
  • HEFCE has a legal duty, under the terms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, to secure that provision is made for the assessment of quality of education provided in institutions for whose activities it provides (or is considering providing) financial support, as are the other funding councils under different legislation.
  • Higher education institutions with degree awarding powers are autonomous bodies responsible for setting and maintaining their own academic standards.
  • QAA owns and maintains the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which includes The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and The framework for qualifications of higher education institutions in Scotland.
  • The most recent national consultation on the shape of the quality assurance system was conducted in 2012, led by HEFCE and implemented last year.

Further note on the establishment of QAA

The Joint Planning Group for Quality Assurance in Higher Education* published a report, Assuring the Quality of Higher Education, on 17 December 1996. It recommended the establishment of a new quality assurance agency, with service level agreements with representative bodies and funding councils.

QAA was founded in April 1997, bringing together the Higher Education Quality Council and the Quality Assessment divisions of both the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). QAA later agreed to work with the then Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

QAA's role was further developed by the Dearing Report (1997). In addition to carrying out reviews and audits, QAA was now called upon to:

  • provide assurance about standards and quality
  • set up a higher education qualifications framework
  • develop a code of practice 
  • provide subject benchmark information.

This consolidated QAA as the UK's single quality assurance agency, with responsibility for assuring and enhancing standards and quality in higher education. 

* The Joint Planning Group was chaired by Sir William Fraser and included representatives from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the UK (CVCP), Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (COSHEP), the Standing Conference of Principals (SCOP), HEFCE and HEFCW.