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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Educational oversight reviews

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Educational oversight by a designated body is a requirement for Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status. QAA has been recognised as a designated body for higher education providers by the Home Office.

Information for new applications

Educational oversight methods

There are currently three different educational oversight review methods carried out by QAA.​

Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers)

​Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) is QAA's principal review method for alternative providers. The Handbook gives guidance to providers preparing for, and taking part in, this type of review.

For reviews taking place after 1 August 2015 -
Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) Handbook (April 2015)

For reviews taking place after 1 September 2016 -
Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) Handbook (July 2016)

For reviews taking place after 1 September 2017 -
Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) Handbook (June 2017)

This review method was formerly known as Higher Education Review (Plus). For more information, see the Higher Education Review (Plus): A handbook for providers.

Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges)

Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges) is for providers that operate networks of colleges embedded on or near the campuses of two or more UK higher education institutions. The Handbook gives guidance to providers preparing for, and taking part in, this type of review.

For reviews taking place before 1 January 2017 -
Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges) Handbook (April 2015)

For reviews taking place after 1 January 2017 -
Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges) Handbook (June 2017)

This review method was formerly known as Embedded College Review for Educational Oversight (ECREO). For more information, see the Embedded College Review for Educational Oversight (ECREO): Handbook.

Educational Oversight - Exceptional Arrangements is the review method for embedded colleges that do not operate as part of a network. For more information see the Educational Oversight - Exceptional Arrangements Handbook (June 2017).

Higher Education Review (Foreign Providers)

Higher Education Review (Foreign Providers) is for overseas higher education providers operating in the UK. The Handbook gives guidance to providers preparing for, and taking part in, this type of review.​​​​

For reviews taking place after 1 September 2017 -
Higher Education Review (Foreign Providers) Handbook (June 2017)

This review method ​was formerly known as Recognition Scheme for Education Oversight (RSEO). For more information, see the Recognition Scheme for Educational Oversight Handbook (June 2017)​. Note: providers that offer short-term study abroad programmes only will continue to be reviewed using RSEO.​


​​To view providers scheduled for educational oversight review, please refer to the programme of reviews.

Annual monitoring

As part of the arrangements for maintaining educational oversight, providers are required to engage with the annual monitoring process. Further information relating to the annual monitoring process, and the annual return form for annual monitoring following the different types of Higher Education Review, can be found in the following documents.

Alternative Providers and Educational Oversight Exceptional Arrangements Embedded colleges Foreign providers and short-term study abroad

Educational oversight involves a full QAA review in the year following the application, and an annual return and interim monitoring visits between reviews in subsequent years. The annual return and the monitoring visits are an integral part of the overall review process. All providers should submit an annual return to QAA. Further guidance is available within the Useful resources below and on our frequently asked questions.

Useful resources

Preparing for a review

This section includes documents linked to the Higher Education Review process, as follows.

Responsibility checklists

There are three responsibility checklist templates available to cover the different types of Higher Education Review (HER). These templates are for providers that do not have degree awarding powers and are designed to facilitate the recording of activities that are the responsibility of: the provider; the awarding body or organisation; and all parties (shared responsibilities). These checklists are also included within the relevant HER handbooks and you should read any additional guidance in conjunction with the associated handbook.

The first checklist is for providers undergoing the HER (AP) method, and the next two are for the HER (EC)/Educational Oversight Exceptional Arrangements and HER (FP) methods respectively.

One copy of this checklist should be completed for each partnership with an awarding body or awarding organisation and sent to QAA as part of the evidence base for the self-evaluation document. Please see below for information relating to Pearson provision.

Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers)
Responsibilities checklist for providers undergoing a Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers)​ (DOC, 37KB)​

Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges)
Responsibilities checklist for providers undergoing a Higher Education Review (Embedded Colleges)/Educational Oversight Exceptional Arrangements (DOC, 65KB)

Higher Education Review (Foreign Providers)
Responsibilities checklist for providers undergoing Higher Education Review (Foreign Providers) (DOC, 38KB)

QAA and Pearson have jointly produced a standard responsibilities checklist for providers delivering Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) awarded by Pearson. QAA reviewers will use this standard checklist in respect of all such programmes, and the checklist should be submitted by providers that deliver Pearson provision.

Responsibilities checklist Pearson 2017 (DOC, 41KB)​

Guidance documents

As part of the preparation for the Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) process, providers are usually invited to a briefing event. The presentation from the most recent briefing event can be found below, along with the Higher Education Toolkit, guidance for students, and more specific information for facilitators and Lead Student Representatives.

Alongside the information contained within the relevant review handbook, additional guidance for providers writing the self-evaluation document and Lead Student Representatives producing the student submission as part of the review process is available in the following documents.  

There may be occasions where providers are required to have a partial review (for example, following material changes at the provider). The following document provides information relating to the partial review process.

Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers): Partial Review Process (PDF, 47KB)

Following a review (and annual monitoring visits), providers are required to produce (or update) an action plan. QAA does not specify one specific template for the action plan, but additional guidance and an example can be found in the following document.​

Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers): guidance on producing an action plan (DOC, 52KB)

Key reference points

The key reference points used in our review methods can be found in our section on Assuring standards and quality. From December 2011 the ​UK Quality Code for Higher Education has replaced the Academic Infrastructure as the core guidance published by QAA.​​​​​

Publishing information about reviews

We ask that providers use the approved wording given in the Guidance for providers on publishing information about educational oversight reviews to describe their relationship with QAA, and to publicise information about their educational oversight review by QAA.

From October 2014, eligible providers can display a QAA Review Graphic either in addition to the approved wording or instead of it. Find out more about the QAA Review Graphic​.​

Alternative Providers Liaison Forum

The Alternative Providers Liaison Forum enables providers who have applied for educational oversight, their representative organisations, and QAA to discuss matters of common interest, share good practice and exchange information.

Membership of the Forum consists of representatives from large, medium and small colleges, a study abroad provider, a foreign provider, an embedded college, Federation of Awarding Bodies, Ofqual, Study UK, UKCISA and QAA staff. Membership is subject to review annually.​​​​

Event resource archive


Further information

Findings reports looking at the collective data from reviews and/or other assessments can be found on our Review findings page​. They provide a summary of the type of providers reviewed, outcomes, and changes occurring in the higher education sector.

For further details please see the frequently asked questions section about the educational oversight process and our guidance note for each review method.​​