Who grants degree-awarding powers and university title?
The power to award degrees is regulated by law. To be able to award a recognised higher education degree in the UK, an organisation must be authorised by statute, by Royal Charter or by Act of Parliament. The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (FHEA 1992) and the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 authorised the Privy Council (opens in a new window) to specify institutions of higher education as competent to grant taught degree-awarding powers (TDAP) and research degree-awarding powers (RDAP). These Acts also authorised the Privy Council to approve the use of the word 'university' (including 'university college') in the title of a higher education institution. Amendments to the FHEA 1992 enabled the Privy Council to grant Foundation Degree awarding powers (FDAP) to further education institutions in England from 2008 and in Wales from 2010.
What powers are granted?
There are three different types of power that may be granted:
Foundation Degree awarding powers (FDAP) give further education colleges the right to award Foundation Degrees.
Taught degree-awarding powers (TDAP) give organisations the right to award taught degrees up to levels 6/7 of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and up to levels 10/11 of The framework for qualifications of the higher education institutions in Scotland (see Quality Code, Chapter A1)
Research degree-awarding powers (RDAP) give organisations that already hold TDAP the right to award doctoral degrees, and master's degrees where the research component (including a requirement to produce original work) is larger than the taught component when measured by student effort.
Who can apply for degree-awarding powers?
Applicants for DAP must meet all the prerequisites and criteria set out in the relevant guidance. They must be able to demonstrate that they are well founded, cohesive and self-critical academic communities with an established track record in providing higher education, combined with firm guardianship of their standards.
In broad terms, applicants for Foundation Degree awarding powers must be further education institutions with at least a four-year track record of offering higher education provision in England or Wales on behalf of a recognised body (opens in a new window). Applicants for research degree-awarding powers must already have taught degree-awarding powers and must meet additional criteria relating to their research community. QAA scrutinises all applications against the government-owned criteria and guidance. On this basis, we provide confidential advice to ministers as to whether applicants should be granted the powers for which they are applying.
Who can apply for university title?
For university title (UT) in England and Wales, applicants must have taught-degree awarding powers. The criteria are set out in our guidance criteria and on the BIS website (opens in a new window).
For UT in Scotland and Northern Ireland, applicants must also have research degree-awarding powers and meet certain numerical criteria, as described in the 1999 guidance on applications within the guidance and criteria section.
How does an organisation apply for degree-awarding powers?
A formal application should be made to the Privy Council in the form of a critical self-analysis, prefaced by a letter from the chair of the organisation's governing body. A letter from the head of its main validating institution(s) should also be provided with the application. Evidence on which the critical self-analysis is based should also be uploaded to QAA. The applicant is also required to complete templates indicating where in the critical self-analysis and in its evidence base it addresses the criteria and associated evidence required.
For more details see the guidance for applicants.
What is the role of the devolved administrations in the UK?
An application for DAP or UT is made to the Privy Council and to the relevant government department with responsibility for higher education. In England this is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the responsibility lies with the departments responsible for higher education in the devolved administrations. QAA will consider and scrutinise an application upon receipt of a request from the relevant government department to do so, and will then advise the relevant minister accordingly.
What criteria are applied?
Applications are considered against a specified set of government-owned criteria, depending upon the type of degree-awarding powers sought, and upon the provider's location within the UK. Full details of the separate sets of guidance can be found on the guidance for applicants page. QAA will assess, through examination of the evidence provided, and against the criteria, the extent to which a higher education provider can engender public confidence in its capacity to maintain the academic standards of the degrees it offers in the UK and, where relevant, overseas.
What is QAA's role in the process?
QAA offers confidential advice to government. Once the Privy Council (via the relevant government department) asks QAA to consider an application, it is submitted to QAA's Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers (ACDAP), which determines whether the application should proceed to detailed scrutiny. If so, QAA appoints a team to carry out such scrutiny, resulting in a report to ACDAP and, ultimately, to the QAA Board. This, in turn, informs QAA's advice to government.
What happens during the scrutiny process?
If the Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers (ACDAP) agrees to proceed to the detailed scrutiny stage, QAA appoints a scrutiny team which considers and tests the evidence provided by the applicant to support its claim to meet the criteria for DAP or UT. The team members consider the documentary evidence and, collectively and individually, will visit the applicant organisation for meetings and observations. For taught degree-awarding powers and Foundation Degree awarding powers, this process typically takes place over an academic cycle, although this will depend on the quality and robustness of the evidence available. For research degree-awarding powers and university title, the detailed scrutiny period is generally shorter. At the end of the detailed scrutiny, the team submits a report to ACDAP.
QAA will be assessing, through its examination of the evidence provided, and against the criteria, the extent to which a higher education provider can engender public confidence in its capacity to maintain the academic standards of the degrees it offers in the UK and, where relevant, overseas. For more details see the page detailing the guidance for applicants.
What is the Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers?
Currently the Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers (ACDAP) comprises 14 members, representing a range of higher education providers and including two with experience of major sectors of employment. It is responsible for overseeing the scrutiny processes, and for making recommendations on applications to the QAA Board.
How much does it cost?
Costs are based on the type of awarding powers applied for and whether the applicant organisation is a subscriber to QAA: details of the fee structure.
Does QAA publish its findings?
Unlike QAA's review work, our consideration and scrutiny of applications for DAP and UT is work commissioned by government and is of a confidential, advisory nature.
Are the awarding powers permanent?
Organisations in the publicly funded higher education sector will be granted taught and research degree-awarding powers on an indefinite basis. All remaining organisations, including applicants for Foundation Degree awarding powers, will be granted their powers for a fixed term of six years, after which they can apply to the Privy Council for renewal (subject to a satisfactory review by QAA).
Whom should we contact for further information?
From time to time there may be changes to government policy that impact on the information offered here. Updates and other items of interest will be published on this website. For further information on making an application for degree-awarding powers or university title, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.