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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Find out more about the partners we work with inside and outside of higher education to ensure our research is well informed and opportune.​


Published research


In 2017, we revisited on our earlier Cultures of Quality: An International Perspective project, research originally conducted in partnership with the British Council. The follow-up report, Cultures of Quality: An International Perspective, Phase 2​, examines the cultures of quality assurance within higher education systems and institutions. It looks at developments within Australia, Brazil, India, Mexico and Portugal.

Subscriber​​ Research Series​

In 2015-16, following a call for expressions of interest open to its subscribers, QAA commissioned two small-scale primary research projects intended to encourage collaboration between providers and promote the formation of communities of practice.

Digital Capability and Teaching Excellence

This report is on the topic of digital capability, teaching excellence and the effective
use of technology enabled learning (TEL). It was submitted to QAA by Dr Liz Austen,
Helen J Parkin, Stella Jones-Devitt, Kieran McDonald and Brian Irwin of Sheffield
Hallam University.

Additionally, the team at Sheffield Hallam University has produced an animated video to accompany its research.

  • Short version - focusing on key findings (opens in new window)
  • Long version - suitable for workshop facilitation (opens in new window)

Sub-bachelor Higher Education in the United Kingdom

This report presents the main findings from a scoping study to understand the contemporary scale, shape and history of sub-bachelor higher education in the UK. It comments on patterns and trends in participation and provision at the sub-bachelor levels.


Subscriber Research Series​

In 2015 we commissioned six small-scale primary research projects intended to develop and share ideas that could offer real value to practitioners, providers and policy makers in higher education.

The following areas of interest were chosen for the research series and were influenced ​by several factors, including the National Student Survey (NSS), UCAS data, the raise in tuition fees and a widening choice of different types of providers. 

Transition​ experiences of entrants to higher education

The transition experiences of entrants to higher education from increasingly diverse prior educational experience.

Student satisfaction data

The role of student satisfaction data in quality assurance and enhancement.

Impact of QAA guidance documents​​

Commissioned research

Employability Initiatives  

This research was commissioned in partnership with the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) and undertaken by the Warwick Institute of Employment Research and IFF Research during 2015.

A separate document (PDF, 113KB) explains how this research should be considered in the wider context of the findings on student employability gathered from some of our other activities in recent years.

Joint projects

Cultures of Quality: An International Perspective​

This joint research project, in collaboration with the British Council, considers how the structures and frameworks of quality assurance organisations in nine countries (Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, India, Mexico, the UK and the USA) encourage cultures of quality in higher education systems. Specifically, the extent to which quality assurance cultures affect quality development cultures, and the opportunities to build international partnerships between the UK and other countries to address collective concerns.

QAA followed up this research project in 2017 and produced Cultures of Quality: An International Perspective, Phase 2​​.

​​Effective ​practice in the design of directed independent learning opportunities

In 2015 we jointly commissioned a study with the Higher Education Academy (HEA) focusing on directed independent learning practices in UK higher education. The report investigates what stakeholders (including academic staff and students) have found to be the most effective practices in the inception, design, quality assurance and enhancement of directed independent learning, and explores how best to promote effective practice to stakeholders. The final and summary reports are written by Professor Liz Thomas, Dr Robert Jones and Dr James Ottaway​.


In 2012-13 we funded five research projects. Three of these looked at the student experience, investigating what students expect from their higher education, how they perceive it, and how they participate in quality management. The other two projects looked at how further education colleges develop a higher education ethos, and at how external examiners understand and use the concept of 'academic standards'.


Student Experience Research reports