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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Enhancement-led Institutional Review

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) is QAA's review method for universities and other higher education institutions in Scotland.

The main focus of ELIR is to consider an institution's strategic approach to enhancement, placing a particular emphasis on the arrangements for improving the student learning experience. ELIR also examines the institution's ability to secure the academic standards of its awards.

It is one component of the Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF), a radical approach to quality assurance and enhancement in higher education introduced in Scotland in 2003.

How it works​​

ELIR reviews are carried out by a team of six reviewers: one student reviewer, one international reviewer, three senior UK-based academic reviewers and one coordinating reviewer. ​

The institution undergoing ELIR submits a self-evaluation document called a Reflective Analysis (RA). The ELIR team uses this document and initial meetings with staff and students to develop themes for exploration during the review visits. These themes relate to six broad areas of institutional activity:

  • Institutional context and strategic framework
  • Enhancing the student learning experience
  • Enhancement in learning and teaching
  • Academic standards
  • Self-evaluation and management of information
  • Collaborative activity​

At the end of the review, the ELIR team produces an Outcome report (covering the overarching judgment, the areas of positive practice and the areas for development) and a more detailed Technical report.

Handbook and supplementary guidance

Thematic reports

The purpose of these reports is to inform future development work in the Scottish higher education sector and future QAA activity. There are two main types of thematic reports: those identifying topics across a number of institutions' ELIR Outcome Reports, and those providing details on particular topics, drawing on the content of ELIR Technical Reports.

Learning from ELIR

Institutional approaches to self-evaluation (IASE) project

Scottish higher education institutions evaluate their learning and teaching in a variety of ways using procedures that have been developed over a number of decades. The Institutional approaches to self-evaluation (IASE) project, undertaken on behalf of QAA Scotland by Professor Paddy Maher during 2012-13, aimed to consider and codify the various arrangements that institutions have in place. The project considered four types of institutional evaluation: annual monitoring; institution-led quality review; preparation for ELIR; and transformational reviews of institutional processes.

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. The series of Enhancement Themes activity provides a dynamic set of reference points for use by Scottish institutions and reviewers.