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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 at least four reviewers: one student reviewer, two senior UK-based academic reviewers and one coordinating reviewer.

ELIR 4 places much greater emphasis on contextualising the review than previous versions of the method. This means that, while the institution still carries out a holistic evaluation of its strategy, policy and practice in relation to quality assurance and enhancement, the review will focus on those areas where there is likely to be greatest benefit to the institution.

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 the contextualised areas identified by the institution and five broad areas of institutional activity:

  • contextual information about the institution, student population and the review
  • enhancing the student learning experience
  • strategy and practice for enhancing learning and teaching
  • academic standards and quality processes
  • collaborative provision.

At the end of the review, the ELIR team produces an Outcome report (setting out the threshold judgment, the differentiated commendations and recommendations and providing outline information about the nature of the institution) and a more detailed Technical report.

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.

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.