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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Higher Education Review

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The overall aim of Higher Education Review is to inform students and the wider public whether a provider meets the expectations of the higher education sector for:

  • the setting and/or maintenance of academic standards
  • the provision of learning opportunities
  • the provision of information
  • the enhancement of the quality o​f students' learning opportunities.​

Higher Education Review is a flexible, risk-based method which applies the greatest scrutiny where it is most needed. Providers with a strong track record in managing quality and standards are reviewed less frequently and less intensively than providers without such a strong record. ​


Higher Education review is carried out by peer reviewers - staff and students from other providers - and culminates in the publication of a report containing judgements and other findings.

You can find out more about becoming a QA​A reviewer on our Appointment of reviewers page. Former staff may nominate themselves to be reviewers. Details about this are available in Annex 6 of Higher Education Review: Handbook (June 2015)​​.​

Student involvement

Students are at the heart of Higher Education Review: they are full members of QAA's peer review teams, and there are also opportunities for students to take part in the review by contributing a student submission, meeting the review team, and working with their providers in response to review outcomes.​​​

​Thematic elements

Higher Education Review has a core element and a thematic element. 

The core element focuses on academic standards, quality of learning opportunities, information and enhancement. 

The thematic element focuses on an area which is regarded as particularly worthy of further analysis or enhancement. It is selected by the Higher Education Review Group (HERG) - which includes repr​esentatives of Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Universities UK, GuildHE and Association of Colleges - and changes periodically. More information about the theme, including the role it plays in the review process, is provided in the HER handbook.

The following documents contain details of the Higher Education Review themes for 2013-15 and 2015-16, and gives further information and guidance about how these themes will feature in the review process.

​​​Higher Education Review: Themes for 2013-15

Higher Education Review: Themes for 2015-16 

Analysis of the thematic elements

Exploring themes to improve quality for students analyses the thematic element of institutional review in 2011-13. 


Higher Education Review was launched in 2013-14 and succeeds two methods: Institutional Review of higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland, and Review of College Higher Education. It may also succeed Integrated Quality and Enhancement Review for ​further education colleges in Northern Ireland from 2014-15. Higher Education Review (Plus) will succeed Reviews for Educational Oversight in a phased transition. Please see the educational oversight pages for more detail.​​​

Key reference points​

The key reference point used in this review method is the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which can be found in our section on assuring standards and quality.

Handbook and supplement​ary guidance​​​​


Quality Code


Students and lead student representatives

Policy documents


Publishing information about reviews

Eligible QAA subscribers can display the Quality Mark. Providers who are eligible but not QAA subscribers can display the QAA Review Graphic. Further information is provided on our page 'How we review higher education' within this section.