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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Specific Course Designation

QAA introduced Review for Specific Course Designation (RSCD) in 2013, to meet the new requirements for alternative providers to apply for designation of specific courses for student support purposes.

On 29 January 2015, the Minister of State for Universities and Science announced changes to the specific course designation process, including that providers will undergo Higher Education Review.

New applicants for specific course designation from 1 April 2015 will therefore undergo a Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers). Providers already in QAA's review schedule will undergo a Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) either on the fourth anniversary of their RSCD review or earlier, if a full review is triggered through the annual monitoring process.

New applicants for specific course designation

Providers should read the guidance note and frequently asked questions, and refer to the Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) Handbook carefully.

Review handbook and guidance

Publishing information about reviews

We ask that providers use the approved wording given in the Guidance for providers on publishing information about Reviews for Specific Course Designation to describe their relationship with QAA, and to publicise information relating to their review by QAA.

Eligible providers can display a QAA Review Graphic either in addition to the approved wording or instead of it. Find out more about the QAA Review Graphic.

Key reference points​

Information about the UK Quality Code for Higher Education and other key reference points used in our review methods can be found in our section on Assuring standards and quality.​

The annual monitoring process 

Alternative providers are required to submit an annual return each year between​ full reviews, and undergo monitoring visits. The guidance note sets out full details of the process. Annual Quality Monitoring for Specific Course Designation purposes​ (PDF, 293KB)

Providers should complete the annual return template (see below), and return this with the data return, which will be sent to you in advance when you are advised of the date for submission.Annex 2: Monitoring process annual return template​ (DOC, 28KB)

From 1 September 2015 ​all providers in QAA's schedule for specific course designation will be required to have an annual monitoring visit. The annual maintenance fee will be increased from 1 August 2015 to reflect this change.