QAA Scotland carries out Enhancement-led Institutional Reviews (ELIR) at Scottish higher education institutions. We have provided a list of Scottish institutions who undergo ELIR on our reports page.


What is Enhancement-led Institutional Review?


Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) is an evidence-based method of peer review, meaning that staff and students from other institutions join a team of reviewers to assess what each higher education institution does. ELIR results in a judgement and a set of commendations and recommendations relating to the way the institution is securing academic standards and improving the student experience.

How does ELIR work?


ELIR is now in its fourth cycle in Scotland (known as ELIR 4). 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.


After visiting the institution, the ELIR team writes two reports (an Outcome report and a Technical report) setting out the review findings. We publish the final version of these reports on our website.


ELIR teams


Each ELIR team includes at least four reviewers:

  • one student reviewer
  • two senior UK-based academic reviewers
  • one coordinating reviewer.

ELIR teams can include up to six reviewers so that institutions can also include:

  • an international reviewer
  • an academic reviewer with experience of professional support services
  • an additional academic reviewer
  • an additional student reviewer.

A senior QAA officer who is not a member of the ELIR team, manages each ELIR. They advise both the institution and the team on how they should carry out the method.


Reports and outcomes


At the end of the review visits, the ELIR team produces an Outcome Report, which sets out the threshold judgement, the differentiated commendations and recommendations, and outline information about the nature of the institution. They also produce a more detailed Technical Report, which contains the detailed findings from the review and is written primarily for the institution reviewed. 


We contextualise ELIR reports to the main themes of the review but we structure all Technical Reports to cover five broad areas of institutional activity:

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

We also produce Thematic Reports to highlight the findings from a number of ELIRs that we have carried out at different institutions in the same year. The individual Technical Reports will provide an evidence base for those Thematic Reports.


What happens after an ELIR?


One year after publication of the Outcome and Technical Reports, we ask each institution to produce an ELIR Follow-up report indicating how they have responded to the outcomes of their ELIR. We publish these reports on our website.


In addition, institutions engage in an ELIR annual discussion with a senior QAA officer. These meetings involve staff and students and consider outcomes relating to ELIR along with a range of other activity including outcomes from institution-led review, engagement with national Enhancement Themes and student partnership activity.


Across the sector, we use ELIR outcomes to inform enhancement and development activity. For example we address frequently occurring topics in ELIR through Focus On projects where institutions work together to improve policy and practice.