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This project focused on how higher education providers develop and support dynamic quality assurance processes by identifying the domains that have the greatest impact on innovation.


The sector is undergoing significant political, financial and technological change, so much so that the disruptive effects are likely to be felt in all provider types, regardless of size, maturity and degree of specialisation. Such disruption is an opportunity for innovation and this project identifies practical ways to build and embed innovative practice in ways which are productive, positive, impactful and long lasting.


The project team produced a report which includes the findings of a qualitative survey capturing the views of 176 members of staff from 65 different providers, as well as discussions which took place through a series of webinars and focus groups.

The study found that the key drivers of innovation were student satisfaction, inclusivity and the need to meet the needs of changing student populations. Quality assurance processes were found to contribute most to such enhancements in the areas of institutional learning and teaching strategies, staff capabilities and student feedback. The research also showed that innovation was most widely believed to be promoted through reflections and refinements led by teaching staff.

The research identified that effective innovation is most likely to happen when academics are working alongside quality teams in a constructive and collaborative way, and noted 3 key areas (people, structure and process) in which providers can maximise effective practice at the interaction of quality assurance and innovation.

For each key area highlighted above, the report outlines a project finding, a consideration for you to reflect on in your own context and a number of recommendations to take forward.


  • A concise literature review which identifies quality assurance frameworks and strategies that support innovative practices in UK higher education.
  • A report which highlights the key research findings and suggests a range of considerations and recommendations that you can apply to ensure your provider has the right relationships structures and processes in place to enable innovative practice to flourish.
  • Case studies that illustrate the procedures, ways of working and mindsets that facilitate different kinds of excellence in facilitating incremental and disruptive innovation.

Case studies

Case study: Curriculum Blueprinting - A Design Methodology

Publication date: 13 May 2024

Harper Adams University

An innovative methodology for curriculum review was developed at a small, specialist institution, focusing on programme-level thinking to ensure that the student journey was at the heart of the development activity. The methodology gave steps for each team to take, starting with programme-level planning and developing a 'blueprint' of the student journey, and then moving into thinking about what the exact programme would look like. Only after these steps did the process of module-commissioning take place.

Case study: Making Curriculum Development a Sprint not a Marathon

Publication date: 13 May 2024

De Montfort University

Design Sprint Methodology was modified to be shorter and more scalable for use across the whole University, allowing teams to hyper focus and achieve results quickly, resulting in being able to approve over 75 undergraduate programmes for block delivery in less than three months.

Case study: Embedding the Education Inspection Framework into HE Quality Assurance Processes

Publication date: 13 May 2024

University of Lincoln

An auditing team is established within the Office of Apprenticeships and Skills - an independent department created within the University of Lincoln which provides expert guidance and direction to all staff involved in the delivery of apprenticeship programmes and their employers. The team produced and shared an auditing plan with schools where for every audit completed, a report is shared with schools on its findings, highlighting good practice, and an action plan is included for areas of improvement or follow-up actions.

Case Study: Connecting Enhancement & Innovation to Assurance through Programme Approval Processes

Publication date: 13 May 2024

Bath Spa University

The innovation took place as part of a quality governance restructure where academic governance processes were streamlined to enable more effective use of time in formal committees, and to better connect quality assurance with quality enhancement, with consideration for an increasing number of educational partnerships.

Case Study: Alumni-informed Programme Development and Education for Innovation

Publication date: 13 May 2024

University of Wales Trinity St David

The case study shares an innovation that commenced in the School of Visual Communication, Art and Design, University of Wales Trinity (UWTSD). Alumni feedback became integral to the design and delivery of programmes suited to dynamic work environments. Opportunities for alumni engagement came to the fore when their feedback provided evidence of a demand for a new-to-the-UK 'Brand and Advertising' course that responded to industry needs.

Case Study: Embedding a New Curriculum Enhancement Framework

Publication date: 13 May 2024

Edinburgh Napier University

A new Curriculum Enhancement Framework was developed to ensure all academic programmes are designed to be student-focused; support the development of digital and information literacy skills; and support the strengthening of citizenship and community. The Framework identified five themes against which programmes are encouraged to work into the curriculum.

Working on the project has been an absolute highlight of the past year, particularly working with colleagues on the project team. We've all been really pleased at the way in which such a huge number of people across the sector have engaged with the work we've been doing on the intersection of innovation and quality assurance and shared their experiences and input. The conversations and discussions have been interesting and inspiring.

Emma Lewis, Senior Quality Assurance Manager, NMITE

The presentation below was delivered at the When Quality Assurance Meets Innovation in Higher Education launch event on 14 May 2024.

Presentation: When quality assurance meets innovation in higher education launch webinar

Publication date: 15 May 2024

Lead: New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering

Partners: UCL, TEDI-London, Arden University, Arts University Bournemouth, Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology 

Other Collaborative Enhancement Projects

QAA supports a number of projects every year, covering a range of topics and interest areas. Each is led by a QAA Member, working in collaboration with other members institutions. You can find more information on all projects, and access resources and outputs, on our website.