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This project investigated the approaches providers take to identify educational gain, building on extensive work across the sector to research measures of learning gain and student engagement over the past decade.

The research explored the concept of educational gain and how it is articulated, supported, and evidenced by universities and colleges within the context of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2023 provider submissions. The team analysed the approaches taken by those 66 providers awarded Gold overall or Gold for Student Outcomes.

Key findings

The submissions offer rich insights into the breadth and range of ways providers have thought about educational gain and the wide variation in how they sought to enable students to make gains, as well as the evidence they have provided for the gains made. 

Whilst there are many commonalities across the submissions, they are also marked by how different they are – including the lack of standardisation and the varied quality of evidence used to support claims of educational gain. This means it is difficult to establish baselines or compare across providers.

In addition, while some submissions present robust data, others rely on less rigorous or partial reporting of metrics. The absence of baseline measures in many cases complicates the assessment of true educational gain, as submissions may indicate change but lack precise measurement between two points in time.

Recommendations and ways forward

The research suggests the need for a more structured approach to defining and measuring educational gain, recommending the use of a Schema that includes clear institutional size and shape, mission alignment, and data plans.

Providers are also encouraged to reflect on strategic and operational considerations, such as monitoring the delivery of educational gain, developing action plans, and ensuring that goals are realistic and time bound.

Finally, the importance of alignment across various elements of educational gain, including institutional goals, student aspirations, and measurable outcomes, is stressed to ensure a coherent and impactful approach.

Each section of the research report provides a set of reflective questions and recommendations for improving the articulation, support, and measurement of educational gain. These aim to support providers in refining their strategies and practices to achieve meaningful and measurable educational gains to support students’ growth and development, and to provide robust evidence of the wider outcomes from the investment in higher education.


A literature review which synthesises pre-existing research on educational gain

Providing insight into the concept of gains, the review concludes that effective pedagogical strategies, such as active learning, collaborative projects, and student-centred approaches, are linked to improved educational gain.

Educational Gain Literature Summary

Publication date: 01 Aug 2023

A research report and schema

The research report offers recommendations of good practice for providers to holistically capture student success. 


The schema presents six areas providers think about in their educational gain descriptions. This tool offers a helpful framing device for providers who are continuing to develop their approaches to educational gain. 

Educational Gain project report

Publication date: 10 Jun 2024

Educational Gain schema

Publication date: 10 Jun 2024

Practical Case Studies

Detailing how data was captured, embedded in wider quality assurance processes and utilised by staff and students – these will support other providers to identify their own approaches to educational gain and address areas for improvement.

A video and infographic guide

Designed for students to reflect on and account for their own learning and wider student experience.

This presentation is from an online event where the project resources were launched in June 2024.

Presentation: Accounting for Student Success Educational Gain

Publication date: 18 Jun 2024

Lead: Imperial College London

Partners: Bath Spa University, Liverpool John Moores University, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), The Open University, University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, University of Exeter, University of Manchester, University of Plymouth, University of Portsmouth, University of Warwick

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.