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European plaudits for QAA and UK higher education quality assurance

Date: July 16 - 2018

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) makes 'valuable contributions to protecting student interests and towards higher education quality advancements internationally'.

That is the verdict of a European panel in an independent review of QAA, the UK's independent quality body for higher education. The panel's report is published today by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).

The review found QAA to be fully or substantially compliant in all areas. Only one other European agency has matched this level of compliance. The panel identified QAA as 'internationally, one of the leading quality assurance agencies'.;

QAA is a founding member of ENQA, the umbrella body for quality agencies in the European Higher Education Area. A review to check compliance against European Standards and Guidelines at least every five years is a condition of membership. The positive review outcome also allows QAA to apply to reconfirm its listing on the European Quality Assurance Register, and deliver quality reviews across Europe and beyond.

QAA in its work on behalf of UK higher education received a significant number of commendations. Comments include:

  • 'The contribution of students to review processes is commendable'.
  • 'QAA is commended for having a robust governance and well-developed internal quality assurance system which is applied rigorously'.
  • 'Analytical work by QAA and institutional submissions to the agency are of high quality and provide value to the higher education sector'.
  • 'QAA is commended for its wide involvement of stakeholders … in the governance of the agency, development of quality assurance policies and procedures, and enhancement work'.

In his letter to QAA, ENQA president Christoph Grolimund also notes that 'the [ENQA] Board appreciates QAA’s firm commitment to quality enhancement and commends specifically its enhancement-led approach in thematic analysis'.

The panel also noted the increasing importance of UK transnational education, or TNE. Over 700,000* students now study for a UK higher education qualification overseas. While it noted QAA's extensive activity in quality assuring this type of provision, the panel specifically recommended that QAA should respond to this increasing demand and 'intensify its activity with respect to TNE reviews overseas and … strengthen its oversight of collaborative provision arrangements'. QAA is already in discussion with partners in the sector about future approaches to TNE review.

Commenting on what this review means for the UK higher education sector, Douglas Blackstock, QAA's Chief Executive, said: 'This is a great outcome, not just for QAA, but for every university and college that offers higher education across the UK. We have demonstrated that our approaches to securing academic standards and assuring quality meet rigorous European expectations.

'ENQA has recognised our firm commitment to enhancement, and the emphasis that we, and the UK higher education sector, place on doing what we can to improve educational experiences. Students around the world – and governments, for that matter – can be reassured that our higher education system is world class, and worth investing in.

*Note: HESA figures tell us that approximately 707,915 students were registered on a UK TNE higher education programme in 2016/17. Registrations at Oxford Brookes University accounted for 43% of this total, with the majority of these first degree students registered with an overseas partner on Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) programmes.