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QAA recommends increased cross-nation alignment and collaboration on quality assurance

Date: November 16 - 2023

Our latest policy paper in the Future of Quality In England series reflects on what the English higher education sector can learn from the quality arrangements of the devolved nations.

‘Realigning the UK higher education system: Learning from the devolved nations’ argues that the English quality system can maintain internationally agreed and UK-wide principles of quality while still operating a risk-based quality approach.

The paper contends that the absence of UK sector-wide standards from the English regulatory framework weakens comparability in the quality and standards of higher education across the UK and may create additional burden for providers operating across multiple nations of the UK.

In considering these challenges, the paper reflects on a number of key lessons to be learned from the quality arrangements of the devolved nations, including:

  • Collaboration across the tertiary system can deliver a more responsive quality system: Despite being regulated separately, learners perceive further education and higher education as part of the same learning journey, often transferring from one to the other in the same institution. Though the English sector is larger and more complex than in the devolved nations, there may be value in exploring how a more cohesive tertiary sector could be achieved.
  • A regulatory focus on enhancement improves quality across the sector: The absence of quality enhancement within the English regulatory approach can mean that resource tends to be concentrated at meeting the baseline, not also on enhancement. Embedding enhancement within the regulatory model could formalise voluntary quality enhancement activity already undertaken by providers and enable the English sector to work collaboratively in response to national strategic priorities and shared challenges.

Eve Alcock, QAA’s Director of Public Affairs said: ‘As an organisation with a UK-wide remit, we have the unique ability to facilitate cross-nation learning when it comes to quality. With conversations about the future of higher education ongoing in England, we hope this paper serves as a useful reference point for policy makers in serving the best interests of UK higher education.’