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Quality Enhancement & Standards Review and Institutional Liaison Meetings


A new enhancement-led institutional quality review method for Scottish higher education institutions is currently under development and will be delivered across two phases.


Phase 1 comprising Quality Enhancement and Standards Review (QESR) and Institutional Liaison Meetings (ILM) will take place in 2022-23 and 2023-24. You can find out more about Phase 1 below.


QESR and ILM handbook and guidance


Resources to help inform Scottish higher education institutions and reviewers involved in the Phase 1 external quality review arrangements, including the review handbook, are available on this page.


Quality Enhancement and Standards Review (QESR)


Quality Enhancement and Standards Review (QESR) is an enhancement-led, evidence-based method of peer review. Each review team consists of staff and students drawn from other higher education institutions (HEIs) within Scotland and the UK.


QESR considers how, from the information available to the review team, an institution is continuing to maintain an effective and enhancement-led approach towards the management of academic quality and standards, and the quality of the student experience.


QESR is part of an overall enhancement-led external institutional review method that is under development. QAA is working in conjunction with the Scottish sector and Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to produce the new method. 

QESR aims to review the foundations on which each higher education institution’s enhancement-led approach to the management of academic quality and standards are built. An important aspect of this is considering the progress that the institution has made following its review in the ELIR 4 cycle.


The institution undergoing QESR submits a set of documentation, all of which is drawn from reports that are either required by SFC or which form part of the HEI’s usual activity for internal quality assurance and enhancement. The institution has the option to include a self-evaluative coversheet with each report that it submits to provide context where it feels this is appropriate and/or helpful to the review team.


The QESR team reviews the documentation submitted and meets with staff and students at the institution in a one-day review visit, which normally takes place virtually.


After visiting the institution, the QESR team writes a report. The findings set out in the report will be used to provide context for the institution’s external review in Phase 2 of the overall review method. We publish the QESR reports on our website.

Each QESR team comprises one student reviewer, one academic reviewer and one coordinating reviewer.


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

At the end of the review visit, the QESR team produces a report, setting out their findings. Based on the information available, the findings consider whether the review team has confidence that the institution is making effective progress in continuing to monitor, review and enhance its higher education provision to enable effective arrangements to be in place for managing academic standards and the quality of the student learning experience. 


The report concisely sets out the underpinning evidence for the findings. It also includes recommendations for action and any instances of good practice to inform Phase 2 activity.


QESR reports are published alongside an institution’s most recent ELIR reports on the Review Reports page on our website.


In addition to institutional-level reporting, a fundamental component of external enhancement-led quality review is thematic reporting which evaluates findings and learning across reviews at a sector-level. As the suite of QESR reports develops, thematic reporting and evaluation of the method will take place to inform further enhancement activity across the sector.

We ask each institution to submit a follow-up action plan 24 weeks after the publication of its QESR report. The action plan will be published on the QAA website and will form part of the information base used in Phase 2 of this method.


Institutional Liaison Meetings (ILM), which are designed to complement QESR in Phase 1, will include consideration of the findings from QESR. These are normally a meeting between key staff and students with responsibilities for quality and standards and the wider student experience and a senior QAA officer. Where a QESR team did not express confidence in their review findings, a member of the team will also join the QAA officer for the ILM.


As with ELIR, findings from QESR will be used to inform enhancement and development activity across the sector.

Knowledge Base

We have produced a Knowledge Base that includes the content of all seven QESR Reports published in session 2022-23. This Knowledge Base is an Excel spreadsheet and can be used by filtering, searching or using the summary table. This helpful resource allows users to interrogate rich information from reviews of Scottish institutions, and to identify areas of good practice across a wide range of themes. We will update the Knowledge Base once all reviews are complete.

QESR Knowledge Base

Publication date: 07 Sep 2023

Analysis of findings

The report below provides a summary of the findings from the seven QESR reviews conducted during session 2022-23, outlining good practice and recommendations for action. The report provides more detail on findings relating to the tertiary enhancement topic - The future of learning and teaching: defining and delivering an effective and inclusive digital and blended offering. Each institution was asked to submit relevant documentation that outlined enhancement activity or the institution's strategic approach relating to this topic. 


This analysis is submitted to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to support the duty for quality assurance of provision delivered by HEIs in Scotland under the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005. The analysis is also considered by the sector Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee (SHEEC) and The Quality Forum (TQF). 

Analysis of Findings from Quality Enhancement and Standards Reviews (QESR) Conducted During Session 2022-23

Publication date: 09 Jan 2024

Institutional Liaison Meetings (ILM)

Institutional Liaison Meetings (ILMs) are a complementary component of Phase 1 Scottish external quality review arrangements which provide an important opportunity for information sharing between QAA Scotland and a higher education institution. 


The concept has its roots in an informal protocol that the Scottish higher education sector adopted in 2003 as part of the enhancement-led approach to external institutional review, often referred to as 'no surprises'.


The ILM provides an opportunity for staff and students with responsibilities for quality and standards and the wider student experience to meet with a senior QAA officer in the year when the HEI is not engaged in the peer-review team activity of a QESR.