The Quality Code represents a shared understanding of quality practice across the UK higher education sector. It protects the public and student interest, and champions UK higher education’s world-leading reputation for quality.
This edition of the Quality Code was developed by QAA on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) in 2018. It applies to higher education providers based in all four nations of the UK. It is a key reference point for the quality arrangements in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In England, the Quality Code is not regulatory, but providers are able to use it to inform their approach to quality, as a way of providing comparability across the UK and to aid international visibility.
Developing the Quality Code in 2022-23
In July 2022 we agreed with the UKSCQA that the time was right to hold a UK sector-wide conversation about the future scope and structure of the Quality Code. To ensure it remains useful to the sector, we are conducting a detailed set of conversations with our members and other sector organisations and groups to understand how they would like the Quality Code to evolve. This work is undertaken in our capacity as a Membership organisation.
Find out more about our work in this area, including how you can join the conversation and share your views, on our Developments to the Quality Code web page.
Structure of the 2018 Quality Code
The Quality Code is based on a number of elements that together provide a reference point for effective quality assurance.
Expectations - which succinctly express the outcomes providers should achieve in setting and maintaining the standards of their awards, and for managing the quality of their provision.
Core and Common practices - which represent effective ways of working that underpin the delivery of the Expectations and will deliver positive outcomes for students. Core and Common practices remain part of the quality frameworks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but in England institutions need to comply with the Office for Students’ regulatory framework and conditions of registration.
Advice and guidance - which comprises sector-developed themes, and is designed to support providers in developing and maintaining effective quality assurance practices. This is not mandatory for providers, but illustrative of a range of possible approaches.
While the Quality Code does not represent regulatory requirements for institutions based in England, those providers can choose to use the Quality Code to satisfy themselves that their quality processes support enhancement above the baseline.
The Expectations and Practices
Expectations for Standards
- The academic standards of courses meet the requirements of the relevant national qualifications framework.
- The value of qualifications awarded to students at the point of qualifications and over time is in line with sector-recognised standards.
The provider ensures that the threshold standards for its qualifications are consistent with the relevant national qualifications frameworks.
The provider ensures that students who are awarded qualifications have the opportunity to achieve standards beyond the threshold level that are reasonably comparable with those achieved in other UK providers.
Where a provider works in partnership with other organisations, it has in place effective arrangements to ensure that the standards of its awards are credible and secure irrespective of where or how courses are delivered or who delivers them.
The provider uses external expertise, assessment and classification processes that are reliable, fair and transparent.
The provider reviews its core practices for standards regularly and uses the outcomes to drive improvement and enhancement.
Expectations for Quality
- Courses are well-designed, provide a high-quality academic experience for all students and enable a student's achievement to be reliably assessed
- From admission through to completion, all students are provided with the support that they need to succeed in and benefit from higher education.
The provider has a reliable, fair and inclusive admissions system.
The provider designs and/or delivers high-quality courses.
The provider has sufficient appropriately qualified and skilled staff to deliver a high-quality academic experience.
The provider has sufficient and appropriate facilities, learning resources and student support services to deliver a high-quality academic experience.
The provider actively engages students, individually and collectively, in the quality of their educational experience.
The provider has fair and transparent procedures for handling complaints and appeals which are accessible to all students.
Where the provider offers research degrees, it delivers these in appropriate and supportive research environments.
Where a provider works in partnership with other organisations, it has in place effective arrangements to ensure that the academic experience is high-quality irrespective of where or how courses are delivered and who delivers them.
The provider supports all students to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes.
The provider reviews its core practices for quality regularly and uses the outcomes to drive improvement and enhancement.
The provider’s approach to managing quality takes account of external expertise.
The provider engages students individually and collectively in the development, assurance and enhancement of the quality of their educational experience.
Advice and Guidance
The Advice and Guidance is divided into 12 Themes and designed to support new and existing providers in meeting the mandatory requirements of the Quality Code. It has been developed in partnership with the higher education sector and includes guiding principles, practical advice and further resources. The Advice and Guidance is not mandatory for providers, but illustrative of possible approaches.
Mapping of ESG 2015 to the Quality Code
This document illustrates how the standards set out in the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG 2015) maps to the Quality Code and associated reference points. Providers can use the table to ensure their processes for quality assurance and enhancement align with the European Standards and Guidelines.