Quality Assessment in Higher Education

Quality Assessment is the process the higher education funding bodies use to gain assurance about the quality of learning and teaching at a higher education provider. Quality is assessed at provider level and the quality system that the provider falls under depends on where it is located and what type of provider it is:

For publicly-funded universities and further education colleges delivering higher education in England and Northern Ireland, the core mechanism for assessing quality is the Annual Provider Review process, which was managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland (DfENI). The Annual Provider Review draws on existing data and information (such as National Student Survey data), and uses indicators and metrics in a rounded and contextualised way to form its judgement. It provides assurances about quality in these providers to students and to others with an interest in the secure operation of the higher education system. It provides confidence in high-quality provision and reliable degree standards for all students, and evidence that each provider is taking any necessary actions to improve the quality of the academic experience and outcomes for its own students. For recent entrants to the sector, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) will also carry out a Quality Review Visit on behalf of HEFCE or DfENI.

For alternative providers in England, quality is assessed through an external quality assurance review carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

For higher education providers in Scotland quality is assessed through an Enhancement-led Institutional Review carried out by QAA Scotland as part of the Quality Enhancement Framework.

For higher education providers in Wales quality is assessed through an external quality assurance review as part of the Quality Assessment Framework for Wales. The most recent QAA review acts as the external review for Welsh institutions.

You can find out more about the national quality requirements here:

 

Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)

The TEF is an assessment exercise introduced by the Government in England to determine the excellence of universities and colleges at teaching and ensuring students get good outcomes in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.  It is designed for universities and colleges in England, but those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also able to choose to participate. There are systems in place to help ensure that all UK colleges and universities meet national quality standards. The TEF looks at what they are doing above and beyond these standards, and awards them gold, silver or bronze for excellence.

The TEF is intended to help those considering higher education choose where to study.

All higher education providers taking part in the TEF, with their current awards, are shown here. The TEF is voluntary, so if a university or college is not listed it may have decided not to take part.

The TEF process is managed by the Office for Students.

The awards

These are the TEF awards that can be given to a university or college:

  • gold for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK
  • silver for delivering high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education
  • bronze for delivering teaching, learning and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.

There is also an award of provisional for a university or college that meets the rigorous UK quality requirements, and takes part in the TEF, but does not yet have enough data to be fully assessed.

A short award summary by the TEF panel explains the reasons for each provider's award. It is important to look also at these as well as the actual award. You can read the award summaries here.

 

How the TEF awards are decided

An independent panel of experts - including academics, students and experts in employment and widening participation - carries out the TEF assessments. Details are available here.

Each university or college is assessed against criteria that cover areas of teaching quality, learning environment and the outcomes students achieve in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

The panel considers evidence from national data on continuation rates, student satisfaction and subsequent employment or further study. They also consider written evidence submitted by the university or college. The assessment takes into account each university or college's particular student mix - their characteristics, entry qualifications and subjects studied.

The data and the submitted evidence can be viewed here.

 

The TEF and fees

England

Publicly funded universities and colleges in England with a TEF award may charge up to the higher maximum tuition fee for 2018 entrants. The maximum tuition fee they can charge for a full-time course is £9,250 per year. Those without a TEF award can charge a maximum of £9,000 per year. The Government will announce maximum fees for the academic year 2019-20 in due course.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland

As the TEF is an England initiative, in which HE providers from the other UK nations can participate, gaining a TEF award has no effect on the tuition fees that providers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can charge.

Development of TEF at subject level

Universities and colleges currently receive a single TEF award to cover all their teaching and subjects, but in future awards will also be made at subject level, so that students can understand more about what is on offer in the area of study they are interested in. This new approach is currently being tested with some universities and colleges. More information about subject-level TEF will be available later in 2018.