Future of quality assurance in UK higher education

30 April 2015

This paper builds on the Russell Group’s submission to the review of quality assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland conducted by HEFCE in early 2015.

It is vital that any new quality assurance (QA) system, or adaptation of the current system, supports this position and protects the UK higher education ‘brand’. A new QA regime should eliminate unnecessary burdens and support a system that recognises and rewards high quality institutions.

QA must be risk-based and proportionate, focusing resources on new providers and areas of weakness while relieving the highest performing institutions of unnecessary regulatory burden.

Any new QA system must have three core components: 

  1. It should be demonstrably risk-based to be effective
  2. Standards should be consistent, but regulation should be proportionate
  3. Any new HE providers should be subject to the most rigorous QA tests

As such, we make the following recommendations:

  • That the UK should have a unified but meaningfully tiered quality assurance system with a single QA provider
  • High performing institutions with a consistent track record should be subject to significantly less regulatory intrusion through a principle of earned autonomy for quality assurance.
  • New HE providers should be subject to a rigorous fitness test for entry
  • A series of defined triggers should be developed to indicate when an institution should be:

i. Subject to additional, targeted review
ii. Potentially promoted or demoted between tiers, subject to the affected institution being able to challenge the QA decision.

Paper on the future of quality assurance in UK higher education

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