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, 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.

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

About the TEF

The UK has a world-class higher education sector, with rigorous systems in place to ensure high quality teaching. The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a new scheme for recognising excellent teaching, in addition to existing national quality requirements for universities, colleges and other higher education providers. It provides information to help prospective students choose where to study.

The TEF is voluntary and each higher education provider decides whether or not they wish to take part.

The TEF was developed by the Department for Education in England. While higher education policy is a devolved matter, individual providers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also able to take part if they wish to.

Participating higher education providers receive a gold, silver or bronze award reflecting the excellence of their teaching, learning environment and student outcomes. The awards cover undergraduate teaching.

All Participating higher education providers and their TEF awards are listed here.

The government introduced the TEF in 2016 as a trial year, from which lessons will be learned for future years. The awards were published in June 2017. Providers are able to appeal their award and any resulting changes will be made in August 2017. 

The Government has previously indicated that universities and colleges in England that have a TEF award will be able to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation. The Department for Education will confirm the 2018-19 fee caps in due course.

Providers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to take part in the TEF, with no direct impact on their tuition fees.

FAQs

Which higher education providers have TEF awards?

Higher education providers decide whether or not to take part in the TEF. Participating providers and their TEF awards are listed here.

What do the gold, silver and bronze awards mean?

A provider taking part in the TEF is awarded:

  • 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.

What do provisional awards mean?

The higher education provider meets rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education, and is taking part in the TEF, but does not yet have sufficient data to be fully assessed. The provider may be fully assessed in future when it has sufficient data.

How are the TEF awards decided?

The awards are decided by an independent TEF Panel of experts including academics, students and employer representatives. Details are available here.

The provider's undergraduate teaching is assessed against ten criteria that cover the areas of teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes.

The TEF Panel considers evidence from a set of metrics using national data as well as written evidence submitted by the provider. The metrics cover continuation rates, student satisfaction and employment outcomes. The metrics for each provider are benchmarked to take account of differences in its students' characteristics, entry qualifications and subjects studied.

The metrics and provider submissions can be viewed here.

Is there more information about a provider's TEF award?

A short statement by the TEF Panel explains each provider's award, available here.

What if a higher education provider doesn't have a TEF award?

All higher education providers in the UK must meet rigorous national quality requirements for higher education. The TEF measures excellence in addition to these requirements and is voluntary. If a provider has no TEF award it may have decided not to take part. You can find out more about the national quality requirements here:

To be eligible to take part a provider must meet national quality requirements and teach at undergraduate level.

How does the TEF affect tuition fees?

The Government has previously indicated that universities and colleges in England that have a TEF award will be able to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation. The Department for Education will confirm the 2018-19 fee caps in due course.

Providers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to take part in the TEF, with no direct impact on their tuition fees.