Quality and standards

Each UK country has its own way of ensuring that universities and colleges meet high standards. This is known as their quality assessment system.

You should make sure that the university or college you choose is covered by the relevant quality assessment system. It needs to be for you to get financial support like student loans.

England

The Office for Students (OfS) is the regulator for higher education regulator in England.

OfS maintains a list of higher education providers, called a register. Registered providers go through a rigorous assessment to show that they meet the high standards required. This is known as a baseline.

All universities and colleges on Discover Uni are either registered, or the courses you see are quality assured by a registered provider

See the Office for Students register of providers.

Northern Ireland

The Department for the Economy is responsible for assessing the quality of higher education providers in Northern Ireland.

It does this through the Annual Provider Review, a rigorous assessment of information and data. Providers are assessed against a high baseline standard, with four possible outcomes:

Meets requirements - the provider fully meets requirements for quality and standard

Meets requirements with conditions - the provider meets requirements for quality and standards, and is implementing an action plan to improve in some areas.

Pending - the annual provider review outcome for this provider is not yet available. A ‘pending’ outcome means that the process has not yet been completed for this provider. This is a neutral outcome and does not indicate either a positive or negative position.

Does not meet requirements - this provider does not currently meet requirements for quality and standards. It is subject to additional scrutiny and has an action plan to address areas of concern.

You can see Annual Provider Review outcomes on our university and college pages.

Scotland

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) oversees the quality of Scottish higher education.

SFC does this through the five elements of its Quality Enhancement Framework (QEF):

Enhancement Led Institutional Review (ELIR) – The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Scotland carries out independent external reviews on how universities secure academic standards and improve the student experience.

Institution Led Review (ILR) – Scottish universities conduct internal subject reviews and report annually to SFC. All university courses must be reviewed over a six-year cycle.

Student engagement – encouraging and supporting students to actively share in the quality of their education.

Enhancement themes – a national programme of activities on a chosen theme to share innovation in learning and teaching across the sector.

Public information – ensuring clear, accurate and accessible information to inform student choice, enhance student engagement in quality improvement, and provide assurance on standards.

The five elements of the QEF collectively provide public assurance about the security of academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities at Scottish universities.

You can see ELIR reports by following the links on our university and college pages.

Wales

The Higher Education Funding Council Wales (HEFCW) regulates the quality of universities and college in Wales who receive public funding from the Welsh Government.

This includes an assurance review, usually carried out by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).

You can see quality assessment reports on the QAA website by following the links on our university and college pages.

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) assesses:

  1. Excellence in teaching at universities and colleges
  2. How well universities and colleges ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

It measures excellence in addition to the high baseline quality standards all universities and colleges need to meet.

TEF ratings can help when thinking about where to study.

The TEF was introduced by the government in England, where it is a national exercise. It is voluntary in other countries of the UK. Some Scottish and Welsh universities have chosen to take part, but if you don’t see TEF awards for non-English providers it doesn’t mean that the university or college is not providing an excellent level of higher education.

TEF ratings

A provider taking part in the TEF is awarded either a gold, silver, bronze or provisional award. Universities and colleges often use the awards on their websites and you can see them on Discover Uni.

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A provider is awarded gold for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It’s of the highest quality found in the UK.

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A provider is awarded silver for delivering high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.

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A provider is awarded bronze for delivering teaching, learning and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.

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Provisional awards are given to participating providers that meet national quality requirements, but don’t yet have enough data to be fully assessed.

TEF assessment process

The TEF process is managed by the Office for Students, and ratings are judged by an independent panel of students, academics and other experts.

The TEF assessment uses official data combined with a detailed statement from each university or college to arrive at the final rating.

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