Quality and standards
How are universities and colleges regulated?
Each of the funding and regulatory bodies monitor the universities and colleges within their nation.
Each ensure that universities and colleges meet the expected quality and standards by monitoring the quality of the courses and completing quality assessments.
In England, the universities and colleges are regulated by the Office for Students. Any university or college which is registered with the Office for Students must meet conditions of registration and will go through a rigorous assessment to show that they meet the high standards required.
Together these conditions mean that students can expect any registered university or college to meet a minimum set – or baseline – of requirements for the quality of its courses. See the Student guide to quality and standards on the OfS website for further information.
All universities and colleges on Discover Uni are either registered, or the courses you see are quality assured by a registered provider. You can find the full list of registered providers on the Office for Students register of providers.
The Office for Students in England operates the Teaching Excellence Framework. The TEF is an exercise that the OfS runs to assess the quality of teaching across universities and colleges in the UK.
It gives each participating institution an overall rating: gold, silver or bronze and an additional rating for student experience and student outcomes. The TEF exercise is completed every four years and the ratings can be found on the Discover Uni provider page on the website.
See further information in our TEF section below.
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) oversees the quality of higher education in Wales. The Quality Assessment Framework for Higher Education in Wales sets out the mechanisms through which HEFCW assure itself that the quality of education meets the needs of those receiving it. As part of this, institutions undergo cyclical external quality assurance reviews, in line with the European Standards and Guidelines. The framework is underpinned by working in partnership with students.
The framework also includes a requirement for institutions to align with the following baseline requirements:
- The frameworks for higher education qualifications, as set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education;
- The Expectations, Core and Common practices of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education; together with characteristics statements and subject benchmark statements, where appropriate;
- The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales;
- Welsh language requirements;
- The Higher Education Code of Governance or ColegauCymru code of good governance for institutions in Wales, as appropriate;
- HEFCW’s financial sustainability, management and governance requirements, and mission and strategy for higher education provision;
- The providers’ obligations under consumer law, as set out by the Competition and Markets Authority;
- The guidance set out in the Office of the Independent Adjudicator’s Good Practice Framework.
You can see the QAA quality assessment reports by following the links on our university and college provider pages on Discover Uni.
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.
Encouraging and supporting students to actively share in the quality of their education.
A national programme of activities on a chosen theme to share innovation in learning and teaching across the sector.
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 the enhancement led institutional review reports by following the links on the university and college provider pages on Discover Uni.
The Department for the Economy is responsible for assessing the quality of higher education providers in Northern Ireland.
DfE Northern Ireland is currently considering a new model of quality assessment. Information about the previous model – the annual provider review - is below.
The provider fully meets requirements for quality and standards.
Meets requirements with conditions
The provider meets requirements for quality and standards, and is implementing an action plan to improve in some areas.
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 provider pages on Discover Uni.
Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national scheme run by the Office for Students (OfS).
The objective of the TEF is to encourage universities and colleges to deliver excellent teaching, learning and student outcomes for all their students and courses, including undergraduate.
What are the TEF ratings?
A panel of experts, including student members, assess and rate universities and colleges for excellence above the minimum requirements on the quality of their courses and student outcomes.
Based on these assessments, universities and colleges can receive an overall rating of: ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’ or ‘Bronze’ as well as two other ratings, one for the student experience and one for student outcomes.
Where there is an absence of excellence above the minimum requirements, the outcome will be that the university or college ‘Requires improvement’ to be awarded a TEF rating.
How are the ratings decided?
The TEF panel, which is made up of academics and students who are experts in learning and teaching, conducts the assessments and makes decisions about ratings.
The panel considers a combination of sources which include evidence submitted by a university of college, evidence submitted by its students (where available), and information from datasets.
Which providers take part in the TEF?
Participation in the TEF is compulsory for many universities and colleges in England, however not all universities and colleges in the UK take part in the TEF.
Some universities or colleges in England might not have a TEF rating - for example, if they don’t deliver the courses that are in scope for the assessment. If providers have fewer than 500 students, it is optional for them to participate.
If a university or college in England has not participated in the TEF 2023, this will be communicated on the provider page on Discover Uni.
Use the OfS TEF 2023 ratings page to find out information about ratings and use the provider search tool to see if the university or college you are interested in has a TEF award.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Universities and Colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to participate in the TEF on a voluntary basis.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own regulator who monitors the quality and standards of the teaching in universities and colleges. Each publish a report on the quality and standards at individual providers which you can link through to from the provider pages on Discover Uni.
To find out more information, read about the quality assessment arrangements and visit the websites of the regulatory bodies below:
- The Scottish Quality Enhancement Framework
- The Quality Assessment Framework for Wales
- The approach to quality assessment in Northern Ireland.
How can the TEF help me?
The TEF can help students to research where to study, by providing information about the university or college.
As part of your research, it is helpful to look at the TEF rating as this can give an indication to the university or colleges overall level of excellence and how they have been rated in terms of students experience and student outcomes.
You can consider this alongside the other research you will do for example about the location, the facilities, the course and through experiences such as attending an open day. All of this will help you to make a decision about what and where to study. See our student guide for further support on how to research your options.
For information on specific courses, see the course pages on Discover Uni which show information such as what students think about the course and what graduates have gone on to do and earn after the course.
How to find the TEF rating
The TEF ratings are displayed on university and college information pages on Discover Uni, which can be accessed by clicking on the institution name at the top of each course page.
From here you can link out to the Office for Students website where you will find detailed information including the submissions from universities, colleges and students (where available) and you can also find panel statements which highlight why the rating has been given for a university or college. This information will be made available in November.