Quality and standards
Quality assessment of universities and colleges
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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 ELIR reports by following the links on our university and college pages.
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.
Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)
The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) is a national exercise, introduced by the Government in England in 2017. The initial exercises took place between 2017 and 2019 and providers from across the UK took part voluntarily. They assessed excellence in teaching at universities and colleges, and how well universities and colleges ensured excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.
The Office for Students (OfS) is developing a new TEF framework and is due to consult on it in autumn 2021, at the same time as consulting on the regulation of student outcomes. The OfS currently aims to publish new TEF awards in early 2023.
As existing TEF awards were made several years ago, they may not provide an up-to-date reflection of teaching quality, so the OfS has advised universities and colleges to stop advertising their awards. Information on the TEF awards institutions currently hold can be found at the TEF outcomes page on the OfS website, but this information may be less relevant to prospective students due to the historic nature of the awards.