Quality assurance & accountability

How is the quality of education in UK business schools & universities assessed?

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is an independent body which monitors and advises on standards and quality in UK higher education. Universities and colleges must follow the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which sets out guidelines to ensure:

  • The academic standards of courses meet the requirements of the relevant national qualifications framework
  • The value of qualifications awarded to students at the point of qualifications and over time is in line with sector-recognised standards
  • Courses are well-designed, provide a high-quality academic experience for all students and enable a student's achievement to be reliably assessed
  • From admission through to completion, all students are provided with the support that they need to succeed in and benefit from higher education.

What are the national quality standards?

The process of quality assessment - making sure the Quality Code and other university regulations are followed - is managed differently within each of the UK's four nations.


In England, the Office for Students (OfS) is responsible for ensuring that all students, from all backgrounds, and with the ability and desire to undertake higher education: are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education (HE); receive a high quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study or in the event of provider, campus or course closure; are able to progress into employment or further study, and their qualifications hold their value over time; and receive value for money.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) must be registered to demonstrate that they satisfy a set of initial conditions of registration to ensure they are able to offer high quality higher education to students. The QAA undertakes a Quality and Standards Review (QSR) to provide evidence to the OfS about whether providers meet the Core practices of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.


In Scotland, QAA Scotland is responsible for guarding academic standards and enhancing the quality of the student experience offered by Scottish HEIs. It does this through Enhancement-led Institutional Reviews (ELIR), conducted on a five-year cycle.


In Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) regulates fee levels at universities, ensures a framework is in place for assessing the quality of HE and scrutinises the performance of universities and other designated providers. It manages the Quality Assessment Framework for Wales and carries out triennial assurance visits (every three years) to regulated institutions. In addition, the QAA conducts a Quality Enhancement Review (QER) every six year.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Economy assesses the quality of the HE provision that it funds in accordance with a revised operating model for quality assessment. Providers are assessed by an Annual Provider Review (APR).

TEF is a voluntary exercise, so business schools are not required to have a TEF rating. Universities in Northern Ireland and Scotland have chosen not to take part, instead relying on their own existing assessment processes.