The cornerstone for quality and standards in UK higher education, the new UK Quality Code for Higher Education, will publish in full tomorrow (29 November) at 1400.

The Expectations and Practices, published in March 2018, set out the ‘core’ and ‘common’ practices that providers are expected to comply with. The core practices will be mandatory for universities and other higher education providers across all regulatory administrations in the UK, while the common practices will be requirements for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish providers (see note 2). In England, providers may wish to work towards the common practices, but are not required to do so as these are not regulatory requirements and will not be assessed as part of the OfS’s regulatory framework.

Today’s publication of the focused Advice and Guidance completes the Quality Code. Its 12 themes offer guiding principles, practical advice and reflective questions on areas including Assessment, Work-based Learning and Enabling Student Achievement.

UK higher education providers will not be required to follow the Advice and Guidance and will not be regulated against it, but may find it helpful in developing and maintaining effective quality assurance practices.

Work-based Learning, for example, includes advice on how providers, students’ unions and professional bodies can stay connected with students in the workplace. Enabling student achievement suggests how to offer the best support for vulnerable groups like care leavers or gender transitioning students.

The new Advice and Guidance has been produced unequivocally by and for the UK higher education sector. One hundred and twenty two academics, quality managers, student representatives and sector experts worked with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to write guidance for each of the 12 themes.

Authors represented 11 Russell Group universities, nine university members each from MillionPlus and University Alliance, six Cathedral Group universities, 24 non-aligned universities, 13 further education colleges and four independent providers, as well as careers, professional and student voice experts.

‘Providers have told us they value a framework for academic standards and quality that allows them to express their autonomy and individuality, and we’ve embraced that,’ says QAA Chief Executive Douglas Blackstock.

‘Our aim with the Advice and Guidance is to give all UK providers a set of guiding principles, practical advice and resources that will support them in meeting the Expectations and Practices without tying them to rigid processes.

‘We’re looking forward to seeing the different ways they put the Advice and Guidance into practice so that we can share the quality and diversity that are so vital to the reputation of UK higher education.’

The revised UK Quality Code for Higher Education was developed by QAA on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment. Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor of Northumbria University, chairs the Committee. He said:

‘The new Quality Code will continue to perform a key role as a UK-wide reference point for quality and standards in UK higher education, but with greater fitness for purpose in a changing and increasingly diverse higher education sector.

‘We now have a Quality Code that is student focused, meets the varying regulatory requirements across the UK nations, and is future facing.

‘UKSCQA appreciates the efforts of all who have played a part in this achievement:  contributors and respondents from all parts of the higher education sector and all UK nations; QAA, which carried out the exacting work on the Code’s development; the UK’s funding and regulatory bodies; and sector representative groups, including Universities UK, GuildHE, the Association of Colleges and the NUS’.

Notes to editors

  • Transitional arrangements for moving to the new Code as a reference point for quality assessment reviews vary across the nations. Providers undergoing a review in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will reference the existing Code until August 2019.  Providers in England which are currently designated for student support by the Secretary of State and not yet registered by the OfS and are undergoing annual monitoring and other review-related activities will reference the existing Code until 31 July 2019.  All providers in England registered by the OfS will use the new Code.
  • The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment provides sector-led oversight of higher education quality assessment arrangements that continue to be shared across the UK. The Committee has members drawn from regulated providers in England and Wales, publicly-funded universities and colleges in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and providers currently designated for student support by the Secretary of State in England. Student interests are represented by both the National Union of Students and individual student members. Membership is also drawn from the four UK higher education funding/regulatory bodies, sector bodies and regulatory partners. Find out more at qcuhe.org.uk.
  • QAA is the independent quality body for UK higher education. It is a higher education charitable company, which is limited by guarantee and whose members are representative organisations of the higher education sector. More information on QAA is available at qaa.ac.uk
  • The UK Quality Code for Higher Education embodies the co-regulatory approach that underpins UK higher education. Providers should use the Quality Code in line with their educational mission, national quality arrangements, and regulatory requirements. As higher education is the responsibility of the individual UK nations, the precise national arrangements for quality assessment differ, including how parts of the Quality Code will be used in external oversight and review.