Quality Assurance, Quality Enhancement and Scottish HEIs

Scottish HEIs are expected to have in place systems and processes for the quality assurance of educational programmes. Quality assurance (QA) is concerned with the establishment and maintenance of conditions that serve as the basis for monitoring provision and intervention, where necessary. QMU publishes its QA arrangements in its Quality Assurance Handbook (see the 'Quality Assurance and Programme Management' tab on our Regulations, Policies and Procedures web section), a key reference point for all staff.

At the start of the 2003-2004 academic session, the Scottish Higher Education (HE) sector moved to a system of quality enhancement. Quality Enhancement, which is closely linked with quality assurance, is defined by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) as 'taking deliberate steps to bring about continuous improvement in the effectiveness of the learning experience of students' (QAA 2008). It is expected that institutions will manage enhancement in a planned and strategic manner, and this is a key focus of the periodic QAA review visit to each institution: the Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR). For further information on ELIR and the Scottish Quality Enhancement Framework, please see the following paragraphs:

Quality enhancement processes

There are five inter-related quality enhancement processes set out by the QAA as follows:

  • A comprehensive framework of internal subject reviews in Scottish HEIs, with details of methodology delegated to institutions but including a clear role for the views of students, the use of trained reviewers and the involvement of external reviewers.
  • The publication of an agreed set of data provided by HEIs.
  • The systematic involvement of students at all levels in the institution, together with the training and support of student representatives and national surveys of the student experience. Support for student involvement is provided by sparqs, a national development service that provides training for student representatives and advice on student engagement in quality processes.
  • Quality enhancement activities, which take the form of a structured programme involving all Scottish HEIs and based on selected national enhancement themes for each year.
  • Enhancement-led institutional review (ELIR), based on a four/five-year cycle, which provides information on the security of the institution’s procedures for the management of quality and standards and focused on the institution's strategic management of quality enhancement. QMU’s most recent ELIR report (published in August 2018) confirms that the University has effective arrangements for managing academic standards and the student learning experience and that these arrangements are likely to continue to be effective in the future. The 'effectiveness' judgement is the highest of three possible conclusions available to ELIR review panels. As such, it represents a very positive outcome. QMU’s year-on response to ELIR is also publicly available.  

Quality management processes at QMU are continuously developing to support an enhancement led culture with robust underpinning quality assurance. The Student Experience Strategy (2021-26) cites the following activity Embed a culture of continuous enhancement in line with internal and external quality processes and reference points. Progress towards this outcome will be monitored by the Student Experience Committee.


QAA. 2017. Enhancement-led Institutional Review Handbook: Scotland (fourth edition). [online] [Accessed July 26 2018].

Contact the Quality Team