Who can apply for educational oversight?
Applicant providers must satisfy the 'requirements of providers seeking and maintaining educational oversight'. An applicant provider must:
- demonstrate a commitment to maintaining and enhancing the reputation of UK higher education
- be registered at Companies House or be a registered charity
- have the majority of its students studying higher education programmes (level 4 or above on one of the UK qualifications frameworks)
- provide evidence that it has delivered higher education programmes in the UK for at least one (academic) year at the date of application
- be offering programmes that are accredited by an awarding body (a recognised body) or an Ofqual-regulated awarding organisation, or be an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants approved learning partner at either Gold or Platinum level
- have a current signed agreement with an awarding body/organisation to deliver programmes
- carry out its own responsibilities and not devolve to another provider any part of those responsibilities, subsequent to a successful Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) review outcome
- follow the procedures that it has set out in formal submissions to QAA to demonstrate how it meets the expectations of higher education standards and quality management
- make resources available to implement fully the approved procedures that are set out in its formal documentation or submissions to QAA, and recommendations made by QAA arising from review or from any concerns about standards and quality in higher education investigation
- pay an annual 'maintenance fee' towards the costs of maintaining and developing QAA activities to deal with enquiries, appeals, complaints and concerns
- inform QAA immediately of any situation which poses serious financial threat to the provider, or which renders it unable, or likely to be unable, to meet its obligations to its students
- submit a completed application form with supporting documentation and fee by midday on 5 September 2014
How does the application process work?
Please see the addendum in
Higher Education Review (Plus): A handbook for alternative providers undergoing review in 2014-15
New applicants for Educational Oversight who are independent colleges providing higher education programmes in association with awarding bodies and/or awarding organisations are required to undergo Higher Education Review (Plus)
Application: New applicants are first required to submit an application form, which QAA uses to determine the eligibility of an applicant for oversight by QAA
Check on financial sustainability, management and governance: Applicants whose applications are accepted by QAA at the first stage progress to the second stage of the process, the check on financial sustainability, management and governance ('the FSMG check').
Review of quality assurance arrangements: Applicants who successfully pass the FSMG check go on to the third stage of the process, the review of quality assurance arrangements.
In some cases it may be necessary to for the second and third stages of the process to overlap or to run concurrently. This is most likely to occur when applicants need to complete the review process more quickly than would be possible if the two stages took place in sequence, or where there are material issues identified as part of the FSMG check which the provider undertakes to address by the end of the review process.
How do I know whether to apply to QAA or to the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI)?
If most of your qualifications are at level 3 or below (further education), then you should apply to ISI. If your qualifications are mainly at level 4 or above (higher education), then you should apply to QAA.
QAA and ISI are working closely to ensure a smooth process for applicants for educational oversight. If you are unclear about which designated body to apply to, please check the
Guidance note for applications for educational oversight by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) or contact QAA at email@example.com. Organisations need only apply to ISI or QAA. If you apply to the wrong designated body, ISI or QAA will pass on your application form to the other designated body.
My organisation offers a mix of further education and higher education qualifications. Will we have to undergo two separate reviews?
No. ISI and QAA are working together to ensure a commonality of approach. The information you provide in your application will confirm whether your organisation predominantly offers higher education programmes - and is eligible for educational oversight by QAA - or predominantly offers further education or English language programmes, and is eligible for educational oversight by ISI. Where there is uncertainty about the mix of programmes, please check the
joint statement from educational oversight bodies.
We are a new college. Can we apply for educational oversight?
Each applicant must provide evidence that it has delivered higher education programmes in the UK for at least one (academic) year at the date of application.
We are an overseas higher education institution operating in the UK. Can we apply for educational oversight?
QAA will, in addition, provide educational oversight of certain foreign providers offering full recognised overseas degree programmes in the UK, working appropriately with their counterparts in the provider's country of origin. Accredited US institutions listed on the US Department of Education website that offer US degree courses are able to apply to QAA, along with associate members (or third party providers) of the Association of American Study Abroad Programmes UK. Foreign providers offering complete degrees from other countries should contact QAA in the first instance. We will, on advice on the recognition of the provider, confirm whether we are able to review their education provision.
I run a language school. Is my college eligible for educational oversight by QAA?
No. You will need to apply to ISI.
When can I apply to QAA for educational oversight?
QAA will accept new applications for educational oversight until midday on 5 September 2014. Reviews will be scheduled for 2015.
What happens if my application is late?
QAA cannot accept applications after midday on 5 September 2014.
Is there a judgement resulting from the application form?
Applicant providers must satisfy the 'requirements of providers seeking and maintaining educational oversight'. (See: Who can apply for educational oversight?)
The application process is intended to be both developmental and judgemental in the sense that:
- QAA can be assured that an applicant is a genuine organisation
- it distinguishes between whether an applicant should be reviewed by QAA or inspected by ISI
- it ensures that applicants have an appropriate quality assurance framework to proceed to a review
This last point is also the developmental aspect. It is in nobody's interest for organisations that do not have a recognisably coherent quality assurance framework to progress to a review. This is not to say that if an applicant satisfies the eligibility criteria, they will gain confidence judgements in their review.
QAA will carefully consider the application forms on an initial basis and come to a view on the eligibility of an applicant for educational oversight, and whether there is a sufficiently coherent and robust quality assurance framework against which a QAA review team could undertake a review.
What do I have to submit with my application form?
The application states: 'Please provide details of the total number of students based on headcount (not full-time equivalents) enrolled on programmes over the last three years and including 2013-2014'. Should this include distance learners who are not attending college courses? These students are studying their courses at a distance, some in the UK and others overseas.
We would be grateful if you could provide details of all your registered students, whether distance learning or face-to-face. The application form asks you to distinguish between the number of students that are UK/EEA students and those that are from outside of the EEA.
What are the fees for educational oversight from QAA?
Are there instalment payment options?
When will we need to pay for the next stages of this process?
Applicant providers will be notified of their eligibility to proceed by the end of September 2014. The fee for the second stage of the process, the FSMG check, must be paid by Friday 17 October 2014. The fee for the review of quality assurance arrangements will be invoiced by QAA and must be paid in full 12 weeks before the review visit.
Are any of the fees refundable?
Are the fees refundable if we cancel our review?
Are the fees refundable if we are unsuccessful?
Will I have to pay an annual maintenance fee?
Yes. The annual maintenance fee includes scrutiny of the annual return and any subsequent monitoring visit. Providers who apply for educational oversight in 2014 to have a review in 2015 will have to pay an annual maintenance fee annually beginning in January 2016.
How soon after applying will QAA review my organisation?
QAA will conduct the reviews throughout 2015. Applicants who proceed to the review stage of educational oversight by QAA will be notified of their eligibility to proceed by the end of September 2014
How will reviews be prioritised?
All new educational oversight reviews by QAA will take place between January and December 2015. We request on your application form that you let us know your term and exam dates. All QAA reviews include meetings with students and so we will need to schedule your review during term time. Where possible we will try to accommodate requests for specific dates for a review, but we are unable to guarantee that we can accommodate all requests.
Will QAA provide guidance on the review process?
Our handbooks for educational oversight reviews are available on the QAA website and contain full information about the review process. Applicants who are accepted to go forward for a review will be invited to a briefing event provided by QAA. The briefing event will include information about educational oversight reviews and self-evaluation.
There is more than one review handbook, which handbook is most appropriate for me?
Assuming that your application for educational oversight by QAA has been approved and that you proceed to the review stage, QAA will write to you confirming which type of educational oversight review will apply to you. The majority of applicants will undergo a Higher Education Review (Plus).
How much will I have to pay for the annual maintenance fee?
Please see the fee schedule for 2015.
QAA does not receive any funding to cover the direct costs incurred
in educational oversight. Consequently, the costs of such activity must
be borne by applicant organisations. QAA is a non-profit-making
What does the annual maintenance fee include?
The annual maintenance fee includes scrutiny of the annual return
and any subsequent monitoring visit. A separate fee will be payable if
a full review is required instead of a monitoring visit (see the fee
schedule for 2015).
When should I submit the annual return?
The annual return should normally be submitted to QAA not more than
nine months after your last review and at least three months before the
date of your annual monitoring visit. You will receive specific
information from QAA advising you of the deadline for your annual
How can I find out more information about the annual return or the
annual monitoring visit?
Please see our guidance note on the annual monitoring process. QAA
will be holding several briefing events during the autumn term 2014.
Providers will be invited to attend these events in due course.
Whom do I contact for further information?
If you have any further questions about educational oversight from QAA, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01452 557098.