Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Academic infrastructure

core definition

Academic infrastructure is the name given to the array of quality-related processes and practices in the United Kingdom.

explanatory context

The United Kingdom has developed a range of processes and practices relating to quality and standards and the Quality Assurance Agency has attempted to integrate them within an overarching infrastructure. The QAA (undated) states that ‘the Academic Infrastructure has evolved from recommendations about quality and standards made in the Reports of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education and its Scottish Committee (Dearing and Garrick reports) in 1997’. Although the elements interrelate they are in many respects separate processes.

analytical review

The University of Warwick defines Academic Infrastructure as:

A set of documents published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education which guide Higher Education Institutions in their approach to learning and teaching and are intended to safeguard the quality and standards of courses and awards. The Academic Infrastructure includes: the QAA’s Code of Practice, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, Subject Benchmark Statements, course specifications and student progress files….

            The Academic Infrastructure was developed by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to define clear and explicit standards, for public information and as nationally agreed reference points. It addresses the concerns of employers who wanted to know what they could expect from graduates who were candidates for jobs and provides the University with a clear understanding of the criteria against which it will be judged in Institutional Audit. A further external reference point is the Cooke Report (HEFCE 02/15), developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to set out the teaching quality information that must be available or published by Higher Education Institutions by the end of 2004.


The QAA (2005), itself, described it thus:

The Academic Infrastructure provides a means of describing academic standards in UK higher education. It allows for diversity and innovation within academic programmes offered by higher education.

The QAA site (accessed 2011), states:

The Academic Infrastructure is a set of nationally agreed reference points which give all institutions a shared starting point for setting, describing and assuring the quality and standards of their higher education courses. We work closely with the UK higher education sector to develop these reference points.

The later Glossary (QAA, undated (b)), states:

Academic Infrastructure: The core guidance developed and maintained by QAA in partnership with the UK higher education community and used by QAA and higher education providers until 2011–12 for quality assurance of UK higher education. It has since been replaced by the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Quality Code).


associated issues

The UK Academic Infrastructure, according to QAA, consists of the following:

Code of Practice

According to QAA (undated):

The Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education (the Code of practice) provides guidance on maintaining quality and standards for universities and colleges subscribing to QAA. It is made up of 10 sections and was originally prepared by QAA between 1998 and 2001. Revisions of individual sections began in 2004.


Or as the University of Warwick (2004) put it:

The Code of practice sets out guidelines on good practice relating to the management of academic standards and quality. Each section of the Code of practice has precepts or principles that institutions should satisfy, with guidance on how they might meet these precepts.


Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and in Scotland


QAA (undated) states:

The frameworks for higher education qualifications describe the achievement represented by higher education qualifications. QAA has developed two frameworks:

The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The framework for qualifications of higher education institutions in Scotland


For the University of Warwick (2004):

Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) are designed to make it easier to understand higher education qualifications. They promote a clearer understanding of the achievements and attributes represented by the main titles such as bachelors degree with honours, masters degree and doctorate. By setting out the attributes and abilities that can be expected of the holder of a qualification, the frameworks help students and employers understand the meaning and level of qualifications. They also provide public assurance that qualifications bearing similar titles represent similar levels of achievement.


Subject Benchmark Statements


QAA (undated) states:

Subject benchmark statements set out expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. They describe what gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the techniques and skills needed to develop understanding in the subject.

Working closely with the sector, QAA have published subject benchmark statements designed to make explicit the general academic characteristics and standards of programmes in the UK.

Honours degree benchmark statements (47 subjects)

Master's level benchmark statements (2 subjects)

NHS/Department of Health benchmark statements (16 subjects)

Scottish benchmark statements (4 subjects)

Foundation Degree qualification benchmark

The process by which subject benchmark statements are created and revised is set out in the Recognition scheme for subject benchmark statements (all of this is available free on the QAA site)


For the University of Warwick (2004):

The Subject Benchmark Statements set out expectations about standards of degrees in a range of subject areas. They describe the conceptual framework that gives a discipline its coherence and identity, and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of the techniques and skills needed to develop understanding in the subject. They also identify the level of intellectual demand and challenge represented by an honours degree in subject areas, and help higher education institutions when they design and approve courses. Master’s level Benchmark Statements are only available for Business and Management and Engineering.


Programme Specifications


QAA (undated) states:

A programme specification is a concise description of the intended outcomes of learning from a higher education programme , and the means by which these outcomes are achieved and demonstrated. QAA has produced guidelines to offer help and guidance to those preparing programmes specifications. They draw on the experience of others in a range of disciplines and institutions who have already prepared programme specifications.

see Guidelines on preparing programme specifications


For the University of Warwick (2004):

Course Specifications are the sets of information that each institution provides about its courses. Each specification clarifies what knowledge, understanding, skills and other attributes a student will have developed on successfully completing a specific course. It also provides details of teaching and learning methods, assessment and subsequent career opportunities, and sets out how the course relates to the qualifications framework. This information allows prospective students to make comparisons and informed choices about the courses they wish to study and provides useful guidance for recruiters of graduates.


Student Progress Files


QAA (undated) states:

Progress Files help make the outcomes, or results, of learning in higher education more explicit, identify the achievements of learning, and support the concept that learning is a lifetime activity. Working with Universities UK (formerly CVCP), Universities Scotland, the Standing Conference of Principals, and the Learning and Teaching Support Network (now incorporated into the Higher Education Academy), QAA is helping higher education institutions and academics develop Progress File policies and practices.

see Guidelines for HE Progress Files


For the University of Warwick (2004):

Student progress files help to make the outcomes, or results, of learning in higher education more explicit and more valuable. They also identify the achievements of learning and support the concept that learning is a lifetime activity.

The progress file includes three elements:

·        the transcript; a record of an individual's learning and achievement, provided by the institution;

·        an individual’s personal records of learning and achievements, progress reviews and plans that are used to clarify personal goals and can provide a resource from which material is selected to produce personal statements (e.g. CVs etc) for employers, admissions tutors and others;

·        structured and supported processes to develop the capacity of individuals to reflect upon their own learning and achievement, and to plan for their own personal educational and career development. The term Personal Development Planning (PDP) is used to denote this process.

related areas

See also


code of practice

programme specification

progress file

qualifications framework


Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, About the Academic Infrastructure, accessed May 2005. Site further accessed 29 January 2011 at page title "Academic Stanndards and Quality" neither available 29 January 2012. Main site is, accessed 29 January 2012, still available 17 June 2019.

University of Warwick, 2004, Course Specifications: Glossary of Terms relating to Course Specifications Last revised: Tue, Aug 24, 2004 . This page no longer at this address. There is a similar Glossary at the following address but it does not include reference to student progress files: revised 14 November 2006, accessed 29 January 2012, still available 17 June 2019.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated (b), Glossary, available at, accessed 3 January 2017, page not found 17 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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