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.


Novel Recipes




core definition

Agency is, in the context of quality in higher education, shorthand for any organisation that undertakes any kind of monitoring, evaluation or review of the quality of higher education.

explanatory context

Agency usually implies an external organisation, that is, one external to, or independent of, the organisation or programme being reviewed. In the case of programme review, an internal agency, e.g., quality unit within an institution, could play the role of external reviewer but normally such an internal unit would not be referred to as an agency but as a ‘section’, ‘department’ or more usually ‘unit’.

analytical review

The International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) has a specific view of agency in the context of quality assurance: For INQAAHE (2001, pp. 1–2), an external quality assurance agency, also referred to as an EQA-agency. meets the following criteria:

·        It concerns external quality assurance. This means that the agency is acting outside the institutions of Higher Education (HEI). Evaluation by an organisation or entity inside an HEI and aiming at quality assurance inside the institution, is not to be seen as an external quality assurance activity.

·        It concerns activities like evaluation, review, audit, assessment or accreditation

·        Those activities belong to the main tasks of the agency

·        Are done on a regular basis

·        The agency is recognised at national or regional level as being in charge of the above- mentioned activities.

The definition excludes:

·        QA-organisations inside an HEI.

·        Agencies, supervising EQA-agencies and not actively or on a regular base involved in the above mentioned activities. [These might include ministries or supra agencies representing EQA-agencies but not themselves doing EQA work]

·        Ad hoc validation or assessment, for example, as done by a university validating programmes in another country.


Campbell and Rozsnyai have a particular view of agency that delimits it to the data collecting but not decision-making process:

Agency: Organization or office responsible for preparing, coordinating, and carrying out evaluation or accreditation procedures but not actually taking decisions on outcomes. The term, agency, is often used collectively, when in fact, a committee passes the final evaluation decisions. (Campbell & Rozsnyai, 2002, p. 131)

The Manual of the University Quality Assurance International Board of Dubai (2012) defines an external quality assurance agency thus:

In the context of higher education this may mean any credible agency independent of a higher education provider which provides evaluations, reviews, audits or similar services pertaining to that higher education provider's academic activities.

associated issues


related areas

See also

accreditation body


Campbell, C. & Rozsnyai, C., 2002, Quality Assurance and the Development of Course Programmes. Papers on Higher Education Regional University Network on Governance and Management of Higher Education in South East Europe Bucharest, UNESCO.

International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), 2001, Annex: Clarification and Glossary, to a questionnaire conducted in December, 2001. This is no longer the site of INQAAHE, document not accessible online 4 February 2011 but can be seen here.

University Quality Assurance International Board [of Dubai], 2012, Quality Assurance Manual, version 1.6, June 2012.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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