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 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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core definition

Self-assessment is the process of critically reviewing the quality of ones own performance and provision.

explanatory context

Self-assessment may be undertaken on an individual basis or, in the context of external quality review, on a collective basis.


Self-assessment is used interchangeably with self-evaluation and self-study in the context of higher education quality. They all involve a process of self-reflection by the institution or sub-institutional unit being reviewed and the preparation of a document reflecting that self-reflection.


Some commentators confusingly equate self-evaluation with internal evaluation.

analytical review

CHEA (2002) defines self-study as:

Self-study: The review and evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of an institution's own academic programs, staffing, and structure, based on standards set by an outside quality assurance body, carried out by the institution itself. Self-studies usually are undertaken in preparation for a quality assurance site visit by an outside team of specialists. Results in a self-study report.

According to the EQUIPE project:

Self-assessment is the basic part of any assessment. An institution evaluating its own activities formulates its objectives and tasks, analyses its activities applying different approaches, reveals its activity problems and foresees the ways of resolving them.

Campbell and Rozsnyai, (2002, p. 133) see it thus:

Self-evaluation: Same as internal evaluation, done by a unit as a form of quality management or in preparation for external evaluation.


EVA (2004) outline the nature of self-evaluation as follows:

Self evaluation is an integral part of any evaluation – i.e. EVA has a duty to meet this requirement under the law on the Danish Evaluation Institute.  The self evaluation has a dual purpose; on the one hand, it should be used as documentation for the final report and its recommendations and, on the other hand, it should be seen as an inspiration for the evaluated educational programme or establishment for quality improvement. In the self evaluation, the educational establishment has to describe and assess its own strengths and weaknesses. Normally, the participants will be the teachers and also the students or the pupils and management. The self evaluation is based on guidelines prepared by the project group. The guidelines are always available for the general public but only in the Danish language.


HEQC (2004, p. 29) defines:

Self-evaluation: Within the context of an audit, self-evaluation refers to the process by which an institution reviews the effectiveness of its quality management system for assuring, developing and monitoring the quality of teaching and learning, research and community engagement against the requirements of the HEQC’s audit criteria and any other quality criteria that the institution deems relevant.  The self-evaluation process leads to the development of an audit portfolio by the institution for submission to the HEQC.

associated issues

Supposedly, self-assessment documents are self-critical, demonstrating strengths and weaknesses. However, the extent to which the document shared with reviewers points to any deficits depends on the perception of the reviewees as to the consequences of bringing to light any shortcomings.

…self-evaluation, in the right context, is useful for encouraging fundamental reviews of objectives, practices and outcomes. Account after account has indicated how important self-evaluation is (Karlsen & Stensaker, 1995; Saarinen, 1995; Rasmussen, 1995; Bazargan, 1999). There remain questions about the appropriate frequency and depth of self-assessment and the relevance of different models of self-assessment. What is clear is that the less threatening the evaluation process the more open, honestly reflective and useful is the self-evaluation process. (Harvey, 2002)

related areas

See also






Bazargan, A. (1999) Introduction to assessing quality in higher medical education in Iran: challenges and perspectives, Quality in Higher Education, 5(1), pp. 61–­68.

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.

Council For Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2001, Glossary of Key Terms in Quality Assurance and Accreditation, last updated 23 October 2002, accessed 18 September 2012, page not available 30 December 2016.

Council on Higher Education, Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), 2004, Criteria for Institutional Audits, April (Pretoria, Council on Higher Education).

Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut [Danish Evaluation Institute] (EVA), 2004, Home / Knowledge and method / EVA's method / Follow up, undated, accessed, October, 2004, no longer available at this address 14 March 2011.

EQUIPE Project, 2004, Case Study, Lithuania, by Daiva Dumciuviene of Kaunas University of Technology. Site undate accessed, October, 2004

Harvey, L., 2002, 'Evaluation for What?', Teaching in Higher Education, 7(3), pp. 245–64.  

Karlsen, R. and Stensaker, B., 1995, ‘Between governmental demands and institutional needs: peer discretion in external evaluations—what is it used for?’, paper presented at the 17th Annual EAIR Forum, Dynamics in Higher Education: Traditions Challenged by New Paradigms, Zurich, Switzerland, 27–30 August 1995.

Rasmussen, P., 1995, A Danish approach to quality in education: the case of Aalborg University paper, with additional comments, presented at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE) Seminar, at OECD, Paris, 4–6 December.

Saarinen, T., 1995, Systematic higher education assessment and departmental impacts: translating the effort to meet the need, Quality in Higher Education, 1 (3), pp. 223–34.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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