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

Transparency is making activities and services clear and easily understood and open to scrutiny and challengeable

explanatory context

Transparency in higher education is about being open about what services are being provided, including how students are assessed, what procedures are in place to ensure quality of provision, how standards are maintained, what the content of programmes of study are and the criteria for promotion of staff. To be really transparent, there have to be procedures in place that allow challenges to decisions that relate to the open (i.e. non-secretive) running of an institution.


Transparency applies inter alia to: (a) assessment criteria for evaluating/grading student work; (b) the provision, services and teaching offered on a programme of study; (c) the outcomes and potential employment prospects of a programme of study; (d) the nature, transportability and value of an award; (e) the processes for evaluating/accrediting the quality and/or standards of a programme or an institution; (f) the processes for establishing and reviewing agencies that undertake quality review or accreditation.

analytical review

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (undated) defines transparency as:

Making an institution's processes visible and comprehensible to interested parties outside that institution, such as external examiners, quality control committees and the general public.

This definition subsequently modified (as accessed 31 December 2016) to:

Making processes visible and comprehensible to interested parties, such as external examiners, quality control committees and the general public.



Discussing online education, Dalsgaard and Paulsen (2009) state:

We understand transparency as students’ and teachers’ insight into each other’s activities and resources. Transparency means that you and your doings are visible to fellow students and teachers within a learning environment. For instance, transparency could mean that students and teachers are made aware of and have access to each other’s interests, thoughts, concerns, ideas, writings, references, and assignments. The purpose of transparency is to enable students and teachers to see and follow the work of fellow students and teachers within a learning environment and in that sense to make participants available to each other as resources for their learning activities.



Brouwer (2004) states:

The purpose of this two-tier [bachelor-master] system is to increase the transparency of the various different systems in what is called the European Higher Education Area. This transparency is needed to increase the mobility of students on the 'market' for higher education and the mobility of graduates on the labour market.

ENQA (2003) notes:

Accreditation, i.e. certification of a degree programme, will take place after review of the minimum standards for content and specialisation, the vocational relevance of the degree to be awarded and the coherence and consistency of the general conception of the degree programme. It will be awarded for a limited period of time within the frame of a transparent, formal and external peer review. Thus, the degree programme has to be reviewed after a certain time. The process of a peer review is steered by agencies which are also reviewed through regular external evaluation. (emphasis added)

Association europeenne des conservatoires [Academies de musique et musikhochschulen] (AEC, 2004):

Transparency: The quality achieved when there is a high level of readability (see above), enabling an outsider to see straight to the inner details of a qualification.

associated issues

related areas

See also



Association europeenne des conservatoires [Academies de musique et musikhochschulen] (AEC), 2004, Glossary of terms used in relation to the Bologna Declaration, accessed September 2004. Not available at this address 31 January 2011.

Brouwer, O., 2004, ‘The methodology of accreditation and quality assurance: the example from the Netherlands’ Speech at the Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Legal Education in Europe conference, Utrecht University, 19–20 November 2004. The speaker was Vice-President of the NVAO (Netherlands-Flemish Accreditation Organisation).

Dalsgaard, C. and Paulsen, M.F., 2009, ‘Transparency in cooperative online education’, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), pp. 1–22, available at, accessed 10 September, 2012 (downloads and opens as a pdf file), still available 11 January 2017.

European Network of Quality Agencies (ENQA), 2003, The Bologna Process, Glossary, Accreditation,

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 28 August 2012, modified definition accessed 31 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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