External regulation and monitoring

The University must ensure it meets the standards as outlined by external, independent regulators in order to operate as a provider of higher education. The University is frequently reviewed by regulators, independent reviews and frameworks to ensure the quality and standard of what we offer at Essex.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) publishes guidance on the expectations all providers of UK higher education are required to meet, with the aim of ensuring students are provided with the best possible learning experience.

Role of the QAA

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA):

  • carries out reviews of institutions and publish reports which highlight areas of good practice
  • makes recommendations for how to improve academic standards and quality
  • comments on how well an institution meets its responsibilities
  • checks that the institutions are exercising their legal power to award degrees in the proper manner.

The University's academic policies, procedures and guidance are written based on the Quality Code published by the QAA. Quality and Academic Development (QUAD) team members regularly attend QAA events to ensure our quality assurance and enhancement activity and guidance is continuously developed.

The UK Quality Code for Higher Education (the Quality Code) is a key element of the guidance produced by the QAA.

Office for Students (OfS)

The government created the Office for Students (OfS) in January 2018 to act as a non-departmental public body of the Department of Education. The OfS formally acts as the regulator and competition authority for all Higher Education Institutions and Providers in England.

The OfS produces the regulatory framework that all institutions and providers must adhere to, along with guidance, and the QAA provides complementary guidance and common practice to support the implementation and regulation of the framework and its regulations.

Our registration with OfS and obligations

We are registered with the Office for Students. That means we meet its requirements for course quality, student support and more. This includes meeting the expectations for standards and quality that are set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Our dedication to offering our students a transformational education has led to Essex being awarded the highest rating of Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

Reviewing Higher Education

The QAA are responsible for conducting reviews and do so using a variety of methods, depending on a provider’s location, status and higher education offering.

The Quality and Standards Review is the new and current method for reviewing higher education Institutions in the UK and the method by which the QAA provide evidence to the Office for Students to support whether a provider meets the core practices of the Quality Code.

Prior to the Quality and Standards Review, the Higher Education Review (HER) was used to review providers in England and Northern Ireland. The HER was introduced in 2013-14, replacing previous methods, including Institutional Review of higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland, and the Review of College Higher Education.

The QAA last undertook a review of the University from 2-5 December 2014 under the HER method which determined that the University meets all expectations required of higher education providers, and commended the University's focus on improving the student learning experience.

The HER method is now utilized by the QAA to review alternative and foreign providers of higher education.

Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)

The Government introduced the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) in 2016 as a mechanism for recognising and rewarding excellent teaching in higher education and providing more information to support students in making choices about what and where to study.

The TEF is managed by the Office for Students (OfS), and ratings are judged by an independent panel of students, academics and other experts. Universities' performance in the TEF will also have a direct impact on their ability to increase tuition fees.

Our Gold TEF rating

Our most recent Provider Submission achieved Gold, the highest possible outcome for the TEF, included contributions from staff and students, and provides a summary report in response to the TEF criteria. The University's Gold TEF rating has been approved until summer 2021, where the University will provide a new submission for review.

Publication of outcomes

The outcomes of the TEF are usually published in the summer term.

Changes to TEF

Changes to the way the TEF operates and reviews universities, as well as changes to the metrics and submissions, are expected in 2019-20 following the outcomes of several pilot studies. 

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the national assessment of research quality and impact. The REF replaced the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which was last conducted in 2008. The results are used by the UK’s higher education funding bodies to allocate around £2 billion each year to university research.

The REF is made up of several different measures and we focus on research intensity, which looks at the quality of research, its impact, the research environment and the proportion of staff submitted to the REF. We call this ‘research excellence’.

Our ranking

Our performance in specific areas of assessment shows Essex's strengths as a centre of research excellence.

Essex is ranked 1st for research impact in modern languages and linguistics, 1st for research environment in sociology and 2nd for research output in politics and international studies.

We have five subjects in the UK top 10 for research power across the social sciences, arts and humanities, and science and health – sociology, law, economics and econometrics, politics and international studies and computer science.

Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs)

"Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) are a diverse group of organisations that include professional bodies, regulators and those with statutory authority over a profession or group of professionals. PSRBs engage with the higher education sector through the approval, recognition and accreditation of HE programmes. They provide membership services and promote the interests of people working in professions. They accredit or endorse programmes and courses that meet professional standards, provide a route through to the professions, or are recognised by employers. PSRBs set standards for, and regulate standards of, entry into their particular professions and often participate in quality assurance activities." (QAA, December 2018)

It is therefore important to take PSRB requirements into account when designing new, and amending existing, courses and modules, because they ensure that courses meet the professional standards and quality required for students to gain the knowledge and skills they need for their future careers.

PSRB accreditation, approval or recognition

Students may make decisions on whether to take a course on the basis of links with a PSRB, so it should be made clear in any published information to students what the status of accreditation is, what accreditation is possible, and what students need to achieve to gain accreditation (including whether this is automatic or whether students need to apply separately). Where an application has been made for accreditation, but this has not yet been confirmed, this should be clear in the information prospective and current students are provided with.

Methods and the frequency of accreditation (of any type) vary. Departments should ensure that clear information is provided on the PSRB requirements for accreditation when asking for approval of new and amended courses.

Information on accreditation is published in programme specifications, in Course Finder, and in the prospectus. It’s also collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) who share the information with public authorities who require it to carry out their statutory and/or public functions. The information is also published on Discover Uni, the official website that holds data on undergraduate courses at universities.

It’s therefore essential for information on links with PSRBs to be clear and accurate.

Responsibility for PSRB information and links

Responsibility for maintaining links with PSRBs rests with the departments. Departments are responsible for the areas listed below to ensure the information we hold and publish is accurate. Heads of Department and Department Managers should allocate these tasks to a specific member or members of staff the department.

  1. Maintain contact and links with the PSRBs that accredit, approve or recognise their courses.
  2. Submit applications for PSRB accreditation (of any type).
  3. Liaise with PSRBs over requirements, and provide information about these requirements when requesting approval of new or amended courses and modules.
  4. Maintain records of PSRB accreditation (of any type), including information about the dates and frequency of review or re-accreditation. 
  5. Ensure that the University’s records and published information is accurate and up-to-date. Departments will be asked to actively review and confirm all course accreditations annually via Curriculum Update. Departments should also periodically review the information held in ESIS and the centralised accreditation Box folders (and any other published information) to ensure it is accurate. Please contact the Quality and Academic Development Team (QUAD) by emailing quad@essex.ac.uk for access to your Departmental accreditation Box folder. 
  6. Check that PSRB webpages (or other forms of published information) are accurate. Departments should ensure information on ESIS and information that is published on both University and PSRB webpages is consistent and accurate. Please contact Course Records (crt@essex.ac.uk) for information and advice on accessing your Departmental accreditation records on ESIS.
  7. Notify QUAD in advance of when an accreditation visit or review is due. If you have any upcoming accreditation reviews or visits from PSRBs scheduled, please inform QUAD as soon as possible. A representative from QUAD and/or a Dean would be invited to observe PSRB visits and/or any meetings to confirm outcomes. This is particularly key when this coincides with a Periodic Review or course validation event, so the department and QUAD can arrange the event to meet the needs of the PSRB and the University as effectively as possible.
  8. Organise and manage the arrangements for visits by PSRBs.
  9. Send copies of schedules and key correspondence concerning accreditation visits and information about forthcoming accreditation to QUAD for reporting to the relevant Faculty Education Committee. Decisions and outcomes from accreditation reviews and reports should also be made available to QUAD as soon as they are available. 
  10. Include the response to recommendations from PSRB accreditation processes in the Annual Review of Courses and Periodic Review processes.


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Quality and Academic Development
Telephone: 01206 873944