In 1997, the national Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) was set up to safeguard the public interest in sound standards of higher education qualifications and to encourage continuous improvement in the management of the quality of higher education. As part of its responsibilities, the QAA took over two functions which had previously been part of the remit of other bodies: institutional audit had been a responsibility of the Higher Education Quality Council (which the QAA replaced) and subject review had been a responsibility of the funding councils. More recently, however, the QAA has been withdrawing from subject review and concentrating increasingly on institutional audit. Part of this increased focus on institutional audit is the QAA establishing that universities are fit to carry out their own subject reviews.
The most recent Institutional Audit was December 2004 when the audit team concluded that "broad confidence can be placed in the soundness of the University's present and likely future management of the quality of its programmes and the academic standards of its awards". This is the highest grading a university can achieve in Institutional Audit.
The Subject Areas assessed by QAA are listed below starting with the most recent.
From 1996-2002 provision was either "Approved" or "Not Approved". An overall score was also awarded and this was based on a score achieved in six different aspects of the provision:
The scale for these six aspect scores, and also the overall score, was 1 – 4 as follows:
1 = The stated objectives were not meet
2 = Acceptable contribution to attainment of stated objectives
3 = Substantial contribution to attainment of stated objectives
4 = Full contribution to attainment of stated objectives
Between 1993 and 1995 Subject Areas were graded as "Excellent", "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory".