Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA, 2008) has developed quality frameworks for institutions in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to provide guidance in the learning outcomes expected within different types of academic attainment levels (e.g., degrees, certificates).

Quality Frameworks

The three frameworks compare educational outcomes for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Use the links below or scroll to view:

The frameworks present qualifications with expected educational outcomes by different levels of degrees (e.g., doctorate, masters, baccalaureate) and outcomes as they relate to “qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment (p. 16).”

Overall Outcomes: Comparison of Educational Outcomes for Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

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  • sound knowledge of the basic concepts of a subject
  • utilize different approaches to solving problems
  • communicate accurately
  • possess the qualities needed for employment requiring the exercise of some personal responsibility.

  • sound understanding of the principles in field of study
  • apply principles more widely
  • evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems
  • possess the qualities necessary for employment in situations requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making (within vocational areas as appropriate).

  • understanding of a complex body of knowledge, some of it at the current boundaries of an academic discipline
  • develop analytical techniques and problem-solving skills that can be applied in many types of situations or employment
  • evaluate evidence, arguments and assumptions to reach sound judgments
  • communicate perspective effectively
  • possess qualities needed for employment in situations requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making in complex and unpredictable circumstances.

  • understanding of a complex body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic or professional discipline and with an increased intensity, complexity and density of study
  • show originality in the application of knowledge
  • understand how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research
  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively
  • show originality in tackling and solving problems
  • possess qualities needed for employment in circumstances requiring sound judgment, personal responsibility and initiative in complex and unpredictable professional environments.

  • create and interpret the construction and/or exposition of knowledge, which extends the forefront of a discipline, usually through original research
  • conceptualize, design and implement projects for the generation of significant new knowledge and/or understanding
  • possess qualities needed for employment that require both the ability to make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields and an innovative approach to tackling and solving problems.

Detailed Educational Outcomes: Comparison of Educational Outcomes for Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

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  • knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with particular area(s) of study
  • evaluate and interpret knowledge within the context of an area of study
  • present, evaluate and interpret qualitative and quantitative data, in order to develop lines of argument and make sound judgments in accordance with basic theories and concepts of a subject of study
  • evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems related to area(s) of study/work/experience
  • communicate the results of a study/work/experience accurately and reliably, and with structured and coherent arguments
  • undertake further training and develop new skills within a structured and managed environment.

  • knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles of particular area(s) of study, and of the way in which those principles have developed
  • apply underlying concepts and principles outside the context in which they were first studied, including, where appropriate, the application of those principles in an employment context
  • knowledge of the main methods of inquiry in the subject(s)
  • ability to evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems in the field of study
  • understanding of the limits of their knowledge, and how this influences analyses and interpretations based on that knowledge
  • use a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis
  • effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences, and deploy key techniques of the discipline effectively
  • undertake further training, develop existing skills and acquire new competences that will enable them to assume significant responsibility within organizations.

  • systematic understanding of key aspects of the field of study, including acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge, at least some of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of defined aspects of a discipline
  • deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within a discipline
  • conceptual understanding that enables the student: a) to devise and sustain arguments, and/or to solve problems, using ideas and techniques, some of which are at the forefront of a discipline and b) to describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research, or equivalent advanced scholarship, in the discipline
  • acquire an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge
  • manage their own learning, and to make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources (for example, refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the discipline)
  • apply methods and techniques to review, consolidate, extend and apply knowledge and understanding, and to initiate and carry out projects
  • critically evaluate arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data (that may be incomplete), to make judgments, and to frame appropriate questions to achieve a solution — or identify a range of solutions — to a problem
  • communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

  • systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice
  • comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship
  • originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline
  • conceptual understanding that enables the student: a) to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline and b) to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses
  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgments in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level
  • continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.

  • create and interpret new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication
  • systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice
  • conceptualize, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems
  • Ddtailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic inquiry
  • make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields, often in the absence of complete data, and be able to communicate ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • continue to undertake pure and/or applied research and development at an advanced level, contributing substantially to the development of new techniques, ideas or approaches.

Employment Outcomes: Comparison of Educational Outcomes for Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

Expand the level to view the expected educational outcomes.

Possess the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of some personal responsibility.

Possess the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making.

Possess the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:

  1. the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility
  2. decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts
  3. the learning ability needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature.

Possess the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:

  1. the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility
  2. decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations
  3. the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Possess the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in professional or equivalent environments.

Compiled by Nan L. Travers, Ph.D. for Empire State College, 2010.

Developed from: The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (2008).

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