An independent body established in 1997 to oversee standards of provision in higher education. It carries out audits in individual universities and other higher education institutions, examining the internal systems of quality management, as well as carrying out a review of the standards of teaching and learning in individual subject areas. Thus, the quality of both management and teaching come under scrutiny in a QAA review. This will include, but will not be restricted to, institutional and departmental systems for quality control, including the monitoring and provision of professional development for staff, the processes for ensuring the rigour and accuracy of assessment decisions, the lines of communication and control in relation to quality management, and the effectiveness of teaching provision. Thus, the QAA's overall purpose is to ensure, in the public interest, that internal quality controls are effective and fully operational in higher education. Higher education institutions undertake internal audits or subject reviews in which the QAA criteria framework is applied in order to arrive at a judgement about the quality of their own provision. The Agency is funded by higher education institutions themselves, through subscriptions, and also by contract to major funding bodies of higher education. An early application of the concept of quality assurance to an educational context can be found in the 1991 White Paper Higher Education: A New Framework. It provides an example of the trend for importing the vocabulary of the business world into the vocabulary of education.
http://www.qaa.ac.uk/aboutus/qaaIntro/intro.asp Further details of the role of the QAA, and the operation of quality assurance in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.