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Enhancing quality: at the macro level

About the macro level

Note: The acronyms presented on this page are expanded in the Glossary step.

The macro level is about the standards and frameworks that educational institutions must follow. Most countries have three broad sets of organisational bodies that provide regulatory frameworks affecting quality and standards:

  1. National level Standards Agencies (for example the QAA in the UK, TEQSA and AQF in Australia, USNEI in the USA, ECTS in Europe, etc.)
  2. Professional accreditation bodies influencing curriculum design (for example IEEE, CPA, BPS etc.)
  3. Higher education professional development and recognition bodies (for example the HEA, ALT, SEDA, etc.).

National level Standards Agencies have wide responsibilities for regulating national standards and quality, and have often accrediting powers for educational providers and qualifications. These external quality of teaching standards are reflected, to a degree in the professional development frameworks, such as UNSW HR academic promotion toolkit or UKPSF in the UK.

Professional accreditation bodies provide frameworks including expectations of what graduates in particular programs/subject areas should be able to display.

Higher education professional development and recognition bodies identify specific professional development pathways and recognise achievement and excellent for professional teaching in higher education.

At the sector level, higher education is affected by socio-political trends and pressures: these will be explored in more detail in step 5.3.

Evidence of quality and standards

The outcomes of evaluation carried out at different levels are an essential source of evidence which can be shaped to demonstrate quality, the achievement of appropriate standards, impact and excellence.

Reflection point:

Why does a government need to impose standards? Is it to ensure quality or to promote improvements (enhancing education)? Who is going to monitor the standards? And what actions are taken if the standards fall below expectations?

It is important for you, as an academic with a teaching role at UNSW to understand and position yourself in this broader context, as it has real impact on the development of your academic career.

Talking point

In addition to legislation and policy, there are many other factors that influence how we view quality and standards in higher education. Watch this video which presents a summary of a provocative report discussing some factors affecting higher education. Click here to watch - Paper on the Avalanche (Barber et al, 2013).

After viewing the video post one factor that was identified affecting the higher education sector along with a brief explanation of the potential impact of that factor.

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic on enhancing quality at the macro level there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.


Barber, M., Donnelly, K., Rizvi, S., & Summers, L. (2013). An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead. Retrieved from http://www.ippr.org/images/media/files/publication/2013/04/avalanche-is-coming_Mar2013_10432.pdf

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney