Each UK degree must be awarded by a legally approved degree-awarding body that has overall responsibility for the academic standards and quality of the qualification. This applies even if all or part of the provision is delegated, by formal agreement, to another provider. It is therefore very important to have a robust process in place to ensure that degree-awarding powers (DAP) and the right to be called 'university' (university title or UT) are only granted to higher education providers that properly merit them. The Privy Council (opens in new window) is the branch of government responsible for granting DAP and UT.
QAA advises government on DAP and UT applications in the UK by providing confidential advice to the relevant minister with higher education responsibilities. This is one of our most important responsibilities since, in making recommendations, we are helping to redefine the UK higher education sector, which has repercussions for the worldwide reputation of UK higher education. Applications are rigorously scrutinised against guidance and criteria issued by government.
Types of degree-awarding powers
There are three different types of degree-awarding powers:
- Foundation Degree awarding powers (FDAP)
- taught degree-awarding powers (TDAP)
- research degree-awarding powers (RDAP).
Foundation Degree awarding powers give further education colleges in England and Wales the right to award Foundation Degrees at level 5 of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Quality Code, Chapter A1).
Taught degree-awarding powers give UK higher education providers the right to award bachelor's degrees with honours and other taught higher education qualifications up to levels 6/7 of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and up to levels 10/11 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (Quality Code, Chapter A1).
Research degree-awarding powers give UK higher education providers with TDAP the right to award doctoral degrees and master's degrees where the research component (including a requirement to produce original work) is larger than the taught component when measured by student effort. These are higher education qualifications up to levels 7/8 of The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and up to levels 11/12 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.
Information for applicants
Once granted, degree-awarding powers and university title cannot be easily removed. This being so, each application is subject to close and careful consideration, leading to QAA's confidential advice to government. Our scrutiny procedures are evidence-based and consistently applied to ensure that there can be public confidence both in the organisations granted degree-awarding powers or university title and in the standards of UK higher education as a whole.
Applications are made to the Privy Council and to the relevant territorial government department responsible for higher education. The department asks QAA to provide advice on applications received. We determine the processes used in drawing up our confidential advice for government.
This web section contains all the detailed information necessary for you to determine whether your organisation is eligible to apply for degree-awarding powers or university title; and, if so, how to do this. The information includes:
Information for students
All genuine UK degree programmes are approved by a UK university or other degree-awarding body. Before enrolling on a higher education course, you should make sure that it has been approved by, and will lead to an award from, a recognised degree-awarding body. Although QAA advises on new applications for these degree-awarding powers, you need to visit the website of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to find a full list of recognised bodies entitled to award degrees (opens in a new window).
The BIS website also tells you whether your provider, if it does not have degree-awarding powers, is a legitimate listed body (opens in a new window) - a provider that has entered into a formal agreement with one or more recognised degree-awarding bodies to deliver a course or courses leading to their award(s), known as a collaborative arrangement.
If you would like to find out more about this important area of our work, please see the frequently asked questions.