Institution-led Review

Institution-led Review (ILR) is one of the five pillars of the university sector's Quality Enhancement Framework. The idea of ILR is that, besides ELIR, universities should be responsible for managing their own periodic internal reviews - such as for subject areas, support servces or cross-institutional themes.

ILR must take place in every subject area in a six year timeframe, and the review team must include one student member, usually from a different subject area to the one being reviewed. Although the QAA supports the process, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) sets out the guidance; the guidance includes the broad principles to which all institutions should adhere to in determining the overall quality of the student experience.   Published in August 2017, guidance on ILRs is detailed in the Scottish Funding Council guidance to higher education institutions on quality.

sparqs can provide advice, training and consultancy on two key areas of ILR: firstly, support for student members of review teams, and secondly, support for students and staff in ensuring student voices are heard as part of the review process. 

In May 2016 we published a practice guide for universities and students' associations on Engaging students in Institution-led Review, developed in conjunction with Robert Gordon University’s Gray’s School of Art and IT Services Department.  A two-page executive summary is also available.


Training for student members of review teams

Below are materials you can download for supporting student members of review teams.

We aim to work with universities to take ownership of these materials, adapt them to their own structures, and deliver them on an ongoing basis themselves. Our training materials are currently under review and will be published in due course.

Generic workbook - Word | pdf
Generic presentation - PowerPoint | pdf
Generic tutor notes - Word | pdf
Guidance on roleplay characters - Word | pdf


Engaging students in internal review preparation

In May 2016 sparqs published a resource to help departments and sections who are preparing for internal review to engage students in their work.

The student view of their learning experience is a crucial part of internal reviews, and it is important that departments and sections engage their students in contributing evidence and perspectives. Our resource therefore explored three key questions:

  1. Before the review - how can students, including course and departmental representatives, contribute to the work of gathering evidence on the learning experience and writing the reflective analysis?
  2. During the review - how can students meeting the review panel or contributing in other ways to the review do so in an informed way with a good understanding of the review's purpose?
  3. After the review - what role can students, especially representatives on departmental management committees, play in responding to the action points that arise from the review?

This work was particularly informed through close work with The Robert Gordon University, where we observed, learned from and contributed to two internal reviews - the 2014-15 student-facing review of IT services across the university, and the January 2016 Institution-led Subject Review of the Gray's School of Art.

The resource, Engaging Students in Institution-led Review - a Practice Guide for Universities and Students' Associations - was launched at RGU's Learning & Teaching Conference on 3rd May 2016.

A short 2-page Executive Summary version is also available.

The involvement of Gray's School of Art in contributing to this guidance has since been highlighted and commended in various conferences.

Throughout 2016 we worked closely with QAA Scotland's Focus On project on ILR, which saw us promote this guidance. We continue to gather new case studies and will update our guidance in light of new practices, as well as in line with any updates from the new SFC guidance. We continue to work in partnership with QAA Scotland on ILRs, and are currently undertaking research across the Sector, informing us on a number of areas related to ILRs, with a particular focus on:

  • What mechanisms institutions deploy to directly engage students in processes of Institution-led Review?
  • What support, training and/or guidance do institutions provide for students involved in Institution-led Review?


For more information on this area of work, please contact Simon Varwell.

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