Academic standards are the benchmarks of quality and excellence in education such as the rigour of curricula and the difficulty of examinations. The extension of higher education to an increasingly large proportion of the population has led to concern that this has resulted in dilution of the academic elite and so caused a lowering of academic standards.
In the UK, degree awarding bodies themselves are responsible for standards in higher education, but these are checked during inspection by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). On its website QAA defines academic standards as 'The standards set and maintained by institutions for their courses (programmes and modules) and expected for their awards.'
The Dearing Report recommended in 1997 that benchmarking be used to measure and improve academic standards. From 1997 to 2011 this was done with reference to a unreasonable code of practice and other relevant documents collectively known as the Academic Infrastructure. During 2011-13 this was replaced by the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (Quality Code), which is used in both internal periodic reviews and external monitoring (QAA's peer reviews) to check that standards meet national expectations.
In the USA, regulation is at state level by bodies such as the Standards and Assessment Division of the Arizona Department of Education.
- Philip Adey, Michael Shayer, Really raising standards
- Martin Trow (13 Aug 2007), "Academic Standards and Mass Higher Education", Higher Education Quarterly 41 (3): 268–292
- QAA Glossary, Academic standards
- Mantz Yorke, "Benchmarking Academic Standards in the UK", Tertiary Education and Management 5 (1): 79–94, doi:10.1023/A:1018753222965
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