Quality Assurance & Enhancement

Defining Academic Standards


The Hong Kong Quality Assurance Council (QAC)1 defines academic standards “in terms of the expected levels of achievement of students that reflect the acquisition of knowledge, the development of capability and the exercise of intellectual skills by students. They apply across all disciplines and reflect the expectations established by universities as well as the academic requirements and competencies associated with individual courses and programmes.

The standards of academic awards are secured through the interaction of subject communities and through the expectations of employers and other stakeholders. In professional disciplines, the expected standards of achievement are linked to the skills and capabilities required of graduates to practise in the profession. Other academic disciplines may have a generally agreed set of curriculum content and expectations that define the nature of degree-level study.”

The third cycle QAC quality audit “will consider the ways in which universities set and maintain their academic standards with reference to institutional mission and purpose; and the extent to which the appreciation of academic standards is applied consistently throughout the university and shared by the academic disciplines. However, the recognition and implementation of academic standards should also be developed within the context of an understanding of the standards of higher education in other, relevant institutions and in other jurisdictions.”

QAC Audit Panels “will be interested to see evidence of how universities are using external reference points and benchmarking to show that they are fulfilling these expectations. Examples of such reference points include:

  • Legislative and other regulatory requirements;
  • Accreditation or registration requirements of professional associations;
  • Requirements for graduate study in Hong Kong and elsewhere;
  • Current frameworks in other jurisdictions;
  • Benchmarking exercises with comparable institutions; and
  • Evidence from employers about the expectations for graduate employment.”


The primary responsibility for academic standards rests with the faculty who design, deliver and co-ordinate courses, who set and mark assessments and who assign course grades that reflect students’ achievement of course intended learning outcomes. Although some courses involve teaching teams that include other staff, e.g. instructors and teaching assistants, who assist with course delivery and the marking of student work, the faculty member responsible for the course has overall responsibility for recommending grades to the Head of the department.

While faculty recommend grades for their courses, Heads of Department/Division have a key role in the maintenance of academic standards through monitoring and approving course grades and ensuring that faculty and other instructors involved with assessing students understand and apply the University’s policies and procedures.

Degree classification is linked directly to course grades. Deans, who recommend degree classification and the award of taught postgraduate awards, also have a role in confirming that appropriate grading standards are being maintained.


https://www.ugc.edu.hk/doc/eng/qac/manual/auditmanual3.pdf page 15