Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page. Here you will find questions and answers:

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please contact us.


About AQA:

Q: What does AQA do?

A: The Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities (AQA), previously known as the New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit (NZUAAU), supports New Zealand universities in their academic responsibilities in research and teaching. It does so, primarily, by conducting institutional audits on university campuses and by identifying and disseminating information on good practice. AQA also convenes meetings on quality enhancement in the sector. It is an active member of international networks concerned with building capability in quality assurance and in enhancing academic quality.

Q: What does AQA do to enhance quality in the universities?

A: AQA sees its role as a facilitator. In particular, it identifies good practice both nationally and internationally and communicates this to universities. Avenues for communication include newsletters, emails, occasional papers, audit reports, participation in international good practice databases, and regular quality meetings.

Q: Is AQA an accreditation agency?

A: No. The Committee on University Academic Programmes is the body to which universities must submit any proposals to offer new qualifications or to make substantial changes to existing qualifications. New Zealand universities are established by statute.

Q: Who is responsible for quality assurance in other parts of the New Zealand tertiary education sector?

A: The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is responsible for independent quality assurance of non-university tertiary education providers.

Q: Who funds the AQA?

A: AQA is an operationally independent financial subsidiary of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' committee (operating as Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara).

Q: I have a complaint or concern about quality in a New Zealand university. Can you help?

A: AQA cannot investigate individual complaints. You should follow the complaints processes of the university concerned in the first instance. Further information can be found here


About Academic Audit:

Q: What do you mean by audit?

A: AQA undertakes audits (or ‘reviews’) of New Zealand universities on a cyclical basis with a focus on the university’s mechanisms for ensuring academic quality. The audit begins with a process of self-review which informs an audit portfolio in which the university evaluates its progress towards achieving its own academic goals and objectives (related to the focus of the audit). The audit panel reviews the portfolio and conducts interviews in a site visit to the university to verify claims made and augment understanding of challenges and achievements. Final audit reports, which are publicly available, commend good practice and make recommendations intended to assist the university in its own programme of continuous improvement.

Guidelines and evaluation questions for each audit are published in the Audit Handbook for that cycle. Themes for audit cycles to date have been:

  • Cycle 1: 1995-1998 – Whole of institution
  • Cycle 2: 2000-2001 – Research, and a theme chosen by the institution
  • Cycle 3: 2002-2007 – Teaching and Learning
  • Cycle 4: 2008-2012 – Whole of institution
  • Cycle 5: 2013-2016 - Academic Activity Themes related to teaching and learning and student support
  • Cycle 6: 2017-2023 – Enhancement Theme: Access, outcomes and opportunity for Māori students and for Pasifika students

Q: Who does the auditing? Are they independent? 

A: Academic auditors are appointed to the Register of Auditors and Reviewers by the Board of AQA. Auditors appointed to audit New Zealand universities are individuals who have been identified by AQA as meeting specific criteria pertaining to academic audit of a university. Auditors are most commonly senior academics or professionals experienced in quality assurance who have been trained as academic auditors either by AQA or by another quality assurance body. All New Zealand audit panels include at least one overseas auditor. AQA staff and Board members who are auditors may not serve as auditors of a New Zealand university, but may serve on audit panels of other institutions.

Four or five auditors are appointed to each audit panel. Each auditor brings with them different skills and perspectives, but AQA aims to assemble a panel that has the required level of expertise and experience in quality audit and higher education. Panel members cannot be current or recent staff or students of the university being audited and must declare any conflicts of interest.

Q: What are the auditors looking for?

A: AQA audit panels focus their attention on areas of particular importance to universities, including mechanisms for:

  • Quality assurance and enhancement in the design, monitoring and evaluation of courses and programmes of study for degrees and other qualifications;
  • Quality assurance and enhancement in teaching, learning and assessment;
  • Quality assurance and enhancement in relation to the appointment and performance of academic and other staff who contribute directly to the teaching and research functions;
  • Quality assurance and enhancement in research in the context of its relationship with university teaching;
  • Taking account of the views of students, of employers and of other stakeholders in respect of the ongoing quality assurance and enhancement of courses and programmes.

Institutional audits, including audits of AQA itself, are carried out in accordance with the International Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) Guidelines of Good Practice in Quality Assurance.

Q: When is my university next being audited?

A: Dates for Cycle 6 academic audits can be found here.  

Q: Does AQA receive individual submissions for upcoming audits?

A: AQA does not normally receive individual submissions. The process and topics for audits are prescribed in the current Audit Handbook, including the indicative framework for the self-assessment portfolio and the role of students and staff in site visits. Please talk to the office responsible for academic quality in your university for more details.

Q: What happens after an audit?

A: Discussions are held between AQA and the university at 6 weeks and 12 months after the audit report is published. Progress on recommendations is submitted to the AQA Board in a follow-up report at the time of their one-year follow-up. A report on progress in implementing the recommendations of the previous audit also forms part of the self-review process in the next audit round.

Q: Where can I read the reports from previous audits?

A: Audit reports from Cycle 4 onwards are available under the Reports and Papers page on the AQA website. For information about reports from earlier cycles of audit, please contact us