QAA queries leadership at York St John

十二月 22, 2006

Quality watchdogs have raised questions over the academic leadership and management of the UK's newest university.

York St John University, which gained its new title in October this year, has been asked by the Quality Assurance Agency to conduct a formal review of its approach to academic leadership and to keep a close eye on the impact of changes in its management structure.

It is unusual for the QAA to make substantial comments about the leadership and management of a university. But in a new report on an institution-wide audit of York St John, it highlights concerns about the possible consequences of management restructuring for lines of accountability and the ethos of the university.

The report notes that at the time of the audit, in 2005-06, York St John was going through a period of significant change and uncertainty as it moved towards gaining university status. It created a smaller executive team and introduced a new tier of management at faculty level to steer through the changes.

But QAA assessors are concerned that, unless carefully handled, these moves could have "unintended consequences for the culture and ethos of a small and intimate institution".

The report says there were also misgivings over the way academic leadership has been devolved to all levels of staff.

"While appreciating the importance of ensuring the engagement in college policies and developments of all levels of staff, the team was of the view that there is a danger that in a small number of cases this engagement may have been achieved at the expense of clear lines of accountability," the report warns.

Dianne Willcocks, the vice-chancellor, said: "York St John has recently achieved both taught degree-awarding powers and university title, which demonstrated a very strong endorsement of the quality of both our educational provision and the leadership of the organisation.

"We have subsequently completed organisational restructuring, which was explicitly designed to invest in strong academic leadership at all levels.

The changes have met with the full support of our university community and external stakeholders."

* Academics will face even more paperwork as a result of a new focus by the QAA, a leading voice in the sector has predicted.

Ted Tapper, a fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education, said the QAA's shift from quality "assurance" to quality "enhancement"  would lead to constant monitoring of how academics were improving standards.

This would mean "more paperwork and more meetings and more interaction between colleagues of different departments".



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