Leader: A brave Scottish start

July 8, 2005

Scotland has often led the UK - and much of the world - in higher education. It may have another winner in its much-vaunted quality enhancement system. A relatively light-touch regime seems to produce the right combination of rigour and manageability, while the prominent role given to student views should provide extra credibility with applicants. England has been searching for a model since universal subject reviews were abandoned, and many academics still find the current audit regime onerous. As a means of ensuring quality, the Scottish system may be the answer, and this summer's roll-out of the national student satisfaction survey should allow further progress to be made south of the border.

However, even the Scottish system does not provide the detailed, informed judgements that many applicants want when choosing a course. England's teaching quality assessment may have been a discredited, bureaucratic system subject to rampant grade inflation, but no comparable source of information has been available to outsiders before or since. Even with the addition of the student satisfaction survey, the haphazard data posted on the Teaching Quality Information website will leave many prospective students little the wiser about the comparative merits of different courses. Scotland's model offers more reassurance than comparison.

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