Leader: Teaching quality finale not the end of the story

August 2, 2002

The publication of the last set of full teaching quality reports will be a cause for celebration for many in universities, if not for those choosing courses, who will have to make do with rather less detailed judgements in future. Already the much-trumpeted involvement of students in the new audit procedure is meeting resistance, while it has yet to be decided how the planned summaries of external examiners' reports will be produced. Even the new range of statistics promised to applicants is likely to be limited at subject level.

Overviews of the last 11 subjects to be assessed show that while grades were high, issues remained to be addressed in many universities. The Quality Assurance Agency talks of inconsistencies in marking and moderation, for example, on a surprising scale. Under the new light-touch regime, the role of external examiners will be particularly important. The QAA's audit of Luton University raises questions about the effectiveness of the system when there are differences of view over standards. Academics are anxious to avoid further bureaucracy, but better guidelines are needed. Burdensome subject reviews may be consigned to history, but quality issues will be even more pressing if tuition fees are raised. Wolverhampton University's payment of £30,000 to an aggrieved law student is a cautionary tale if ever there was one.

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