Audit concerns

January 19, 2007

The startling tabloid headline above the article about the Quality Assurance Agency's institutional audit of York St John University is seriously misleading ("QAA queries leadership at York St John", December 22/29). York St John would not have been granted taught degree-awarding powers and a university title had the QAA queried leadership at the university.

The article omits to mention the assessors' assertion of broad confidence in York St John. It manipulates the wording of the audit report, gets the chronology wrong and misrepresents what was written.

QAA assessors did express reservations about the intention to reduce what had been a 15-person executive meeting once a month to a six-person executive meeting once a week. But one wonders how many universities the QAA has ever audited whose ethos, never mind efficiency and effectiveness, is enhanced by having an executive so large it can meet only once a month.

The assessors also commented on the university's interpretation of "academic leadership". The QAA assessors appeared to be discomforted by a concept of academic leadership that was not firmly tied into designated roles in the academic hierarchy. We doubt the QAA thinks that "academic leadership" is the exclusive preserve of academic managers with titles such as dean and head of school.

D. A. Maughan Brown.
York St John University

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