Contrary to the report

March 16, 2007

If there is an award for imaginative reporting and perverse interpretation, I should like to nominate The Times Higher for the article "Scotland slams QAA's methods" (March 9).

It refers to a report of the quality enhancement framework in Scotland as "the most comprehensive critique of the QAA from a government body". By "government body" you mean the Scottish Funding Council. In fact, the report is an evaluation conducted by independent consultants, who are incidentally based in England not in Scotland. Certainly they were commissioned by the SFC, but it is their report and not the SFC's.

But rather more serious is the distorted picture of the report that is presented. It is entirely mistaken to portray it as an onslaught on the Quality Assurance Agency and all its works. In fact, a major part of the credit for the success of the academic quality system belongs to the QAA, and not only to its officers based in Scotland. Their colleagues in Gloucester have also made a highly effective and constructive contribution to the development of the new process.

The most trenchant criticism from universities would be reserved not for the previous QAA system, but for its predecessor the Teaching Quality Assessment scheme. The introduction of the QAA was generally regarded as a significant advance - the present system is a further large step forward.

The real story is one of successful partnership. What we have seen in Scotland is what can be achieved when the higher education sector, its funding body, the quality agency and the learners themselves (a particularly important innovation in the current Scottish model) come together.

The outcome is a substantial and healthy change, so that what now drives the academic quality system is a culture of improvement - which is becoming increasingly well embedded - and more meaningful engagement of learners in the process.

David Caldwell
Director
Universities Scotland

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