Divided academy won't boost quality 1

November 26, 2009

How disappointing it was to read Peter Williams' comments in your magazine ("Engage with quality assurance or face state takeover, scholars told", 19 November).

Williams, the former chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency, expresses his regret about the role of administrators in running quality assurance processes. As an administrator responsible for the development and implementation of quality assurance processes in three very different institutions, I've been privileged to work closely and in partnership with academics to enable them to be explicit about those things they take for granted, to translate what they do and how they know it works, in order to inform students and to identify, share and celebrate best practice.

I agree with Williams that we need to find a method of engaging academic colleagues in quality assurance that goes beyond clearing validation hurdles and the annual monitoring paperchase. I acknowledge there are administrators who don't "get it", who handle quality assurance with little more than a tick-box attitude. But simply returning to outmoded notions of the administrator/academic divide is not the way to go.

I expected more of him. I sincerely hope his successor can steer the QAA in a direction that supports the development of all those involved in quality assurance to "get it", to use the QAA's Academic Infrastructure as a vehicle for raising standards and enhancing quality, and to embrace the equal partnership between scholars and quality managers.

Tessa Harrison, Academic registrar, University of the West of England.

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