Fight QAA's vacuity

October 30, 2008

Thomas Docherty's letter (23 October) is a welcome sign of resistance to the hideous juggernaut of Quality Assurance Agency vacuity now lumbering through British higher education.

I had always supposed that it was pushed by acolytes outside the academy. Remote from teaching, they didn't much mind - or even notice - the damage their monstrously intrusive regulatory framework was doing to core educational values.

The thought that colleagues may actually have internalised the poisonous assumptions behind quality-compliance newspeak is frankly terrifying. It's bad enough dealing with those colleagues prepared to go through the motions - who tick the boxes, jump through the hoops, lace documents with sanctioned phrases fit for fatuous purpose, lay down reams of paper trails and generally bow down in mock obeisance before things they in fact revile. It's quite something else if some of them have come to love Big Brother.

Docherty is certainly not alone in his contempt for the regulatory mindset that wants to monitor and control, that views independent intelligence with such suspicion, is not prepared to trust the professional judgment of highly trained and experienced individuals, and that sees learning and assessment as a bizarre closed circle with every step mapped and determined in advance.

I just hope that those of us who express dissent will not find ourselves summoned to Room 101. In an era when universities unblushingly appoint "compliance officers", it should come as no surprise that the quality ideology does not seek legitimation via reason. It cleaves more to the shout than the debate; in the end its establishment relies on threat. As such, opposition should not expect a civil reception.

Chris Arthur, Senior lecturer in religious studies, University of Wales, Lampeter.

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