Halt the expansion of quality bureaucracy

November 20, 2008

Oh dear, it never ends. You report that Roger Brown is calling for the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to be given a role in reviewing universities' degree-awarding powers, and for its remit to be widened to cover various other academic decisions ("Former quality chief calls for regular reviews of degree-awarding powers", 13 November).

In other words, let's have yet more bureaucratic empire-building and interference masquerading as a mechanism for ensuring academic standards.

This is the same hackneyed new Labour and QAA mindset that believes you can maintain or enhance academic quality and standards by promoting yet more external administrative meddling in, and micro-management of, academic affairs, and by allowing "suits", rather than experienced professional academics themselves, to determine what constitutes a good degree.

The QAA is now being criticised at all levels across higher education, by academics and vice-chancellors alike, for its crass box-ticking approach to measuring academic standards and conducting audits, along with its ludicrous overreliance on corporate jargon and management-speak, and yet here we have a call for its remit to be widened further still.

Would any private-sector company be able to function if it were subject to the constant external auditing and bureaucratic meddling that universities are now subject to in the name of "accountability"?

I entered academia to teach and do research; not fill in forms and tick boxes for the bureaucrats of the self-serving quality assurance industry.

Pete Dorey, Cardiff University.

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