Letter: Inflation deflates 'robust' QAA (1)

March 9, 2001

Your story on the inflation of teaching quality assessment grades is cogent and welcome, but the conclusion is not surprising ("TQA devalued by grade rises", THES, March 9).

The trend is best explained by those subject to the appraisal being able to influence their own scores by diverting time and effort to documentation, rather than working harder at teaching (moral hazard to economists), and are also able to use information to influence the scores (adverse selection to economists) by paying for consultants' advice.

This whole process was predictable. Neither moral hazard nor adverse selection are exactly new theoretical ideas.

John Randall of the Quality Assurance Agency may well be right that teaching standards are rising, but the grade scores are not robust evidence for that view.

Critics of the QAA are often held to be against accountability. Such a debating device imputes to them what they did not say and then criticises that. The fact that it is attractive to hold lecturing staff accountable for their work does not mean the present system of assessment is worth the candle.

The onus is on the QAA to design a robust system. If it is unable to do so, then it should be held accountable.

John Oliver
London

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