Letter: Take my advice

January 18, 2002

Sir Michael Bichard's views on higher education appear to coincide with those of his former political masters ("Universities resisting efforts to hold them accountable, Bichard says", THES , January 11). As a senior civil servant, he might have advised ministers of the following facts:

  • UK universities and colleges have internal quality systems that are as extensive and elaborate as any in the world
  • These systems have been tested through a unique two-level regime. Very few serious quality problems were found
  • There is general agreement that this system should be streamlined and replaced by one equally robust that offers better value for money
  • Since 1997, a new quality infrastructure has been introduced. This includes a national qualifications framework, benchmarks for 42 subject areas and programme specifications for each course
  • Information from all these processes will be scrutinised and published.

Sir Michael's former department recently sponsored a centre to develop evidence-informed policies and practices in education. Is it too much to suggest that this might be a future first port of call for ministerial advisers?

Roger Brown
Principal, Southampton Institute

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