MPs bark up the wrong tree

March 19, 2009

Your report on the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee evidence session failed to highlight the real dangers of the proposals being advanced by a small number of pundits ("MPs call for 'toothless' watchdog to be put down", 12 March).

These people propose a draconian inspection regime that would treat universities as if they were schools. A national curriculum and examinations, the logical outcomes of these ill-thought-out ideas, would put an end to innovation, creativity and competitiveness.

Institutions do receive large amounts of public money, and they recognise that they must be accountable. All have in place internal quality assurance processes and are subject to external review by the Quality Assurance Agency. Where the QAA finds problems, it reports publicly and gives institutions a time frame within which these must be rectified.

The QAA also analyses reports and other material relating to standards and will soon publish its findings of an investigation into concerns reported by the media. These findings will be based on evidence, not anecdote.

I believe that institutional autonomy and independent external review are at the heart of higher education's success in this country.

Peter Williams, Chief executive, Quality Assurance Agency.

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