Narrow oversight

May 17, 2012

In its consultation on the development of a "risk-based" approach to quality assurance, the Higher Education Funding Council for England asserts that the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 "requires" it "to make provision for the assessment of the quality of provision which we fund". This is not what the relevant part (section 70) actually says.

What it says is that Hefce and the other funding councils are legally obliged to "secure that provision is made for assessing the quality of education (my emphasis) provided in institutions for whose activities they provide, or are considering providing, financial support".

Under the Act, Hefce must assess the quality of education in any institution to which it gives financial support. But in the consultation paper, this legal obligation has apparently been narrowed to the assessment only of taxpayer-funded "provision". Can we assume, therefore, that Hefce now agrees that where it does not actually fund "provision", it is not obliged to assess its quality, even though the "provision" may be offered within the portals of a Hefce-funded establishment?

Geoffrey Alderman, University of Buckingham.

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