Open college gates

April 4, 2003

I hope for the sake of students that the Quality Assurance Agency doesn't apply too light a touch at Cambridge ("Light-touch quality regime faces first tough trial at Cambridge", THES, March 21).

Quality assurance in Cambridge stops at the college gates.

While lecturers in the faculty are appraised, there is no similar appraisal of college-based supervisors. If you are unlucky enough to have a supervisor who sets essays bearing no relation to the topics discussed in lectures or the exam, complaining can be futile. Colleges are reluctant to sort out one of their own, and the faculty has no control over college teaching. I hope the QAA will be brave enough to look beyond the college gates and appraise college quality-assurance mechanisms.

Perhaps the QAA could also have a wee talk with Cambridge about its academic appeals and resits procedures, which are largely non-existent. A student taken seriously ill on the morning of his or her first final exam and unable to sit the rest would get only a certificate to say he or she was "Deemed to have deserved honours". No real degree, no opportunity to resit, even on medical grounds.

Olivia Drennan

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