Whitehall accused of quality hijack

April 12, 1996

The Government is preparing to take control of academic quality and standards through the new single quality agency, it was claimed this week, writes Tony Tysome.

The proposed constitution of the agency will give ministers and civil servants the whip hand and could pave the way for the reinvention of the Council for National Academic Awards, according to Geoffrey Alderman, head of Middlesex University's academic development and quality assurance unit.

Professor Alderman, a member of the Higher Education Quality Council's graduate standards committee steering group, has called for institutions to object strongly.

His outcry follows Gareth Roberts, chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and a member of the joint planning group for the agency, telling an IBM and Goldsmiths College conference on quality and standards last month, that university and college representatives will not dominate the membership of the new quality body's board.

It will be made up of a chairman, a chief executive, four representatives from the CVCP and the Standing Conference of Principals, four from the higher education funding councils, and five "independents" representing other interested parties such as employers, students and professional bodies.

Professor Alderman said the plans would allow ministers to impose national standards and wrest quality control out of the hands of institutions.

A HEFCE spokesman said comments would be invited on the proposals. "The funding council nominees on the board will not be representatives of the Government nor is it envisaged that they will be employees of the funding council."

A spokesman for the CVCP suggested that compromise was inevitable.

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