Gloucestershire partnership a failure, says QAA

January 10, 2013

The “systemic failure” of a university’s partnership with a private college meant that 40 master’s students did not take their course, the sector’s quality watchdog has found.

The Quality Assurance Agency has published a “concerns” report into the partnership between the University of Gloucestershire and London-based Williams College. The investigation focused mainly on a university-franchised MBA, one of 13 franchise programmes included in the partnership.

Gloucestershire’s franchise model meant the partner was responsible for “teaching, setting and marking assessed work, subject only to university approval and moderation - normally by sample - undertaken by the university and its external examiners”, the QAA says.

But the college “frequently ignored university protocols and procedures”, while Gloucestershire “failed to undertake formal monitoring on a consistent basis”.

The QAA report says: “Together, this constitutes a systemic failure of the Williams College partnership.”

The report refers to a cohort of MBA students due to start in June 2011 who became “the unwitting victims of a prolonged inter-institutional dispute” between Gloucestershire and Williams College.

In August 2011 the university refused admission to the cohort even though they had already begun studying. It then took eight months of “intermittent discussion” before an agreement permitted them to formally begin the course “provided that they fulfilled entry requirements and retook all their MBA work”.

Only two students of the original cohort of 42 accepted the offer, the report says.

Gloucestershire said it has “implemented a new team structure and leadership to ensure that the expected standards are consistently achieved in all our collaborative partnerships”.

The university has also given Williams College notice of its intention to terminate its contract with the for-profit institution.

It is not the first of Gloucestershire’s private validation partnerships to have presented problems. The university agreed an out-of-court settlement with Guildhall College in December after legal action followed the termination of its contract with the institution in March 2012.

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