Inspections: three (or four) into one does go

April 4, 2013

Universities should be inspected by the Quality Assurance Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and immigration agencies concurrently to reduce administrative burdens, it has been suggested.

Jeremy Oppenheim, who was director for external engagement at the now- disbanded UK Border Agency, said that if the sector wanted, it could arrange for research councils to visit at the same time as well.

Speaking on 26 March at the annual conference of the Association of University Administrators in Edinburgh, he told delegates: “You can spend your lives treating people to visits around your universities rather than doing the jobs that you really want to do.”

He stressed that this was a personal view and he wanted to know what universities thought.

There has been debate in the sector over the weight of compliance to which universities are subjected. A 2010 survey, commissioned by the Higher Education Better Regulation Group, identified 544 types of data that institutions could be asked to provide to outside organisations.

However, during a question-and-answer session, Matthew Andrews, chair of the AUA, told Mr Oppenheim: “Some of the most stressful things you can do in life are get divorced, change job and have a bereavement of a close family member, but you wouldn’t necessarily want them all on the same day to get them over with.”

Mr Oppenheim’s speech finished less than an hour before Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the UKBA would be scrapped, with its functions split into two - a visa body and law enforcement agency - and brought back under the direct control of her department.

He declined to comment on the move as it had not yet been formally announced in Parliament.

However, earlier in his speech Mr Oppenheim commented on the rapid turnover of staff at the UKBA during his decade-long tenure.

“Over 10 years the whole of the senior leadership [at the UKBA] has completely disappeared…it worries me when there’s that sort of churn,” he said.

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