From reading G. R. Evans’ piece on outsourcing the duties of the Quality Assurance Agency, it seems that others are beginning to notice that the changes being made to our assurance systems contain precious little in the way of reasoning (“Will many hands make light work of regulation?”, Opinion, 11 June).
I run a private further education college that prepares foreign students for university. We have been accredited by the British Accreditation Council since we started. It costs us a modest fee each year, and fees for periodic inspections. For reasons never explained, the Home Office decided that an organisation called the Independent Schools Inspectorate – an agency so small that I had to look it up – would be the only body other than the QAA that the Home Office would recognise for the accreditation of our type of establishment.
The experience was abysmal. Apart from being five times more expensive than the QAA, the ISI had insufficient staff and therefore had to employ “associates”. The inspection teams had demonstrably little experience in how our type of college operates, and it disintegrated into a box-ticking exercise that resulted in our failing to meet certain standards. We are still accredited by the BAC and have just completed a two-day inspection, achieving standard in all areas with no actions.
So where is the standardisation needed within this vitally important process? It may be worth mentioning that the QAA and the BAC are the only two bodies in UK to be members of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. The Home Office, and any other governmental institutions that make decisions that have far-reaching repercussions, should have to make the reasons for those decisions abundantly clear, with provision for those affected to ask questions.