Quality assured

April 21, 2016

The tone of Susan Lapworth’s article about how the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s plans for quality assessment have been misunderstood is so patronising that it almost beggars belief (“Our plans for quality assessment have been misunderstood”, 12 April).

I want to ask Lapworth: what does she think those of us with responsibility for quality do with our time? Frankly, anyone with responsibility for quality who isn’t undertaking the activities described isn’t doing the job.

Having done those activities professionally for six years, preparation for higher education review is pretty straightforward. The process could have been less burdensome, no doubt, although as Gordon McKenzie has pointed out, it would have been easy enough to ask the Quality Assurance Agency to create a less burdensome process (which it proposed previously but which Hefce opposed). Certainly I don’t recognise the “substantial time and cost saving” described.

The main difference seems to be that instead of having our processes reviewed once every six years by a group of trained professionals, we have them reviewed once every five years by people with limited understanding of quality in higher education. As it happens, my institution works hard to assure its board about the management of quality and standards, but it’s not easy with a group of highly intelligent and engaged governors who have no background in this area. Giving them greater responsibility is not going to make this task easier. We won’t reduce the amount of academic staff time currently devoted to quality management activities, because we only ask them to do what’s necessary. We have never asked colleagues to do anything “because the QAA wants it”; if the University of Westford has, maybe it should have reviewed its quality processes some years ago.

The quality management duties of academic staff all relate to robust standards, and the enhancement of the quality of the student experience. Nothing else. But even so, it’s fantastic that we’re going to be given an “opportunity to fully exercise institutional autonomy”. The financial sector enjoyed that opportunity too; just ask Lehman Brothers. How that is in the interest of students or the public…well, you tell me.

jon_293424
Via timeshighereducation.com


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Reader in Politics and Policy

St Marys University, Twickenham

Engineer

Cern

Professor of Anthropology

Maynooth University

Preceptor in Statistics

Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Electrochemistry

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework