Stop digging

April 21, 2016

It seems that the Higher Education Funding Council for England is now making higher education policy by blog. On 13 April, a policy adviser to the funding council put out her thoughts on Hefce’s bid to include “work” on degree standards “as part of the development” of the “revised operating model for quality assessment”. The next day its director of regulation and assurance, sensitive to “comment”, blogged an attempt “to clarify the basis on which Hefce has initiated this activity”. As an attempt at damage limitation, it is pretty breathtaking.

Susan Lapworth admits that it is true that the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 that created Hefce makes no mention of any responsibility for standards. But, she blogs, “the world has moved on since 1992, and we have updated our understanding of the statutory basis for our responsibilities accordingly”, and anyway “it’s not particularly helpful to trade legal interpretations”.

It makes you wonder who – if anyone – at Hefce allowed this hostage-to-fortune “policy statement” to go out in its name. For a director’s blog must now in reality commit the funding council as surely as a circular letter.

When you are in a hole, stop digging. There are plenty of people in the world of higher education ready with their spades to fill that hole in and bury Hefce’s recent “updatings” once and for all.

G. R. Evans

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