A plea for sense and sensitivity

April 4, 1997

The next government must resolve several tricky quality and standards issues

IN ITS SUBMISSION to the Dearing Inquiry, Lifelong Learning, Labour endorsed the creation of the single quality agency "as the basis on which to build".

It went on "Labour believes that a new Higher Education Quality Agency - independent and answerable to Parliament - would be the most effective means of assuring quality across the whole education sector".

It said the agency should * uphold and improve standards

* maintain balance between public accountability and institutional independence and self-regulation

* ensure transparency of criteria and procedures and availability of information to students, staff and other interested bodies

* recognise the full range of student concerns - access, flexibility and choice; teaching performance; learning achievements and wider support systems.

Its responsibilities should include:

* institutional quality assurance mechanisms

* external examiners

* the development of a national credit framework

* equality enhancement and the dissemination of best practice

* staff appraisal and career development

* university status.

Labour envisages the agency advising funding bodies for the purpose of informing funding decisions, but warns: "Sensitivity and caution need to be exercised." In 1992, Labour advocated an independent higher education standards council incorporating the CNAA, the CVCP quality unit and Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

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