A third of college self-assessments 'too generous'

November 6, 1998

The quality of management and governance is "unacceptable" in one in 12 colleges, the sector's chief inspector has warned.

Publishing his annual inspection report for 1997/98 this week, Further Education Funding Council chief inspector Jim Donaldson warned that colleges were being over-generous in new self-assessments, especially in their scrutiny of governance and management. One in three colleges were down-playing weaknesses in governance, a quarter of colleges had overestimated the quality of their management and a third of the sector had over-estimated the strength of their quality assurance systems.

"Clearly, governors and senior managers, who have a central role in setting standards for other college staff, need to engage in more critical self-analysis," said the report.

College self-assessment, introduced in 1997 alongside a lighter touch from the external inspectors, had been generally successful, but as colleges too often awarded themselves higher grades than they deserved, external scrutiny would have to remain tough, he said.

Failure to meet standards of "probity and accountability" were rare, but the extra recognition of the sector brought by the government's lifelong learning initiatives meant that accountability was ever more important.

The report, based on inspections of 108 colleges and 8,000 lessons involving more than 91,000 students, warned that colleges were not paying enough attention to student performance and attendance.

Overall, however, the proportion of "outstanding" lessons observed by inspectors had risen to 65 per cent. Mr Donaldson noted that part-time staff, on average, delivered poorer quality teaching compared with full-time teachers, but insisted that "part-time teachers bring many benefits to colleges".

The Times HigherJNOVEMBER 6J1998NEWS 5 Delivery man: highly paid David Gibson says he does not need champagne and a Jaguar geoff franklin

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