The chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency has announced that he is to step down.
Anthony McClaran, who has led the QAA since 2009, will leave in October to become the chief executive of Australia’s higher education regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency. He has been appointed to serve a five-year term at Teqsa.
“It has been a privilege to serve the UK higher education during my time at Ucas and QAA, and to work with supremely committed and professional staff,” Mr McClaran said.
“I am now looking forward to making my contribution to supporting the highest quality of teaching, learning and research in Australia’s higher education institutions.”
The announcement comes amid a major review of quality assurance in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sparked by the Higher Education Funding Council for England announcing last year that it would invite external bodies to bid for quality assurance work.
A subsequent consultation has resulted in the proposed abolition of regular institutional reviews by the QAA. Instead, under the plans, established higher education providers would be monitored using data on student outcomes.
Mr McClaran, the former chief executive of admissions service Ucas, said in June that he supported the principle of a risk-based regulatory system but hinted that the end of “widely respected” periodic peer reviews would be a mistake.
Teqsa has had a turbulent time of late with Mr McLaran’s predecessor, Carol Nicoll, who held the titles of chief executive and chief commissioner, opting to retire when legislative reforms split the roles.
The organisation’s funding had previously been cut drastically and The Australian reported that the Teqsa reform bill had originally been designed to remove much of Teqsa’s quality assurance role, until this proposal was watered down.
The QAA said that the process of appointing a new chief executive had already begun and that Douglas Blackstock, currently the organisation’s chief operating officer, would serve as interim chief executive.
Christopher Banks, chair of the QAA board, thanked Mr McClaran for his “valued contribution” and said that Mr Blackstock would lead the organisation as it “works positively” to develop “practical policy solutions” for the planned teaching excellence framework.
“The QAA board will continue to be actively engaged with the leadership team to continue to drive QAA’s future success,” Mr Banks said.
Christopher Pyne, Australia’s minister for education and training, said: “I look forward to working with Mr McClaran to ensure Australia’s higher education providers deliver teaching, learning and research of the highest quality and institutions are not overburdened with red tape.”
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