AoC head accuses QAA's Randall of elitimism and bias against college provision

March 31, 2000

AoC head accuses QAA's Randall of elitism and bias against college provision A college leader has attacked higher education quality chief John Randall for playing politics to protect elitist higher education, writes Phil Baty.

David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, claimed this week that Mr Randall's persistent criticisms of colleges' ability to deliver high-quality higher education programmes were "absolutely unfounded", based on "minuscule evidence" and part of a "personal political agenda".

In his annual report earlier this month, Mr Randall said that of the small number of quality failings among higher education providers, a disproportionate number are found "in higher education programmes delivered through further education colleges".

The comments echo those in last year's annual report, in which he warned that six out of seven cases of failing provision were in colleges.

Mr Randall's comments are backed by statistics. In the 1996-98 round of subject review assessments, colleges accounted for 62.5 per cent and new universities 37.5 per cent of failures.There were virtually no failures in old universities.

"I think Mr Randall is guilty of social elitism," said Mr Gibson. "If you compared these statistics with the social inclusion figures, the picture would be reversed," said Mr Gibson.

There is concern that the system disadvantages colleges. The QAA reviewers look at learning resources, which are invariably worse in colleges, and it is claimed that as they usually come from the university sector, they also harbour preconceptions about how things should be done.

The AoC is also angry that the comments are based on such a small sample. Before the current review round, the QAA had visited only 54 colleges compared with several hundred universities - about 5 per cent of subject review activity.

Mr Randall was un-available for comment.

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