THE current round of teaching quality assessments may be ditched before they are complete, despite the tens of millions of pounds already spent on the exercise.
Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, has been lobbying higher education minister Tessa Blackstone for an early end to the unpopular assessments.
The news follows recommendations from Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry that the current round of assessments up to the year 2000 should be completed, but in the long term the exercise should be abandoned.
But the CVCP argues that although almost 80 per cent of the exercises are complete at a cost of millions, an early end to the programme would save a further Pounds 10 million from the public purse. This would then enable resources to be directed at developing Dearing's alternative quality regime.
"It is fair to say that a fair number of people at this end do not have a high regard for the TQA," said David Young, policy adviser at the CVCP.
"The sooner we can work on new methods, the better."
The ball is already rolling for the programme of TQAs for 1998-2000, with more than 750 assessors appointed by the Higher Education Funding Council. Thirteen subjects are due to be assessed.
Peter Milton, who addressed a conference on the role of the new Quality and Assurance Agency this week and joins the QAA as director of programmes review when it begins work in October, said there was now a debate about the future of the TQA. But he added that he was working on the assumption that the 1998-2000 programme would run as planned. "It is up to the ministers to pull the plug," he said.
John Randall, chief executive of the QAA, said that a clear decision had to be made quickly, "one way or the other".