Auditors rap quality of overseas links

December 19, 1997

Quality watchdogs have published a catalogue of concerns over Wolverhampton University's links with two institutions overseas.

Auditors found a "notable gap" between quality assurance rules set in Wolverhampton and the reality of what was happening in the partner colleges in Germany and the Netherlands.

A report on the auditors' visits this summer to the Fachhochschule Nordostniedersachsen Luneburg in Germany and the Hogeschool van Utrecht in the Netherlands lists numerous areas where practice fell short of systems set up by Wolverhampton to win the international quality kite mark ISO 9001.

At the Hogeschool, they found students were unaware of any follow-up to their feedback on an MSc engineering product design programme which "clearly required attention"; there was no evidence that "substantial matters of concern" about quality raised in an action plan had been considered by a formal committee and there was "little formal checking" by Wolverhampton of promotional material produced by its Netherlands partner.

At the Fachhochschule, they could find no evidence of a course committee having met, as defined in the validation of the MSc in advanced software technology programme; there had been "considerable movement away from the intentions of the original course management model"; formal monitoring arrangements were not operating as intended and marketing of the programme had been left "entirely to the discretion of the German partner".

The report, published by the Quality Assurance Agency, is particularly critical of the loose arrangements for monitoring advertising and marketing. In the case of the Fachhochschule, it says "it seemed entirely possible to the team that the responsible staff of the university had not seen a copy of the notice promoting its programme all over Germany", while at the Hogeschool staff had "considerable freedom to promote the programme without any reference to the university".

The report concludes that "it was a matter of some concern" that these "substantial issues were not made known through the university's quality assurance processes".

It suggests that in future when considering collaborative arrangements with overseas partners the university should consider carefully "whether it is appropriate formally to sign such an important agreement before the capacity of the partner institution to deliver a programme to the required level and standard has been confirmed".

Wolverhampton vice chancellor Michael Harrison said the two programmes were validated before the introduction of current quality management systems.

"Matters raised in the report are now subject to our present controls and we are seeking to ensure that all points raised by the report will be fully met," he said.

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