Bolton battles for due credit

October 24, 1997

BOLTON Institute's attempt to gain a university title has become the focus of a wrangle within the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education.

John Randall, the QAA's chief executive, is fighting a decision by the agency's degree-awarding powers committee to recommend approval of Bolton's application. He wants the agency to maintain a tough line on standards by taking full account of the unfavourable teaching quality assessment re-ports on two Bolton courses.

Mr Randall's paper, for consideration by the QAA's board, which met on Wednesday, suggested that Bolton's bottom grade 1 in theatre, film and television studies last year and "unsatisfactory" rating in mechanical engineering in October 1993, were of concern. His insistence that the issue should be considered by the board before the QAA gives its advice to education secretary David Blunkett has upset members of the degree-awarding powers committee who expected their decision would stand.

But Mr Randall told The THES: "The position on all these matters is clear. Any body that delegates powers to another can call in for review any decision and can vary the extent of those delegated powers. The QAA board decided it wanted close involvement with matters such as the award of the university title."

Bolton principal Robert Oxtoby,said he would be "irritated" if the QAA took account of the mechanical engineering assess- ment. That course was rated unsatisfactory before February 1994, which marks the start of the three-year period against which Bolton's application is meant to be judged. But in March 1995 quality inspectors looked at the course again and gave it a satisfactory rating.

Dr Oxtoby said: "My understanding is that there is a guarantee the committee's recommendations will be considered by the secretary of state. The assumption is that the committee and the board will not both be saying the same things." The board is expected to reach a conclusion within a week.

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