Quality watchdogs have demanded a fundamental review of Bradford University's procedures for ensuring quality before there can be full confidence in the university's academic standards, writes Phil Baty.
In the most damning of the light-touch institutional audits so far published, the Quality Assurance Agency concludes that although it currently has "broad confidence" in the university's management of quality and standards, "the continuing validity of the statements of confidence is dependent on a fundamental review of the university's quality strategy and arrangements for quality assurance".
The QAA audit, published this week, raises particularconcerns about Bradford's handling of its partnership arrangements with Bradford College, with which the university had hoped to merge before the plans collapsed last year.
The auditors say that the relationship, under which the college provides the university's qualifications, is too informal and lacks an effective contrac-tual agreement or proper procedures.
"Confidence in the capacity of the university to manage the quality and standards of the awards in collaborative provision is limited," the audit report concludes.
The audit team has taken the unprecedented step of describing one recommendation for action, a full review of its arrangements for controlling collaborative provision, as "essential" - the most serious category of demand in a sliding scale.
The university is also "advised without delay" to establish clear criteria for marking and grading assessments to ensure consistency across the university.
In an official response to the audit, published as an appendix, the university says it has established a "continuing collaboration strategy group" to address the issues raised about the college partnership. It also says that its academic policy committee has made recom-mendations to address the problem of inconsistent marking criteria.
* Inspectors have condemned Reading College and School of Arts and Design as "inadequate" ahead of its proposed merger with Thames Valley University.
A report from the Office for Standards in Education and the Adult Learning Inspectorate, concludes that the college has unsatisfactory leadership, does not provide value for money, has below average retention and pass rates and that the quality of curriculum provision is unsatisfactory in several key subject areas.