In the quality assurance debate I am always surprised to see little or no reference to the work of professional bodies in course validation.
The Royal Institute of British Architects has been working harmoniously with academic institutions for nearly a century in this. Generally, outside agencies, such as the Council for National Academic Awards and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which have also become involved in this process from time to time have not differed from the RIBA in their judgements. We identified for HEFCE many of the most experienced members for its own boards which undertook the recent survey of architecture courses. Its outcome was highly complimentary about courses in architecture.
Provided that professional recognition systems are in good order I cannot see the need for any other direct inspection of courses that are covered by such systems, given that there will nowadays also be a rigorous internal validation system within the parent academic institution. It seems to me, therefore, that a process of audit is as much as should be required.
This approach should be enough for course and teaching assessment bearing in mind that the universities are also subject to assessment in the finance and research areas. Moreover, if National Vocational Qualifications are to be introduced into higher education then the universities will become subject to inspection by yet another state quango.
I believe that by a partnership between professional bodies, academic institutions and the CVCP we could achieve a more economic and effective system than any based on quangos and preserve the virtues of a professional validation process that is winning increasing international acceptance.
Peter Gibbs-Kennet Director, Education and Practice Standards, RIBA