Cash fears prevent joint work

March 14, 1997

CVCP COUNCIL MEETING. UNIVERSITIES want to collaborate more but fear the costs, according to a study being presented to the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals at its council meeting today and to Sir Ron Dearing's committee of inquiry later this month.

The study, by Roger Fieldhouse, former director of the continuing and adult education department at Exeter University, is compiled from the responses of more than 60 institutions. It shows they view collaboration as "labour-intensive, time-consuming, inadequately funded and lacking in financial incentives".

They blame the competitiveness fostered by the present funding method for preventing joint work.

Most favour some kind of external intervention to improve collaboration, including earmarked funding, pump-priming and strategic central planning.

This view supports a new initiative by the Higher Education Funding Council for England this year to concentrate money for developing research on collaborative projects.

While many would like to see partnerships in teaching, they believe research and library provision are more promising areas.

*More cash is needed to safeguard academic standards, universities have told an inquiry set up to investigate higher education quality.

But in response to a draft report from the Higher Education Quality Council on graduate standards, institutions say they are worried about the potential cost. Presented at the CVCP council meeting, the response says that while they support recent HEQC guidelines on external examining, many fear these could be expensive.

Most want a review of the classified honours system, although only five out of the 56 respondents hope to see it abolished.

While they agree that threshold standards, setting minimum performance criteria for attaining a degree, should be set within universitites and colleges, most disagree with the idea that these standards should apply nationally.

However, they support a national awards framework to explain the relationship between awards at different levels, a proposal approved by the Government in a submission to Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry.

*Meetings of the CVCP are to be reviewed because they have become too unwieldy. Members of the committee, which is now made up of the heads of 105 institutions, are showing increasing reluctance to devote four days a year to the meetings. Attendance in the last four main committee meetings has dropped to 75 per cent or less.

The plan is to do more business at council meetings, attended by 20 members and chaired by CVCP chairman Gareth Roberts. A report before today's council asks members to consider carrying out a survey to find out the committee's response to the idea. It states: "It would be especially important to avoid giving the impression that decision-making was moving further away from the main committee towards the council."

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