College comes under QAA fire

May 7, 2004

Quality watchdogs have "limited confidence" in the control of degree standards and course quality at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication.

In an audit report published last week, the Quality Assurance Agency orders the college to put in place a proper quality control system and clear quality management structures "as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the academic quality and standards of the awards... are maintained".

The college is affiliated to Sussex University and awards Sussex degrees under a validation arrangement.

The QAA report highlights the fact that student numbers have increased almost 40 per cent in the second half of the 1990s. At the same time, academic staff numbers have decreased from 72 full-time equivalents to 45, with the institution relying more heavily on casual staff.

"Over the same period three sets of new managerial and administrative structures have been implemented," the QAA says.

"The college maintained that it chose to restructure... in response to changes in the industry and growth of student numbers. The audit team was informed that (the restructures) resulted from staff changes and was not presented with evidence that alternative strategies had been considered."

The QAA says that the college has not properly engaged with the "national higher education agenda on quality and standards" and is only beginning to engage with the agency's code of practice.

It added that the lines of responsibility were confused.

"In discussions with a range of staff, the audit team heard different views as to where responsibility for quality and standards lay," the report says.

The college was "unable" to provide the QAA team with key documents.

Problems were "exacerbated" by a number of relevant documents that were supplied for the team's scrutiny without indication of source, date or purpose.

The QAA concludes: "Limited confidence can be placed in the soundness of the institution's present and likely future management of its programmes and the academic standards of the awards which it makes on behalf of the University [of Sussex]."

In its response to the report, published as an appendix, the college says:

"Ravensbourne graduates have an excellent reputation in the creative industries.

"The college is therefore disappointed that the judgement was only limited confidence... Nevertheless, the college is committed to addressing the recommendations in the report."

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