Colleges want new HEQC

August 4, 1995

Colleges of higher education want a complete restructuring of the Higher Education Quality Council to speed up the establishment of a revised system of quality assurance.

The Standing Conference of Principals, which opposes some of the proposals on a single system outlined by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in June, believes implementation is urgent and that a new quality assurance agency could be in place by l996/97.

SCOP says: "This could be done by revising the memorandum and articles of association of the HEQC and its board, as well as restructuring its internal organisation."

Principals want the agency to retain its role advising the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Gillian Shephard, on degree-awarding powers and the award of university title.

SCOP and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals have been discussing the controversial issue of university college titles with Mrs Shephard with a view to a solution in autumn.

SCOP, which in principle agrees with the views of the CVCP and the HEQC, says the new agency should be independent of the funding council, cover both audit and assessment, be owned by HE institutions but have external scrutiny.

SCOP is particularly critical of HEFCE's failure to respect academic autonomy in proposing a system which is primarily external with token institutional involvement.

"HEFCE proposals fail to acknowledge the extensive good practice of external peer review. This apparent disregard for the professional integrity and responsibility for quality and standards which has underpinned these arrangements will cause considerable disquiet," SCOP says.

Principals are also concerned that the HEFCE proposals only discuss direct and not ongoing costs. They argue that these would increase and that theirs is the most cost-effective solution. They want a system that avoids rewarding institutions that have reached high quality with higher than average funding.

"We believe the system needs to protect quality and the interest of students and this is better done through the imposition of sanctions for unacceptable standards. These could include the temporary suspension of admissions and withdrawal of funding from particular courses."

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