Course closures at LCC disrupted studies and harmed students’ chances, QAA rules

A university’s process for closing courses was “not fit for purpose” and the restructure of one of its colleges had a “detrimental impact” on students as a result, an investigation has found.

June 17, 2011

The inquiry by the Quality Assurance Agency into restructuring at the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts London, found standards were so badly affected by course closures that some students’ marks were raised to compensate.

It follows three student complaints to the QAA relating to the restructure, including claims that quality had been “severely compromised” and that those studying were not informed of the plans prior to enrolment.

The investigation was the first of its kind to be conducted under the QAA’s revised “whistleblower” process for investigating concerns about academic standards and quality.

In its report, the QAA concludes that while the university had followed its procedures on course closures, “this procedure was not fit for the purpose of assuring the standards and quality of multiple courses being closed and run out simultaneously”.

It adds: “The restructuring of the college had a detrimental impact on the quality of learning opportunities for students on courses being closed. This was manifest primarily in the absence or departure at short notice of teaching staff at risk of redundancy.”

The QAA says in the report that while there is no “ongoing risk” to academic standards, it found that marks for some units at the college were raised to compensate students for a “diminution of learning opportunities in 2009-10”.

It also concludes that there was “some evidence” not all students had been informed of the course closures in good time.

The university has been asked to draw up and implement a new policy on how it handles course closures by the end of this academic year.

The decision to investigate the student complaints followed the closure of 16 courses and 26 full-time equivalent redundancies at the college.

Plans for further redundancies and course closures have been announced under a programme that puts 20 full-time equivalent posts at risk and will cut the work of associate lecturers by a total of 700 hours in 2011-12.

A spokesman for University of the Arts London said the institution was “committed to providing a high quality academic experience for all its students, and deeply regrets the disruption experienced by a small proportion of students as a result of course closures at London College of Communication”.

He added: “We are pleased that the QAA recognises that there is no ongoing risk to the academic standards and quality of the courses being run-out.”

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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