AN UPROAR from top research universities over quality proposals has forced a climbdown by the Quality Assurance Agency and caused a new division within the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.
The QAA is preparing to overhaul its proposals for an army of registered external examiners to check new "threshold" standards, following criticism from Russell and '94 group university heads.
The proposals, out for consultation, have been revamped in a confidential document that concedes to objections raised in a submission from 30 Russell and '94 group representatives. John Randall, QAA chief executive, would not discuss the details but said the agency had taken on board points raised in a series of meetings.
Sir Stewart Sutherland, vice-chancellor of Edinburgh University, who led the attack on the proposals, said: "We are delighted to hear that the QAA is now in clear listening mode."
The move has wrongfooted the CVCP, which issued a position statement this week supporting the original proposals. Colin Bell, senior vice-principal of Edinburgh University and chairman of the group that produced the Russell and '94 group submission, said he believed the CVCP had been too ready to welcome the plans.
The QAA came under fire this week from David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, who told the AUT's summer council meeting in Worthing there was "mounting concern" that the QAA would seek a national curriculum.
"The QAA is to be run by people whose experience of teaching is either non-existent or should be exhibited on the Antiques Road Show," he said.