Quality chiefs' fears that further education colleges are failing to provide adequate higher education courses have been exacerbated by a damning new teaching quality assessment, writes Phil Baty.
Major shortcomings at Wigan and Leigh College have been identified by the Quality Assurance Agency in one of its worst-ever assessment reports. The art and design Higher National Diploma at the college has failed its subject review with the bottom inspection grade for quality management and enhancement, and poor grades for three out of fiveother areas.
QAA reviewers said that lessonsdid not pose an appropriate "degree of challenge" for higher education and were blighted by "a great deal of disruption" and an "unprofessional atmosphere". More than 20 per cent of all lessons observed were judged to be "unsatisfactory".
The report, the first failure in this TQA round, comes after the QAA warned about the weak performance of colleges in the previous round.Colleges perform persistently worse on average thanuniversities and make up more than 60 per cent of the worst performers. The criticisms will fuel concern over attempts to widen access to HE through FE.
Inspectors found students on the Wigan course did not develop sufficient vocational skills to practise immediately as designers and teachers lackedrelevant experience.
Wigan and Leigh has 3,250 higher education students - 13 per cent of its total - but applications to HND courses slumped by 43 per cent this year, according to UCAS figures.