Derby bites back at QAA report

August 18, 2000

Derby University's vice-chancellor, Roger Waterhouse, has hit back at quality watchdogs who have criticised the university's management of a franchise operation in Israel.

The vice-chancellor's defence came amid calls for his resignation by lecturers' union Natfhe. It follows the university's decision to sack Mark Challinor, who first raised the alarm about the Israel franchise.

Professor Waterhouse claimed this week that Quality Assurance Agency auditors underestimated the robustness of Derby's partnership with Inter College in Tel Aviv, and were therefore mistaken in their conclusion that the link was set up "with insufficient care".

He told The THES that the QAA team, whose report was published last Friday, had failed to take into account Derby's long-standing relationship with Inter College.

The strength of the relationship meant that Derby could trust its partner to help safeguard quality as student numbers rose dramatically on the management studies franchise programme in 1997 and 1998.

Professor Waterhouse dismissed the auditors' "discovery" that Derby's own entry requirements for the franchise programme had been "partly disregarded" or "substituted, without proper approval or authority".

While the report says that the audit team believed this issue should have been included in the topics for inquiry agreed between the QAA and the university, Professor Waterhouse said: "That is not what they came to investigate, and it is therefore an incidental judgement."

He also refuted claims from lecturers' union Natfhe that the QAA inquiry was too narrow, being focused on four specific allegations picked from 13 put forward by the union. The report concludes that two of the allegations were unfounded, and the other two were only partly founded.

"We invited the QAA in to do an audit because we felt we had nothing to hide... I think we were completely vindicated by the results," he said.

Tom Wilson, Natfhe's higher education spokesman, said the sacking of Mr Challinor for gross misconduct after buying Derby University web domain names would be seen as victimisation and was "disastrous" for a joint attempt to improve industrial relations at the university. Natfhe's Derby branch leader, Gary Towler, said the announcement amounted to a "declaration of war" by the vice-chancellor.

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