Derby's doldrums

March 17, 2000

'This constitutes a major breach of our quality assurance arrangements, which cannot have been undertaken accidentally, or without a degree of complicity'

Derby University's scandal-hit operations in Israel were set up behind the back of the university's quality chief. When quality assurance dean Allan Lloyd eventually found out about the franchise deal, he voiced "extreme concern" to the vice-chancellor.

In October 1997, more than three months after the programmes began, Mr Lloyd wrote to vice-chancellor Roger Waterhouse explaining that he had only just learned about the deal with Inter College in Israel. He warned that it had been set up outside any of Derby's formal quality control and strategic planning systems.

"My advice to you in this extremely serious position is that the ... university as a whole is in danger of losing academic control over what is taught in Israel," he said. It is unclear what action the vice-chancellor took to address Mr Lloyd's concerns, but the programmes continued, and led to serious problems. In reports since last July The THES has revealed:

Students without the agreed minimum entry requirements were systematically admitted to the degree courses in Israel to meet financial targets

Students with few or no qualifications were accepted on courses that would award a Derby degree after just one year of study

At least one student with no qualifications was given a Derby degree in just one year

The university was misled by its Israeli franchise partner, Inter College, which enrolled students to unapproved courses without informing Derby

Repeated complaints about the programmes by the Derby Business School (DBS) staff who were supposed to be running them were overruled by senior managers, who continued to admit students without the minimum entry qualification.

But newly revealed documents show strong opposition to the programmes from the outset from the highest levels of management. Mr Lloyd's concern was shared by then DBS dean Michael Wilkinson, and both the DBS quality manager and project manager.

Mr Lloyd wrote to Professor Waterhouse: "I learned on 20 October 1997 that the three-year BA (hons) management studies has been taught in Israel as a university programme since last June. A conversation I had with (business school dean) Michael Wilkinson confirmed that this is the case, and that knowledge of this delivery existed in the school since July at least.

"If all of this proves to be true," he said, "I would note the following:

The programme began without planning approval and without agreement within the strategic plan

The programme began without any form of approval within our quality assurance procedures, either at school or university level

I do not believe anyone in the university knows how many students are involved (but it could be several hundred), by what process they were recruited, who is teaching them, and on what sites."

He said that as programmes were already running, an approval panel event held on 14 October 1997 must have been "held under false pretences".

"This constitutes a major breach of our quality assurance arrangements, which cannot have been undertaken accidentally, or without a degree of complicity...

"I am underlining therefore my extreme concern at the situation which has emerged," he said.

This week the university said it would be improper to comment on details as some of the issues were due to be raised in a forthcoming tribunal case against the university. A spokesman said: "The university takes quality standards very seriously. Where quality issues are raised internally the university has set quality control procedures that ensure that thorough monitoring, investigation and reporting can be carried out." Phil Baty

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