Echoes of TVU in Derby fiasco

August 18, 2000

As with Thames Valley University we are told there are lessons to be learnt for the sector from a damning Quality Assurance Agency report on the failings of a pioneering new university to protect standards ("Minister says UK tarred by Derby affair", THES, August 11).

As with TVU, the University of Derby disputes a central allegation of the report, "but the (QAA) team is not persuaded by its arguments".

There is similarly a lack of documentary evidence, different accounts of events in the university and lecturers' union Natfhe calling for the vice-chancellor to resign.

I hope the parallels end there and Derby allows the staff of its business school to defend themselves if the report has major factual errors or if they have been denied a hearing. I trust no formal warnings would be given to these staff if they wished to make known such errors or to point out if vital records had been overlooked by the panel.

Perhaps a public apology would be made if central allegations of the report were subsequently clearly demonstrated to be false by other externals.

The QAA might even introduce a complaints procedure that does not consist simply of the QAA chief executive or chair of the board of the QAA without reference to the rest of the board, let alone an independent arbiter. Until such basic safeguards and rights are transparent, there is no sure basis on which to judge who has tarred UK higher education.

Andy Ross Former director, College of Undergraduate Studies Thames Valley University

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