Exeter strains to raise standards

November 28, 1997

QUALITY watchdogs have called on Exeter University to brush up its quality monitoring, saying its system is under strain.

The university told the Higher Education Quality Council when it visited in March that it was already reviewing management, administration and quality assurance. Plans for reorganisation included reducing the number of faculties while strengthening their role in assuring quality.

The auditors' report published this week found a "worrying mismatch between autonomy, ownership and responsibility in decision-making" in departments and faculties was affecting standards.

A Teaching Quality Self Appraisal scheme was seen by the university as "crucially important". But "unacceptably long delays" in completing the appraisal were "not unknown", taking up to 12 months between a panel review of departmental documents and consideration by the university's teaching committee.

Such delays exposed the scheme to the charge that it "vigorously criticised the departments but was relatively silent on matters for which the university was responsible", the HEQC report says.

Auditors also criticised the university's teaching and learning development plan as failing to address adequately academic standards, regional issues and the increasing diversity of students.

Though the university's institutional plan stated its commitment to research, scholarship and learning, "the audit team found that there was currently very little systematic reflection within the university about just what was meant by the claimed interdependency of research and teaching".

Malyn Newitt, Exeter's deputy vice chancellor, said the audit largely confirmed the importance of the university's academic restructuring and quality assurance procedure reforms.

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