Failing college 'furious' at QAA

March 31, 2000

Stockport College is set to become the first higher education provider to have funding withdrawn for teaching quality failure. But it will contest the action in a fight that will challenge the methodology and protocol of teaching quality assessments.

Following a 1998 review that left Stockport with its teaching quality "not approved" by the Quality Assurance Agency in three subject areas, the QAA has since revisited the college and reached the same conclusion, The THES has learned.

The re-inspection report is due to be published next month.

Under the Higher Education Funding Council's procedures, the decision will lead ultimately to the withdrawal of funding for the courses judged to be failing.

But Stockport is to contest the decision, claiming procedural flaws and a breach of protocol.

Principal Richard Evans said he could not make any comment, but sources have confirmed that the college is furious and is making formal representations to the QAA to overturn the decision before publication.

Failures were originally identified during a single inspection visit covering building, civil engineering and electrical and electronic engineering. Of the six aspects of provision judged by the QAA, Stockport was failed for the quality of its "student progression and achievement".

Although provision was deemed satisfactory with limited scope for improvement in four of the six areas, and a pass-mark was given for the fifth area, the single failure constituted an overall failure.

Stockport was unhappy with this because three programmes in two distinct subject areas had been examined in a single visit, leading the college to claim the review had been blighted by "complications".

But the college is particularly angry about the conduct of the re-inspection. The aspect of provision originally failed by the QAA - student progression and achievement - has been given the all-clear in the re-inspection, it is understood.

But during the revisit, the QAA ruled that an aspect of provision that had originally passed - quality assurance and enhancement - was now failing. Had there been no reinspection, this would have escaped further scrutiny for several years.

There are also concerns that the representation process has been prejudiced by QAA chief executive John Randall. Mr Randall, who has already been accused of bias against college-based higher education providers, announced to a conference in Oxford earlier this month that he had recently encountered the first case of a higher education institution failing a re-inspection.

The QAA cannot comment on unpublished reports.

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