Graduates to rate quality

November 23, 2001

Graduates' views on their courses will be published as part of the new university quality assurance regime, a task group will recommend today.

In a report on the extent to which universities will be required to make information public under the planned "light touch" quality regime, the Quality Assurance Agency task group will say that universities should publish the results of students' and recent graduates' satisfaction surveys.

The task group will also float the idea of compulsory publication of external examiners' reports in full, but the publication of summaries is more likely. The new public information will become the "primary resource for students, employers and others to get up-to-date, consistent information about quality and standards".

The QAA will all but abolish subject-level teaching quality inspection and quality reports on university departments in favour of an audit-based approach.

Students and employers, backed by former QAA chief executive John Randall, are concerned that the regime will not promote public confidence in university quality.

It is hoped that the task group report by Ron Cook, vice-chancellor of York University, will win over critics who are demanding greater accountability.

A National Union of Students spokesman said: "Student satisfaction surveys could be a really useful tool for students and their parents. These surveys would need to be done on an annual basis across all students and independently of the university. In order to achieve consistency, they would need to include a core element that all students answer, as well as specifics tailored for their course and institution."

It is understood that the QAA would detail the areas to be covered by the survey. Students would be questioned during their courses and soon after graduation.

Geoffrey Alderman, visiting professor at Middlesex University, said: "My experience is that recent graduates do not always appreciate why they have been made to study certain things - but five years down the line they understand this only too well."

There was concern that the full publication of external examiners' reports could compromise frank criticism of standards by peers.

Final plans for the whole quality regime will be published next month. The scheme will be launched next September.

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