The government’s White Paper praises the work of the Quality Assurance Agency and pledges to retain the “most positive” aspects of the current quality system.
The document appears to criticise the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s moves to put out to tender quality assurance, which had been seen as risking pre-empting the White Paper and plans for a teaching excellence framework.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills affirms the principle of co-regulation and says that there could in future be protection for a designated quality body that commands the confidence of the sector and government.
“Should a suitable body be found, the Secretary of State will be able to designate the body, which will gain a statutory duty to design and operate the quality assessment system, reporting to and within parameters set by the OfS [Office for Students],” says the White Paper.
It adds: “We would therefore encourage the QAA, or any other body which might hope to be the designated body, to undertake appropriate reform to ensure they remain truly representative of the changing landscape.”
Hefce announced the results of its tendering process on 13 May – with the QAA selected as preferred bidder on four out of six tenders.
The White Paper says that the current legal framework “could lead to the operation of the quality system being split up between as many as six different bodies”.
The government's plans could mean that England’s quality system runs under Hefce’s process as currently tendered for two years, before talks take place on what will happen when the OfS takes responsibility in 2018.