HND blunder adds to woes of Edexcel

August 9, 2002

Quality watchdogs are monitoring exam board Edexcel's functions as a higher education awarding body after it was found to be responsible for one of only six failing courses since 2000, writes Phil Baty.

In a letter seen by The THES , Quality Assurance Agency chairman Sir Christopher Kenyon confirms that Edexcel was "ultimately responsible" for the botched validation of a business HND course at Newham College.

The criticism will be another blow for Edexcel, which had a government troubleshooter installed in January after a series of blunders.

A QAA review of business courses at Newham College in November 2000 found "a serious failure of the college's quality assurance systems". The QAA said the failure meant that students had been enrolled on an HND business course before it had been validated by Edexcel, the awarding body.

The college appealed, arguing that the problem was caused by an administrative error by Edexcel that did not damage the students'

experience. But the QAA rejected the appeal.

The college also complained formally about the conduct of the review, saying the team disregarded the fact that no student had been harmed.

Although Newham's appeal and complaint were rejected, a letter written on June 24 by Sir Christopher to MP Barry Sheerman, chair of the House of Commons education and skills select committee, accepts for the first time that the fault lay with Edexcel.

"We undertook a thorough review of the relevant provision at Newham and found the reported weaknesses to be serious in its implication for quality and standards," he said.

"Responsibility for this resided ultimately with Edexcel, which is the awarding body for the relevant qualification, and we have taken the matter up with that organisation.

"Edexcel has acknowledged its fault and the seriousness of the deficiency and has moved to tighten up its procedures. QAA is monitoring the changes it has introduced... We will continue to monitor the way in which Edexcel courses are validatedI" Newham principal Martin Tolhurst said a reinspection had confirmed that the business provision was "excellent", with an aggregate score of 23 out of 24. He said the letter vindicated the college, and showed that the QAA had been wrong to label it as failing.

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