How stakeholders see the QAA

September 29, 2000

I was not surprised to read the response of the Council of Validating Universities to the Quality Assurance Agency's position paper on a national qualifications framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland ("QAA framework 'a farce'", THES, September 22).

As development officer for the Southern England consortium for credit accumulation and transfer (SEEC), which comprises 37 higher education institutions, I have attended a number of seminars organised by ourselves, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the QAA over the past few weeks. Almost without exception, the agency's approach to the framework has met with universal disapproval. Inevitably there are differences of emphasis.

We in SEEC, together with our sister northern consortium, NUCCAT, have noted with concern the complete misrepresentation in the position paper of the principles of credit accumulation.

What has united the sector, however, is the appearance of the four levels, which was not signalled in last autumn's consultation paper. In the position paper, the QAA states that the purpose of the framework is "to provide clear and accurate information" for all stakeholders, "to have a structure of shared, explicit reference points" to distinguish qualifications, and to have a "basis for a consistent use of qualifications titles".

Colleagues in SEEC, and those in the seminars I have attended, cannot understand how the new level HE3, a level that only a minority of institutions use, can contribute the stated aims.

I understand from QAA officers that it is for institutions to determine which levels, and in what proportion, make up the programme prior to the final qualification level. Thus, with the proposed framework, stakeholders will be even less aware of the progression of learning that has led to any specific award.

Mike Downes Development officer, SEEC

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