In the news

August 11, 2000

Peter Williams, who this week produced the damning report into Derby University's operations in Israel, is perhaps one of the least popular figures in higher education.

The man who pioneered the "academic audit" and defined "academic standards" as a former director at the defunct Higher Education Quality Council has incurred the wrath of half the Russell Group by taking the work further as the Quality Assurance Agency's director of institutional review.

His role is to ensure that universities have the bureaucracy in place to prove "the extent to which (they) are discharging effectively their responsibilities for the standards of awards granted in their name". This has led to serious criticisms of Essex, York, Exeter and Oxbridge universities and the federal London and Wales universities.

Williams is also responsible for granting degree-awarding powers and coordinating the compilation of the QAA's code of practice, which sets out more than 150 rules against which institutions are judged by "academic reviewers". It was Williams's special review in 1997 that declared Thames Valley the first officially failing university.

In spite of this, he keeps friends in the sector and has a reputation as a "good thinker" and a "very able man". "He even has a sense of humour," said one colleague.

An English graduate from the University of Exeter, he started his career as a management trainee with the British Printing Corporation, before moving to the registry of the University of Surrey, then the University of Leicester. He became secretary of the medical school at Leicester in 1982.

After serving as deputy secretary of the British Academy, he was appointed as the first (and only) director of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals academic audit unit in 1990. He headed its successor, the HEQC's division of quality audit in 1992 and became director of the HEQC quality assurance group in 1994.

People is edited by Harriet Swain and researched by Lynne Williams.

Send all information to Lynne Williams. The THES Admiral House 66-68 East Smithfield London E1W 1BXTel 020 7782 3375 Full listings of grants, appointments and honours appear on The THES website

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