Industry chiefs call for greater say in Scotland

March 31, 1995

Industrialists want to play a greater part in Scotland's quality assessment system, according to the latest evaluation of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's scheme.

Researchers at Moray House Institute of Education, who reviewed the 1993-94 quality assessment programme for the SHEFC, found that a third of the industrial assessors they surveyed felt their role could and should be expanded. All the industrialists found the work interesting and enjoyable.

The SHEFC has always visited every institution being assessed, and every industrial assessor spent at least a day on the visit, although a number of them wanted to participate for longer.

But the report adds that the industrialists wanted to take a fuller part in the deliberations of the assessment team as a whole, as well as spending more time at the institutions.

The Moray House researchers say that while the academic assessors whom they surveyed tended to get involved in debating the principles and philosophy of assessment, the industrial assessors were largely silent on these issues.

The researchers speculate that the industrialists might come to ponder the philosophy more than at present if they are more closely involved in the system, but add that their pragmatic background may mean they continue to see assessment as unproblematic.

Moray House also surveyed all 13 higher education institutions which had been involved in the assessment of nine subject areas ranging from mechanical engineering and chemistry to computer studies and environmental science. It found that nine of the universities felt the SHEFC's final reports had been fair, although each had one department which felt the report had been "unfair, ill-founded or simply wrong". The view from the remaining four institutions was "not entirely negative, but more strongly mixed".

The majority view in virtually every institution was that the SHEFC's guidelines on self-assessment were clear and precise, but Moray House warns that the majority was a narrow one.

Some people felt it was difficult to strike a balance between factual evidence and self-criticism and there was confusion over whether service teaching was part of the assessment.

The institutions complained about the demands on their time imposed by preparing self-assessments, and said assessors sometimes did not give enough notice when wanting information.

But researchers said these may be linked, that late receipt of documents may have led to short notice of requests for material. There are huge variations in the time institutions say they spend on self-assessments, ranging from ten days to several months.

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