University library and computer services may no longer be separately assessed under the new quality agency which starts work this week. The agency is being asked to consider dropping scrutiny of learning resources, one of six categories of provision monitored by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Learning resources, including libraries and computers, is the only aspect of provision in which institutions have scored the lowest grade in HEFCE's inspection system, which is to be modified. It is also the category where a link between levels of funding and quality might most easily be made - potentially embarrassing the Government.
Assessors want to look at the impact of resourcing right across teaching. Discussions will take place later this month to decide how the agency should deal with the problem. A consultation paper is likely to follow.
Jean Sykes, chairman of the Standing Conference of National and University Libraries, said: "We want to know what the reasons are for suggesting changes. The place of learning resources must still be acknowledged within the teaching and learning process, because it's fundamental."
Geoffrey Alderman, head of academic development and quality assurance at Middlesex University, said radical changes to the present system would be "thoroughly reprehensible".
A spokesman for Hefce said: "Any decision to make changes to the profile will come from the new agency and we would not want to pre-empt it."
The council adopted its present method of quality assessment two years ago. Inspectors visit all academic departments looking at six core aspects of provision, which they grade from one to four.
They assess: curriculum design, content and organisation; teaching, learning and assessment; student progression and achievement; student support and guidance; learning resources and quality assurance and enhancement.