Lax student checks put degree standards at risk, warns QAA

October 27, 2006

Westminster University risked the standard of its degrees when it failed to keep proper checks on the suitability of students accepted on to courses run in partnership with other institutions, quality chiefs have declared.

In an audit report on Westminster's collaborations, published this week, the Quality Assurance Agency warns that it has only "limited confidence" in the soundness of the university's present and likely future management of the academic standards of its awards made through collaborative arrangements.

The QAA has said the university should pay particular attention to external examiners' oversight of dual-award programmes and the consistency of the student admissions monitoring processes. The QAA audit team found "variable admissions practices" across the university schools, with some schools delegating admissions to partner institutions.

"The team took the view... that the university's failure to exercise this aspect of its responsibility for its own provision consistently in all partnerships constitutes an active risk to the maintenance of academic standards," the QAA report says.

There were also concerns about the lack of proper external scrutiny of the standard of some courses that led to "dual awards" from both Westminster and the partner institutions.

A university spokesman highlighted several positive elements in the report, including "the confidence expressed in its new annual monitoring processes", and said that it was implementing recommendations for improvements.

"However, the university is disappointed by some of the auditors' criticisms, especially given the confidence expressed in quality and standards in the Institutional Audit report of 2005.

"The university takes seriously the need for systematic monitoring of admissions in all cases."

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