Lightening the load of paperwork

November 11, 2005

Phil Baty reports on the fourth institution to receive a 'limited confidence' rating

The quality watchdog's light-touch audit regime will become even lighter under proposals published for consultation this week.

A draft "operational description", outlining changes to the way the Quality Assurance Agency will conduct its six-yearly audits, proposes abolishing the inspection of teaching quality at subject level, as predicted by The Times Higher in August.

This means that QAA auditors will no longer "drill down" to inspect quality at the level of individual subjects to conduct so-called discipline audit trails.

The plans, published for consultation this week, also give an even stronger voice to students in influencing the QAA audits. The optional students'

written submission to the QAA, usually co-ordinated by the students' union after a survey, will be formalised as a "briefing paper".

The QAA will also attempt to reduce the "overpreparation" for audits by universities anticipating a visit from the inspection team.

Peter Williams, QAA chief executive, said that the revisions would "significantly reduce" the administrative burden on universities, identified as a major source of unnecessary bureaucracy by Dame Sandra Burslem's recent review of the QAA.

Audits are designed to assess the level of confidence that can be placed in an institution's management of its academic standards.

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