Make a stand on quality

September 17, 1999

Debate over quality assurance in UK universities has gone on long enough. Wrangling about numbers or no numbers, light or not-so-light touches, and criticism based not on the quality of institutions but their ability to jump through bureaucratic hoops is unacceptably damaging the reputation of UK higher education. Our international rivals supply no such hostages to fortune. Spring clean, OK. Permanent revolution: forget it. Nor is the answer that apparently favoured by the Quality Assurance Agency: debate behind closed doors. The QAA's raison d'etre is public accountability. It too must be accountable.

The CVCP has the authority to cut the cackle and instruct the QAA as to its requirements. It should use it. If it cannot because the vested interests of members are too strong, the government will doubtless take over the job. Britain's once independent universities are all but nationalised now. If they lose control of quality assurance, that process will take another large step forward. This is in no one's interest.

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