Manchester fails Israel audit

April 9, 1999

Quality watchdogs have called on Manchester University to review "insufficient" safeguards on the standard of courses run with a college in Israel.

In early 1998, auditors visited the Israeli Centre for Academic Studies, which runs law and business degrees validated by Manchester. They found university officials unable to provide them with evidence that the courses were up to scratch.

Students on law degrees and business administration courses saw "the credibility of these awards resting on the credibility of the University of Manchester" and were given to believe that they were studying at a branch of the university, according to a report from the Quality Assurance Agency.

The audit team noted that at the entrance to buildings occupied by the centre in Tel Aviv, a sign (in Hebrew) read: The Harry Steele Community Centre Kiryat Ono Manchester University - the Branch in Israel.

According to the auditors' report: "Neither in respect of programmes of study, nor in respect of those appointed to teach, nor in respect of assessment, has the university been in a position to assure itself that these awards are consistent with the standards of its own internal degrees."

The auditors said they found insufficient evidence that the university's validation and approval of the courses was correctly carried out. "In the view of the audit team, the university was not sufficiently sensitive to the challenge of establishing degree programmes in Israel (and did not meet) the expectations and standards to which the university was committed."

When the auditors asked for documents to confirm how the university had assured itself of the standards of the courses, they were told that there was a "heavy reliance on particular individuals" to keep a check on quality. Records had not been maintained in a way that allowed for documents to be produced that would demonstrate the effective operation of quality checks.

Auditors were not provided with any information or documents on the approval of an MBA degree and oral statements about the process and procedures adopted contained contradictions.

The university said the partnership was set up at a time when the formal expectations for governing such links were less well developed than they are today. "It became clear that various steps were needed to bring the arrangement in line with both the university's and the QAA's evolving expectations."

For this reason, the university conducted a revision of the partnership agreement in 1997 and established new arrangements to manage it. These arrangements, which were still being implemented at the time the visit took place, were acknowledged by the audit team.

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