The Quality Assurance Agency is to double compulsory subscription fees for dozens of institutions, and could ask some eventually to pay as much as 400 per cent more, writes Phil Baty.
The subscriptions rise affects 51 institutions this year, including 38 that will have to meet a 100 per cent increase. The system, which brings the QAA more than Pounds 3 million a year and represents 38 per cent of its income, will be reviewed next year.
Currently all higher education institutions with fewer than 3,000 students pay only Pounds 5,312 a year. This rises to Pounds 26,562 for those with between 3,000 and 10,000 students and to Pounds 31,875 for those with 10,000 or more students.
The QAA has reclassified 13 institutions from the middle band to the upper band, with a Pounds 5,312 fee increase.
A further 38 institutions have been reclassified from the lowest band to the middle band, but they have had their increases temporarily capped to Pounds 5,312, rather than Pounds 21,000, pending a review of the fees next year.
Mr Randall said: "The position is that our auditors said that the subscriptions system was not being fully applied. Next year we will be looking for a more understandable system. The linkage with student numbers is not desperately sensible. It leaves the potential for large steps (in payments) for relative small increases in student numbers."
The Standing Conference of Principals, whose members are the majority of those moved from the bottom band to the middle band, is seeking meetings with the QAA about the increases.
Greg Wade, administrative officer at SCOP, said: "Even a Pounds 5,000 rise is still 100 per cent."
The news comes as the QAA confirmed that its chief executive office's salary budget has been increased to Pounds 129,000.
Mr Randall said this included the salary of his personal assistant, as well as his own pay, perks and performance package. He declined to reveal his own salary increase.
QAA: The facts
Income: Pounds 8.5 million a year, with half from funding council "service level agreements" and 38 per cent from compulsory subscription payments
Spending: almost Pounds 2 million
of its annual Pounds 8.1 million expenditure goes on administration compared with just over Pounds 1 million on auditing institutions' quality assurance regimes
The main activity is teaching
quality assessments, which cost Pounds 4.2 million a year.
Fifteen board members,
including eight with links to higher education. Three sit on its audit and remuneration
Source: 1997-98 QAA report and accounts.