More work on monitoring standards needed, say first light-touch audits

May 6, 2005

Universities and colleges need to undertake further work to improve the way they monitor and manage their academic standards, according to the Quality Assurance Agency, writes Phil Baty.

In a report published this week, the agency rounds up the results of the first 70 of its new-style audits of higher education institutions. The QAA says that in the "overwhelming" number of cases the audit teams have confirmed that they have "broad confidence" in the institutions' ability to manage their own quality and standards.

It is understood that only four of the audits have resulted in "limited confidence" verdicts and that no institution has so far earned a failing "no-confidence" judgment.

The QAA report Outcomes from Institutional Audit offers an initial overview of the audits.

It says: "A substantial number of institutions can demonstrate strengths in the way they have designed their frameworks for managing quality and academic standards. There are, however, suggestions for further work in this area in a majority of reports."

The QAA adds that there are also concerns about assessment practices. "With respect to assessment matters, while the majority of (audit) reports indicate features of good practice, there are a large number of recommendations in this area."

The audits, which are to take place at each university every six years, were first introduced in 2002-03 as a "light-touch" alternative to the old system of audit, combined with the inspection of all university departments at subject level.

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