Need for inspection

February 12, 1999

Peter Knight makes a good case for a system of external inspection to replace the labour-intensive and unsatisfactory QAA systems. As someone who has emerged into the teaching and learning arena from a background in learning resource centres, it still amazes me how blinkered most academics are (and wish to be) with regard to the learning that students undertake outside the classroom. Just counting up contact hours and comparing that with student learning hours will give an impression of the proportion.

If you scratch a vice-chancellor, you will normally find a one-time subject lecturer, and the mind-set of the academic stays that way. It is the same with those who carry out quality assessment: they are ex-lecturers and cannot be expected to assess student learning provision in learning resource centres and such like. "I am a subject, not a teacher" is an attitude that will continue with the proposed subject centres and even the Institute of Learning and Teaching seems unlikely to change that significantly.

Whatever system of quality assessment is used, it should be capable of dealing with the whole student learning experience and it needs to have people on board who know how to deal with that.

Richard Downing Formerly a manager of a learning resources centre, West Hyde, Hertfordshire

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