Nottingham adds name to band of dissatisfied customers

August 3, 2001

The Quality Assurance Agency has been forced to scrap its report into teaching quality at Nottingham University's medical school after admitting it had insufficient evidence to support its findings, writes Phil Baty.

This is the third example of the QAA apparently admitting to flaws in its inspection process. A fourth is pending.

Nottingham confirmed this week that after long and difficult discussions, the agency had agreed to reinspect the medical school.

Academic secretary Alan Hart said: "There was a fundamental disagreement over procedural matters and the evidence on which they based their judgement."

He denied that the QAA had backed down only after the threat of court action and would not comment further.

Earlier this year, the QAA withdrew a report on the quality of teaching at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology after it admitted "procedural flaws".

This led to a revision of the QAA's judgement on the quality of teaching on its molecular biology degree courses. On reassessment, Umist improved its aggregate score from 18 out of 24 (relatively poor) to 22 (excellent).

A score of 18 out of 24 for Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education's art and design courses was upgraded to 21 after an appeal from the college, which is seeking university status.

The QAA has also been forced to withhold the results of an inspection of subjects allied to medicine at Sunderland University.

Sunderland is protesting about poor results in this inspection, when it received the top score for its biology provision, which is in the same department and uses many of the same quality-assurance mechanisms.

The matter is understood to be in the hands of the university's solicitors.

King's College London has also dismissed an audit report by the QAA as inaccurate and unacceptable. And the London School of Economics has refused to allow the QAA to audit its systems.

The QAA's 1997 report on quality assurance failings at Thames Valley University was shown to have included a number of misinterpretations.

A spokeswoman for the QAA said: "The agency exercises careful quality control over its reviews. In a very small number of cases (less than one in 200), this results in a re-review taking place.

"In the case of the review of medicine at the University of Nottingham, the agency concluded that the review team had not recorded sufficient evidence to support certain of their judgements. Accordingly, with the full agreement of the university, a re-review will take place early in 2002. There is no court action."

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