Private college's progression rates criticised by QAA

Watchdog says only one in five of a cohort of students at London-based Grafton College of Management Sciences on course to complete qualification on time

September 7, 2015
Stepping stones
Progression test: QAA report raised concerns about likely completions at private college

Nearly four-fifths of a cohort of students enrolled at a private college were not on course to complete their qualifications within the specified time period, a Quality Assurance Agency review says.

The QAA says that Grafton College, trading as Grafton College of Management Sciences, may have recruited too many students who were “not capable” of completing higher national diploma and certificate courses within two years.

It concludes that the Shepherd’s Bush-based institution, which increased its student numbers from 300 in 2013 to 861 by the end of 2014, does not meet the expectations of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.

In its report, the QAA says the college claimed that of its 731 students who enrolled in September 2013, 106 had withdrawn – 14.5 per cent.

However, the review team found that, of the 625 students that remained, only 138 were up to date with their assessments at the time of their visit in June 2015, and were therefore capable of completing their qualifications within two years, if they passed all of their remaining assessments. This is equivalent to 22 per cent of the remaining students.

No specific analysis of student assessment completion was routinely undertaken, and no specific measures were in place to ensure that students completed their studies within two years, the report says.

The poor completion rate within two years “could be the result of the college recruiting too many students who are not capable of completing their units in the specified time period”, it adds.

As such, admissions were also an area of concern, with the QAA saying that while 88 per cent of students were admitted based on their work experience, there was no indication of any evaluation of this experience.

The reviewers questioned the level of literacy and numeracy skills that applicants were required to demonstrate, and found no evidence that test certificates had been reviewed in more than a quarter of the cases that were sampled.

Allegations that the college had been drawing down student loan funding for students who are ineligible for such support, are not attending classes, or are not registered, have been investigated separately by the Government Internal Audit Agency, the QAA says. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that it would not be publishing this report.

The QAA raised concerns about a number of other issues, including attendance, since the review team was unable to confirm the accuracy of the college’s own records on this issue. Paper records were destroyed as soon as spreadsheets had been created, the team was told.

In terms of teaching and learning, the QAA says that the effectiveness of teaching students of all year groups together in lecture groups of 75 needed to be evaluated.

The review team found that the college used the same assignment to assess the performance of the two cohorts enrolled every year, and warns that this “potentially does threaten the integrity and the security of the assessment for the students, giving undue advantage in assessment for others”.

Mehboobali Saiyed, a director of the college, claimed that there was “some factual inaccuracy” in the report and said that he did not accept the report’s criticisms.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, he said that completion rates could not be judged before the end of the course, and he questioned how the QAA could make such criticisms when a QAA report published in March had said that students could have confidence in standards at the institution.

“We have [had] a brilliant track record for 12 years,” he said, adding that the college was "hoping for a positive outcome in a couple of weeks” after raising concerns about the report with the QAA.

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Reader's comments (2)

Is this one of these 'challenger institutions' which Jo Johnson wants more of in the HE sector?
Are any of these findings surprising to anybody?? Haven't we heard similar lame denials from other 'Directors' from other private colleges?? Haven't similar senior managers appealed against the wounds inflicted upon their integrity by external agents?? Isn't it time for these fly by night pariah colleges to hold their hands up and say "fair cop we were only in it for the money" before being forced to close their doors?? It's an out and out scandal that we continue to learn of such places.