Outrage at claims by QAA chief

August 31, 2001

Funding chiefs have hit back at claims from departing quality watchdog John Randall that they bowed to pressure from vice-chancellors and are letting universities get away with too little external scrutiny, writes Phil Baty.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is privately seething at what it sees as a misrepresentation of the facts by Mr Randall, who resigned as chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency last week.

It is standing firm behind plans for a new quality assurance blueprint, currently out to consultation.

The funding council believes that Mr Randall has, in numerous public statements since his resignation, misleadingly suggested that the volume of subject-level inspection will be slashed from 100 per cent to just 10 per cent. Mr Randall called it "a step too far".

But the consultation paper makes clear that the overall volume of subject-level inspection is expected to be cut by 50 per cent.

The paper does say that, in cases where individual institutions are given a perfectly clean bill of health after regular audits, they could see just 10 per cent of provision inspected. But such instances are expected to be rare.

Hefce is also concerned that the debate over public accountability sparked by Mr Randall's departure has failed to take into account plans to make universities publish a "core" set of audited data annually to help inform students and employers.

Steven Marsten, head of institutions at Hefce, said: "It is important to see the consultation paper in the round and take account of all the forms of information expected to be available."

Details of the consultation document at www.qaa.ac.uk

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