Oxford loses appeal

May 16, 1997

OXFORD academics have been caught up in a war of words with funding chiefs over a poor inspection score for modern languages.

The university's faculty of medieval and modern languages achieved top ratings in most categories of the Higher Education Funding Council for England's teaching quality assessment.

But it scored only a grade 2 for quality assurance and enhancement, which means this area needs "significant improvement". The report also criticised the faculty for concentrating too heavily on literature at the expense of language and for giving little status to oral work. Dons failed in their vociferous appeal to the funding council to overturn the grade.

David Pattison, the previous chairman of the modern languages faculty board, said: "They seemed to have picked up too many very small details from one or two examiners' reports and extrapolated from those to make sweeping criticisms despite all the evidence we gave them of compliments from examiners."

His successor, Jim Reed, acknowledged that the university's undergraduate degree was more literature-based than some. He added: "But we have had to change it somewhat simply because of the low quality of preparation in the schools now. When students come to us we have to give them more teaching in the language to get them up to speed."

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