Partnerships lacked legal grounding, QAA finds

November 12, 2009

The standards watchdog has criticised Liverpool Hope University for running collaborative programmes without the necessary legal agreements.

In an audit report, the Quality Assurance Agency says it has confidence in the university's ability to manage the standards of academic awards and "quality of learning opportunities" offered at its home campuses and through the "Network of Hope" - partnerships with two Catholic sixth-form colleges.

But it gives two "limited confidence" verdicts when it comes to programmes the university has accredited at other public and private organisations in the UK and abroad.

"Several collaborative programmes outside the Network of Hope have commenced and operated for some time without appropriate legal agreements being in place," the QAA report says.

"The audit team considered that the continuation of programmes without formal legal underpinnings constituted a significant risk to the university and potentially to the quality and standards of the students' education."

The QAA recommends that the university "take urgent action" to set a timetable for the completion of legal agreements for its collaborative provision.

In a statement responding to the report, Liverpool Hope says it is "disappointing" that the audit team chose to place limited confidence in the university's collaborative provision, which it says is "a very minor part of the university's provision" that it does not plan to extend.

One of the collaborative partnerships has already ended and others are under review, its statement says. "The gaps in following agreed procedure in a limited number of collaborative arrangements were already largely addressed by the time of the audit," the statement adds.

The university said it had put measures in place to ensure that the problem does not arise again.

Elsewhere in the QAA report, the university is praised for its ethos, for its system of "recognised researcher status", which offers support for staff engaged in scholarship and research, and for measures designed to aid students' personal development and employability.

It also advises the university to address "very considerable" problems with access to electronic resources, which it says have caused particular difficulties when students were studying off site.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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