Pillorying of Exeter

October 6, 1995

Several questions are raised by the unfortunate pillorying of Exeter University's MA course in English on your front page (THES, September 29). Clearly the administrative systems governing these courses left much to be desired. Moreover, it is always possible for a team of quality assessors to meet with disgruntled students, especially if these students have been kept waiting for delayed exam results.

What was missing from your article, and presumably from the assessors' report, was any attempt to reassure recent and forthcoming Exeter MA graduates that the quality of their work, and of their teachers, is as high as any in the country - for so it is. (The fact that two of the criticised courses have been discontinued may be as much due to recent personnel changes as to the university's response to quality assessment.) Looking at the nationwide results of the assessments in English, it seems obvious that a different team of assessors on a different day might well have rated the programmes concerned as satisfactory or even excellent. Just how good are the administrative systems governing quality assessment itself? And was Exeter guilty of failure to teach its MA courses to other universities' standards, or merely of a failure in managing and preparing for its assessment visit?

Patrick Parrinder

Professor of English, Reading University

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