Policy watch

January 31, 2008

QUALITY ASSURANCE AGENCY: Ofsted, QAA to work together

The quality watchdogs for schools and universities have joined forces in a partnership designed to reduce red tape. Christine Gilbert, head of Ofsted, the schools and colleges inspectorate, and Peter Williams, chief executive of the universities' Quality Assurance Agency have signed a memorandum of understanding to work more closely to reduce any unnecessary overlap in their work.

The agreement is aimed at tackling the duplication of reviews and inspections in cases where higher education institutions offer further education courses, and where further education colleges offer higher education courses. Ofsted and the QAA have agreed to co-ordinate activities through a joint consultative committee that will share information and jointly plan inspections and reviews. Mr Williams said: "Both organisations will be more effective and efficient, and will be able to offer a better and less burdensome review service."

HIGHER EDUCATION INNOVATION FUND: Knowledge transfer plans sought

Universities have been invited by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to submit "institutional strategies" on promoting knowledge transfer between academics and business, which will help form the basis of their funding allocation under the Higher Education Innovation Fund. Covering the three years 2008-09 to 2010-11, the latest tranche of HEIF money will be distributed on the basis of a formula alone and will no longer be subject to competitive funding bids. Hefce has issued a circular inviting submissions and setting out the detailed plans to allocate funds.

- See: Higher Education Innovation Fund

QUALITY ASSURANCE AGENCY: Aiming further and higher

A new method for reviewing the standard of higher education in further education colleges has been well received, according to the Quality Assurance Agency. During 2006-07, the QAA carried out 15 pilot Integrated Quality and Enhancement Reviews. Evaluation of the pilots found the method was "well received by all stakeholder groups", and that the reviews helped colleges to identify their strengths and limitations in the management of their quality assurance processes and the standards of awards. The findings have been used to inform revisions to the method, which has since been approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England board and will be implemented this spring.

- See: QAA IQER

SELECT COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION: Name change highlights science

The Government has agreed to change the name of the select committee responsible for scrutinising higher education and research policy to include the word "science."

The decision means the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee will soon be known as the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee.

It comes in response to the last report of the now-defunct Science and Technology Committee, which recommended that the word "science" appear in the title of any subsequent select committee. Phil Willis, chairman of the IUS committee, said: "It is an important signal to the science community that science will remain a high priority in terms of parliamentary scrutiny."

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