QAA could face EU market

December 10, 2004

UK universities would be able to opt out of the Quality Assurance Agency's audit scheme under a European Commission plan.

A draft recommendation on quality assurance published by the Commission last month would ensure that universities could choose an accreditation agency that best "meets their needs" from an approved Europe-wide directory.

The move was cautiously welcomed this week, with one vice-chancellor saying a free market among quality bodies would cut red tape and unnecessary interference, and make the QAA more sympathetic to universities' needs.

The proposal, which needs the approval of the European Parliament, builds on a 1998 agreement to move towards the "mutual recognition of quality assurance systems across Europe".

The draft outlines five steps towards achieving "mutual recognition" of quality assurance agencies. These include quality assurance bodies across member states agreeing a set of standards and guidelines, and setting up a European register of quality assurance and accreditation agencies.

Universities should be able "to choose... an agency that meets their needs and profile", says the proposal, adding: "They may opt for regional, national or international accreditation."

Kel Fidler, vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, said he would welcome the opportunity to "shop around". "Something to cut down on the bureaucracy, but operate to acceptable standards would always be welcome - and competition (between agencies) should ensure that," he said.

Geoffrey Alderman, academic dean of the private American InterContinental University in London and a vocal critic of the QAA, said: "This report is good news. Why should one accrediting body enjoy a monopoly?"

Peter Williams, QAA chief executive, was unavailable for comment, but the agency is understood to see itself as best placed to benefit from a free market.

Please login or register to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most commented

Recent controversy over the future directions of both Stanford and Melbourne university presses have raised questions about the role of in-house publishing arms in a world of commercialisation, impact agendas, alternative facts – and ever-diminishing monograph sales. Anna McKie reports

3 October