QAA finds cavities in Welsh dental school's practices

September 17, 1999

Wales's only medical and dental school is failing to safeguard standards and cannot guarantee the quality of its own awards, quality watchdogs have warned.

The University of Wales College of Medicine cannot "discharge reliably its responsibilities for the standard of its awards and the quality of its provision", an audit by the Quality Assurance Agency has found.

The QAA has warned that "urgent attention is now required to remedy what appear to be deficiencies in (the college's) internal academic quality arrangements".

A QAA audit team found that the college, with almost 3,000 prospective doctors, dentists and nurses, is failing to take proper account of advice from external examiners, is failing to conform to rules governing overseas partnerships and is facing a crisis of accountability.

Structures set up to monitor and ensure standards are failing, the QAA found. "The responsibilities of the college's central committees, their authority and competence, are not clearly and unambiguously known and recognised throughout the college," the report said.

The QAA team found that the college was failing to take proper account of external examiners' guidance. It also failed to conform to the University of Wales's rules and best practice guidelines governing relationships with overseas collaborative partners.

The college's contracts with franchise partners were found to be seriously flawed, relying on "good relations" to protect the college's good name and academic standards.

Contracts examined by the QAA made no mention of quality assurance responsibilities, took no account of the need for periodic review of the provision, and made no mention of the assessment standards.

The auditors conclude: "Taken together, the omissions, conflicts and limitations in the available information make it difficult to provide a conclusive judgement on the college's capacity to assure the quality of its academic provision."

The college has been told to consider conducting a thorough review of its committee structure and regulatory framework.

The report said that the situation may improve when a new learning and teaching strategy is put into effect, for which the college was commended.

The audit team also said that "a measure of confidence" in the college's standards is provided through the periodic review of provision by external statutory and professional bodies and that "qualified confidence" was provided through the oversight of the University of Wales.

Vice-chancellor Ian Cameron said that Teaching Quality Assessments on the college were good, and a recent quality report from the General Medical Council had identified areas of good practice.

But Mr Cameron accepted the criticisms. "We are confident that we will be able to address any of these issues raised. Indeed, mechanisms have already been put in place," he said.

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