Another university has been told to improve the scrutiny of courses taught by its partner colleges after “serious flaws” were identified in its validation processes.
Anglia Ruskin University is the latest institution to be criticised by the Quality Assurance Agency over its collaborative provision, following a “notice to improve” served in February on Loughborough University relating to overseas partners.
Both rebukes - the first two since the new institutional review method was introduced in September 2011 - follow the damning QAA report into lax oversight of University of Wales-accredited courses taught by overseas colleges shortly before the institution announced plans to wind up all such activity in October 2011.
Last year almost 8,400 students studied for awards offered by Anglia Ruskin and taught at more than 40 “associate colleges”, both in the UK and overseas.
The report by a QAA review team highlights “several weaknesses” in the university’s management and approval of these courses, which meant that it could not guarantee that their academic standards matched those on programmes at the university’s main campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford.
The validation processes at one unnamed partner college demonstrated “serious flaws”, according to Anglia Ruskin’s institutional review, published on 9 April.
There were insufficient external checks to ensure that the quality of course and academic standards met Anglia Ruskin’s requirements, as well as a lack of proper scrutiny of module or degree programmes, it adds. Many students were enrolled on courses of which Anglia Ruskin had limited knowledge, while “the university was apparently unaware of the potential risks [this posed] to the maintenance of…standards”.
The review notes that the university had delegated assessment to partner colleges with “little or no experience of assessing students according to Anglia Ruskin’s requirements”, although support and advice was now being provided.
The review team makes six recommendations for improvement in collaborative provision, including increased supervision of colleges in the early stages of a partnership.
However, the QAA finds that Anglia Ruskin met UK standards in the provision of courses it undertook itself at its various campuses. It notes areas of good practice, including engagement with campus-based students, strong student services and promotion of a research culture.
An Anglia Ruskin spokesman said actions “have already been taken” to address recommendations in the report “and these will be completed by the end of April 2013”.
He noted: “These recommendations affect approximately 3 per cent of our student body. We can confirm that the academic standards of awards made under our collaborative arrangements comply with the QAA Quality Code and comments received from external examiners and internal monitoring support this.”
The spokesman added that Anglia Ruskin was “particularly pleased that so many areas of good practice have been recognised by the QAA review team”.