QAA gamekeeper turns poacher

Former head of oversight at standards watchdog advising private colleges how to pass review

March 20, 2014

Source: Alamy

Changing sides: QAA’s head of oversight goes from assessing to advising

What is the best career move if you leave your job at the Quality Assurance Agency in charge of reviewing private colleges?

Setting up a company that offers advice to private colleges and others seeking to pass a QAA review is one option.

Until January, Adam Biscoe ran QAA’s Review for Educational Oversight (REO), the process by which private colleges seek highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status to recruit overseas students. Under new government plans, passing a QAA review will become a requirement for any private college wishing to have its courses “designated” so that students can access the government loans system.

Dr Biscoe has now set up a consultancy firm, Higher Quality Management, whose website says it can provide advice to UK and UK-based overseas providers “on applying for degree-awarding powers, seeking educational oversight from the QAA for the purposes of HTS status or specific course designation”.

The site notes that Dr Biscoe “was very closely involved in the design and development of QAA’s review procedures for private colleges seeking educational oversight for highly trusted sponsor status…and for colleges seeking specific course designation for student loan purposes”.

The firm can also offer advice on “regulatory requirements for overseas higher education providers seeking to set up in the UK”, the website says.

Asked if the QAA had any view on his transition from “gamekeeper to poacher”, Dr Biscoe said he had “had no communication from them”. But in any case, he added, “there are others out there who provide consultancy services – I wish I’d come up with the idea first”.

Dr Biscoe said the consultancy would offer advice to providers “whether they are public or private, or for-profit or not-for-profit”.

He said the venture “is not principally aimed at private providers, or for-profit providers, but I’m very happy to work with them given my experience as head of oversight and accreditation at the QAA”.

Dr Biscoe pointed out that even after passing REO, private colleges must undergo annual monitoring.

In terms of overseas providers entering the UK, does he expect this to be a growth area? Dr Biscoe noted that overseas-established companies such as Navitas, Study Group and Kaplan were already active in the UK.

“The government seems to be keen on opening up UK higher education; it is an attractive market given the current fees. So you can understand there will be considerable interest from overseas providers,” he said.

The QAA said it did not have any comment.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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