QAA report fingers FE

March 15, 2002

All 11 courses judged by inspectors to be failing last year were degree and diploma courses offered by five colleges of further education, the annual report of the Quality Assurance Agency has confirmed.

Teaching quality inspections were carried out on 384 courses in 11 subject areas in 2000-01. The failures were mainly higher national diplomas and certificates, but included two degree courses.

Aylesbury College and Newham College failed inspections of their business and management courses, Filton College failed an inspection of its hospitality and leisure courses, while Herefordshire College of Technology and Soundwell College failed inspections of their business provision and their hospitality courses. Among Herefordshire's failing provision were two degree courses.

The QAA this week confirmed it had appointed Peter Williams, its acting chief executive, as its new permanent chief executive. In his annual report he shied away from direct comment on the quality of higher education courses offered by the college sector.

College leaders argue that colleges are penalised unfairly as they are novices to the QAA process.

Subjects are graded between 1 (failure) and 4 in each of six aspects of provision. In the 384 inspections, a total of 2,304 individual grades were awarded, and only five grade 1s were awarded.

About 65 per cent of the grades awarded were the top grade 4 and only 4 per cent were grade 2. But of the 96 grade 2s, 71 per cent were given to college courses, compared with 29 per cent given to university courses.

Most of the low grades were given for poor teaching, learning and assessment practices, and for bad internal quality management.

The QAA report says: "The results confirm the generally high quality of the subject provision under scrutiny, especially in higher education institutions. A minority of further education colleges were judged to have weaknesses, most of which are now being addressed. A small amount of failing provision has been closed or merged."

* The report confirmed that former chief executive John Randall, who had been on a salary and benefits package of £102,000, received £61,787 in compensation for loss of office.

He left last year before the implementation of his new quality-assurance regime, after ministers announced reform of the system against Mr Randall's wishes.

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