The Quality Assurance Agency is to keep secret details of a successful appeal against critical findings on a second higher education institution despite a personal promise by its chief executive to publish the information.
A review by the watchdog of the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, a for-profit music school in London, that was published on 7 May says that the institute met expectations in all areas of higher education provision.
But it does not mention a previous review, which was undertaken in 2012 and set aside by the QAA the following year after the institute successfully challenged the review procedure.
At the time of the appeal, the regulator and the institute stated that “further information regarding the appeal panel decision will be published when the new…report is available”. Now, however, the QAA has confirmed that it will not make public details of the appeal as initially promised.
That mirrors the case of the University of Southampton, which also managed to overturn a 2012 review containing negative findings, which have also been kept secret.
Key to both cases is a rule change that the QAA made in January 2014 to keep under wraps the details of appeals, claiming that publicity could cause “inadvertent reputational damage” and deter institutions from using the appeals process.
As with the Southampton case, the ICMP’s appeal predated the change, so details were expected to be published.
Indeed, in a letter to Times Higher Education published in July 2013, Anthony McClaran, the QAA’s chief executive, stated that both “appeal decisions will be published as promised alongside the new reports”.
But the QAA now says that it will not publish either appeal because the second review took place entirely after the rule change.
“Mr McClaran needs to explain urgently why this promise has been broken,” said Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and history at the University of Buckingham and former head of the University of London’s academic council.
Professor Alderman wrote to Mr McClaran on 10 May referring to the 2013 THE letter and asking for the appeal outcomes of the two institutions to “be placed in the public domain without further delay”.
However, a reply sent on behalf of the QAA – which THE has seen – restates that because the new reviews were completed after the rule change, the appeals will not be published.
“There was a period of about a year when it was our policy to publish appeal outcomes. Our reflection was that it was unhelpful to do so,” states the reply to Professor Alderman. “What is important is the confirmed judgement of the review team.”
Paul Kirkham, director and chief executive of the ICMP, said that the institute was “extremely proud of the outcome of this review”, particularly its commendation of ICMP’s audition process and its strong engagement with the music industry.
“As a voluntary subscriber to the QAA, the institute is one of the first independent providers to undergo such a rigorous examination and has been judged to the same standards as any UK university,” he said.
“To have our provision assessed in such a positive way, with five areas of good practice identified and only two recommendations, is extremely rewarding,” he added.