Quality Assurance Agency

August 25, 2000

A single subject review visit by the QAA can produce enough paperwork to fill two skips. In one department, a photocopier was worn out by paperwork.

The report confirms that the cost of conforming to the demands of the QAA are more than Pounds 40 million a year at a conservative estimate. It says that QAA subject reviews can cost anything from Pounds 25,000 to Pounds 200,000 for a single visit by the inspectors, in staff time and bureaucracy.

The report suggests an average cost of Pounds 75,000 per visit, at a total extrapolated cost to the sector of at least Pounds 30 million a year. Added to this is the Pounds 2.5 million annual cost of QAA audits (between Pounds 80,000 and Pounds 100,000 per institution), plus the Pounds 3.2 million a year paid to the QAA through universities' subscriptions, and the Pounds 4.4 million of Hefce funding, which is paid under contract to the QAA.

But there are numerous hard-to-quantify added costs. The report points out that subject review visits have been likened by grudging staff to a "royal visit", "with departments being repainted and refurbished in anticipation". One Leeds University department said that building improvements brought forward for a subject review cost it Pounds 50,000. While these costs are not additional costs in the long run, they blight proper planning, the report says.

And there are the immeasurable "behavioural costs". QAA reports affect league tables, and put staff careers on the line. "It is not surprising, then, that quality assessments are known to affect staff morale, especially when departments do not do as well as expected, and may well contribute to the reported problems of staff retention and recruitment," the report says.

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