The Valentine's Day meeting that was to begin the delicate process of wedding the two quality assurance bodies for English universities has led to forecasts of an extremely long engagement.
Graeme Davies, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Kenneth Edwards, chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and two of the CVCP's vice chairmen were among those assembled to discuss Secretary of State for Education Gillian Shephard's request to the funding council that it establish a single quality body.
Clive Booth, vice chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and one of the vice chairmen involved, said: "The funding council appear to be working on a five-year timetable before any new system is introduced. This would give them a chance to complete the current round of assessments."
Dr Booth said that the CVCP saw this as an area for discussion. A spokesperson for the funding council said that the timetable depended on the resources available to the council for completing the assessment round.
Dr Booth said that the meeting principally discussed procedures for assuring quality in universities, rather than who would actually do the job. At the moment the funding council visits every university department to assess quality of teaching and learning while the Higher Education Quality Council audits whole institutions.
The plan is to integrate the two processes of audit and assessment and to internalise them more in universities. "The idea is to look at external quality assurance procedures and give institutions more opportunity to carry them out."