A Higher Education Quality Council director has condemned the sector's so-called quality industry as a drain on vital resources which "is itself threatening quality."
John Bull, vice chancellor of Plymouth University and a new member of the HEQC's board, criticised the current multi-layered quality regime monitoring standards in higher education in a speech to students and parents attending an awards ceremony.
Professor Bull said that so much time and resources were now being poured into quality monitoring that the system was hampering the very activities it was designed to assess. The Higher Education Funding Council for England's ambition to visit every subject area in every institution within a five-year cycle would only make matters worse.
"It will lead to a situation where you could say that at any one time half the staff are going to be assessing the other half," he said. There was also a danger that the Department for Education's review of higher education would add to the layers of bureaucracy building up in the quality system.
"This (the DFE review group) is a third body -- apart from the universities themselves and their external examiners -- who review, or will review, quality," he said. "Before the latest inquiry gets under way, I urge most strongly a rationalisation of the quality industry -- and would enter a plea that we sit down with Government to review this."
Professor Bull is concerned that resources are being ploughed into audit without there being any benchmarks for the quality of output from universities.