You suggest (Opinion, THES, June 14) that departmental reviews involving outside peers have emerged as the most effective means of assessing and enhancing quality and that "within the privacy of such reviews outside experts can be both merciless and helpful".
This would undoubtedly be true if such reviews could indeed remain private. However, it is precisely because they are an effective tool for quality enhancement that there is an inevitable tendency for them to become a routine feature of institutional quality systems. The reports then become part of the documentation which can be called in as part of external quality assessment.
The temptation for assessors to use such reports simply as a convenient way of identifying weaknesses can become irresistible. If the university refuses to provide them, it is assumed that there is something to hide!
Peter D. Lines
Director of academic quality
Dean, school of engineering