Quality report attacks APU management standards

October 15, 2004

Quality inspectors have "limited confidence" in management standards at Anglia Polytechnic University, according to a report due to be published this week.

The Times Higher has learnt that the Quality Assurance Agency will criticise procedures and management controls at APU, which becomes only the third of the 59 institutions inspected so far to be given a verdict that it inspires "limited confidence".

But it is understood that the inspection report, due out on Friday, does not find fault with either APU's teaching or academic standards.

The retirement of Michael Malone-Lee as vice-chancellor this summer has already seen a change in the top management of APU, with the arrival of David Tidmarsh, formerly pro vice-chancellor at the University of Central England. Professor Tidmarsh told The Times Higher shortly after his appointment in June - one month after the QAA inspection - that he was planning a major restructuring of the institution.

Professor Tidmarsh said at the time that he hoped to simplify the organisation's structure and focus on developing already successful schools, particularly health and social care and art and design at APU's Cambridge site.

The new vice-chancellor also warned that there would be more rigorous quality control of teaching at APU's 20-plus partner colleges that are dotted around East Anglia.

Both APU and the QAA declined to comment ahead of the publication of the QAA report.

The QAA, however, confirmed that reports had been published on 59 institutions -with two receiving limited confidence judgements.

APU now joins the Royal Agricultural College and University College Chichester as the only institutions to receive the agency's "limited confidence" verdict.

But the APU report comes amid growing concern about the consistency of QAA findings.

Earlier this year, concerns were raised at a QAA annual meeting that the personal style of the agency's reviewers could influence the approach taken and verdict on institutions.

Last week, The Times Higher revealed that the University of the Arts in London had criticised the QAA's findings about the institution's complaints system as "not representing a reasoned or informed view of the facts".

Peter Williams, the QAA's chief executive, replied that it was natural for institutions to challenge critical findings, but stressed that critical comments were only made when supported by evidence.

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