Rejected Bolton calls for inquiry

February 6, 1998

Bolton Institute staff governors have launched a bitter attack on the Quality Assurance Agency over its "unwarranted" dismissal of the institute's bid for a university title. They have accused the QAA's chief executive, John Randall, of making use of Bolton's case to prove the agency's toughness.

Governors called on MPs to press for an independent inquiry into a critical teaching quality assessment of theatre studies and film and television studies at the institute, which the QAA cited in its verdict on the title application.

They are angry because the QAA's advice to the secretary of state for education not to give the institute the title runs counter to conclusions of the QAA's degree-awarding powers committee.

An appraisal of the institute's bid by Mr Randall persuaded the QAA board that a harder line was needed because of the theatre studies assessment and an unfavourable assessment of mechanical engineering four years ago.

Governors say the theatre studies assessment is of "questionable validity" since its conclusions have been disputed, following formal complaints of harassment during the assessment visit.

The mechanical engineering assessment, they add, was too long ago to count towards an official appraisal of the institute's quality record over the past three years. A re-assessment of the same course in March 1995 gave it a clean bill of health.

In a paper to MPs, institute heads and union leaders, the governors conclude the QAA's decision was "fundamentally flawed, unreasonable, unfair and therefore unacceptable". They claim Mr Randall's intervention contrasts to his attitude to older universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge. Mr Randall has been holding talks with Cambridge quality chiefs who say their university does not need to be audited.

The governors' paper warns: "The adverse judgement of the QAA unquestionably represents a a major setback for the work of the institute. It is a cruel, undeserved and unwarranted blow to its reputation, the morale of its staff and the prospects of its students. If sustained, the recommendation would place a quality stigma on its academic provision that could adversely affect its future operations and prospects."

John Randall was unavailable for comment.

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