Vice chancellors will discuss their response today to the Higher Education Funding Council for England's proposals for a single quality assurance agency.
The response drafted for their consideration broadly welcomes the plan despite an overwhelming rejection of the HEFCE document at a main committee meeting of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals two weeks ago.
Prepared by CVCP officials, the response will go before a council meeting today. It confirms CVCP support for letters written by chairman Ken Edwards to Graeme Davies, chief executive of the funding council, which called for rigorous self-evaluation incorporating external review. It says: "We are pleased to note that HEFCE has responded positively to these proposals." This was not the view taken by the main committee meeting.
The response also welcomes the fact that the HEFCE submission contains "some important steps towards integration of assessment and audit".
But the document outlines "a number of serious concerns with the proposals as they now stand". In particular, vice chancellors are worried about the proposed timetable for the introduction of a single process and agency; they feel that there are no assurances that the joint planning group which will bring the new body into existence will be even partly owned by institutions; the balance between internal and external assessors; and the specific suggestions for dealing with standards.
The response "very much hopes" that the joint planning group will give "careful attention" to the notion that the driving force for assurance should be rigorous self-evaluation through internal reviews, to which would be added assessment involving external assessors.
The response also says: "A genuine integration of monitoring standards with quality assurance could only be carried out by a body which is clearly representative of the institutions". The funding council has proposed that the new quality assurance process, to be run by the new single quality assurance body, would eventually include aspects "of monitoring the attainment of academic standards". Vice chancellors opposed this at the main committee meeting, seeing it as a full-scale attack on institutions' autonomy.
The CVCP also reiterates its view that the process should aim towards a subject assessment being carried out on a sampling basis as a validation of institution's internal procedures. HEFCE is proposing to visit all university departments. The response ends by supporting the statement by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales that "robust self-evaluation by institutions is vital".