Scottish universities are to reject all quality inspection in the next academic year and are calling for a United Kingdom-wide suspension of external quality assurance until late 2003.
The move throws into doubt plans to launch a new regime in England by September 2002.
A meeting of Universities Scotland, the Scottish arm of Universities UK, this month agreed to ban all Quality Assurance Agency inspectors for the academic year 2002-03. University chiefs are concerned that Scotland faces unfairly excessive quality assurance burdens compared with England. Stirling University has threatened to reject the QAA immediately.
The QAA launched the first round of a UK-wide regime in Scotland last year. But English institutions demanded an end to subject-level inspection. This led to the resignation of QAA chief executive John Randall.
While the regime of 100 per cent subject-level reviews has continued in Scotland, consultation on a replacement English system, with a dramatic reduction of subject reviews, ends next Friday.
The Universities Scotland Teaching Quality Forum agreed that it wanted a new UK-wide system. The institutions will allow the QAA to finish the present round of reviews but "there would be no possibility of running the current system on to 2002-03". Talks on a new UK-wide system would begin as a matter of "great urgency", taking into account the English consultation.
Ron Emmanuel, quality assurance chief at the University of Glasgow and chair of the Universities Scotland group, said: "We will go ahead with this year's reviews but we have said it will be the last year. As the system we have will not run in England, we do not see much point in running it here for a third year. We believe that there is no time to set up a new UK system in time for next year, in England or Scotland."
The group stressed that the period would not be a "year off" as institutions would be "embedding the new architecture devised by the QAA".
The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council said plans were going ahead for 52 subject reviews, in 19 subject areas, in 17 institutions for this academic year.