Sector cools on QAA plans to use foreign reviewers

Consultation shows widespread resistance to regulator’s proposal

July 11, 2013

Source: Getty

Under scrutiny: QAA plans to use international reviewers have been shelved

The Quality Assurance Agency has dropped plans to use international reviewers on its institutional review teams after opposition from within the sector.

In a consultation on the QAA’s Higher Education Review method, which comes into effect in 2013-14, just over 40 per cent of respondents disagreed with the proposal to have academics from other university systems on inspection teams.

Several respondents suggested that overseas academics might not be familiar with the nuances of the UK higher education quality assurance processes, according to the report, Outcomes of QAA Consultation on Higher Education Review, published last month.

Others were worried about the training of international reviewers; the cost of using such reviewers was also mentioned.

There was slightly more support (68 per cent) for a pilot scheme using 20 international reviewers over the next two academic years, but many scholars were still opposed to their “premature” inclusion.

In its first handbook on the new method, the QAA has said that the proposed pilot will not proceed. Instead a small group of international academics will initially act as observers.

There was more support for the new “flexible, risk-based method” for reviews, which, the QAA handbook says, “applies the greatest scrutiny where it is most needed”.

It follows calls by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, for the regulator to reduce scrutiny of highly rated universities and concentrate its resources on higher-risk institutions.

Under the new review process, institutions will be asked to submit written evidence to the QAA that will determine the number of reviewers and duration needed for an institutional review – a process supported by 86 per cent of respondents.

While 85 per cent of respondents backed the idea of “high, medium and low-intensity reviews”, some raised concerns that institutions undergoing longer inspections might be wrongly perceived as a high-risk institution.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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