Sheffield warned about quality control

December 26, 1997

SHEFFIELD University has been criticised by quality watchdogs for relying too heavily on outside assessors.

Auditors have told the university that although they approve of its internal independent teaching assessments scheme for monitoring quality, they are less happy about a direct link between this and outside quality assessments.

A report from the Quality Assurance Agency describes Sheffield's ITA scheme as "a sound approach" to monitoring, but it relied too much on outsiders. The university "might benefit from placing more confidence in its own ability to formulate and articulate its own explicit criteria for standards and the assurance of quality," the report suggests.

Auditors concluded that Sheffield had quality controls that worked well at departmental and faculty level, but "beyond this the arrangements are less convincing".

The report notes that Sheffield attaches "considerable importance" to the results of TQA, and that it points to its success in achieving consistently high scores as evidence that it is fulfilling its quality assurance responsibilities.

But it says: "Because the university puts most of its emphasis on output indicators of teaching quality, effective management of quality and standards is particularly sensitive to its ability to react reliably and quickly to such indicators, and delays at institutional level in initiating action and monitoring its effects may jeopardise that ability."

Sarah Fulton, head of the university's teaching and learning support unit, said: "The whole point of this university's approach to teaching quality and enhancement is to encourage a culture of departmental ownership."

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