Spurned Bolton in QAA fury

June 22, 2001

A Quality Assurance Agency special review that denied Bolton Institute the title of university has been dismissed as "selective, unbalanced, factually inaccurate, and procedurally flawed".

The attack, from Bolton's principal and governors, is contained in letters of complaint to education ministers. The letters detail a catalogue of alleged inaccuracies, misinterpretations and prejudices that they say condemn the institute and its students to a future as a "second-class" institution.

Bolton was told in March that the Privy Council had rejected its application for university status on the advice of the QAA. Principal Mollie Temple said that she thought there might be political motives behind the decision.

Key among the concerns raised by the QAA was the institute's capacity to maintain high academic standards. But the report covered the period from October 1997 to October 1999 and was already 18 months out of date when the Privy Council saw it. Subsequent events proved the doubts wrong.

Of the five subject areas inspected by the QAA since November 1999, four were given 24 marks out of 24 and the fifth gained 21 marks. In the past eight subject review reports, Bolton got top marks for quality management and enhancement in every case.

Ms Temple wrote to former higher education minister Baroness Blackstone with a list of complaints and concerns, which included:

  • The panel refused requests by Bolton to check its report for accuracy before it was passed to ministers
  • The panel used extracts from subject review results selectively
  • The panel claimed that its negative views "appear consistent with the general views of external examiners" as summarised in subject review reports. Bolton said all references to external examiners' views in subject review reports in the two years covered by the review have been positive
  • The panel attacked Bolton's research record using the 1996 research assessment exercise, but the review was for the period from October 1997 to October 1999 * "The institute is gravely concerned at the serious inaccuracies in the panel's comments on the strategic plan," Bolton wrote to ministers
  • The panel said the institute had "some resource difficulties". Bolton said this was untrue.

John Randall, QAA chief executive said: "The agency's report was commissioned by the (then) Department for Education and Employment.

"The agency responded in full to the department on all comments made by Bolton Institute. The agency has nothing to add to the statement it made at the time of the announcement of the decision of the Privy Council."

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