Standard baring

July 7, 2000

Brian Brivati is entitled to his views about Oxford, but he seems to have based much of his argument on a simple fallacy (Soapbox, THES, June 30). Teaching quality assessment says nothing about the relative standing of departments. Like all "quality" matters, it is based on conformity to a type or standard. In this case, it is the conformity to, or the discrepancy of, a department in practice, in relation to its claims in its self-assessment document.

Thus Kingston could score 23 out of 24, but if by some mistake the assessors had been sent the Oxford self-assessment, it would be likely to fail. Likewise, Oxford would not match up terribly well against the Kingston document. Different institutions have different priorities and should be judged on that basis.

John Newbery

Industrial training tutor and principal lecturer, School of Chemical and Life Sciences, University of Greenwich

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