Stick to quality

November 5, 1999

The report on the Quality Assurance Agency's qualification blueprint filled me with dread ("New rules will scrap 'negative' awards", THES, October 22). While there may be a need to standardise qualification titles, the principal role of the QAA should be to assure quality, not conformity, nor even, arguably, consistency.

The whole notion of the QAA seems to be based on bean-counting in terms of credit accumulation and transfer and it would appear that its philosophy is "never mind the quality, count the credits". It is symptomatic of that philosophy that the QAA blueprint calls for the abolition of the pass degree and contains phrases such as: "It is unacceptable that students should be conferred qualifications for outcomes defined in negative and residual ways" and "Awards will reflect positive achievements, and will not be offered as compensation for failure at another level".

The use of the word failure is extremely pejorative. There are many reasons why students in their final year may not make the grade to honours, and to be unable to offer these students any award is not only unfair but draconian.

The best of the jest is that these students will be required to gain some further credit before any award is made. Given the introduction of tuition fees and the concept of students as "customers", I can imagine what a good lawyer would make of this absurd situation.

Bill Stewart

Department of civil engineering

University of Glasgow

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