The politics in moves to raise standards

August 20, 1999

The QAA faces allegations of playing politics before serving the sector. Mike Fitzgerald, former vice-chancellor of the first "failing" university, Thames Valley University, said that he and TVU had been "cynically used as part of a political agenda".

The damning QAA quality audit that led last November to an unprecedented takeover by a funding council approved "hit-squad", "doesn't quite make sense", Dr Fitzgerald said this week on BBC Radio Four's On the Ropes programme. He said that TVU had received a glowing audit two years earlier, had scored highly in teaching quality assessments and had a "glowing set of external examiners' reports". Only months before the damning report the QAA had lavished "high praise" on the university.

But then "something changed", he said. TVU had been caught up in a "new agenda". The QAA was advising government that it should have new powers to remove failing universities' degree-awarding powers. The TVU report said the university had lost complete quality control over its awards. Dr Fitzgerald has claimed that TVU was scapegoated.

But he also claims that the university did not conform to the QAA's "elitist" agenda. "We did not have the sort of students that the QAA thought should be in higher education."

A QAA spokesman denied the allegation saying the appendix of the QAA's TVU report said: "The board commends the mission of TVU to extend opportunity in higher education ... but regrets that a laudable mission should have been undermined by the failings identified."

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