Trusting Scots cut bureaucracy

December 7, 2001

The quality wars could be over north of the border, with broad backing for a Scottish system that it is claimed will be much less burdensome than England's quality assurance scheme.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has moved away from a system of compliance to one of trust. It plans to ditch the subject reviews scheduled for next year, and will virtually abandon the subject review process.

This is expected to be retained only for the two new higher education institutions, the UHI Millennium Institute and Bell College, which do not yet have a proven quality track record.

But it could still be deployed if there are serious concerns about a particular area. There will be a year's breathing space in 2002-03, during which Shefc will inspect institutions' internal quality-assurance systems, ensuring that they involve students. Institutions will be expected to include the Quality Assurance Agency's codes of practice and subject benchmarks, and to improve their information to students and applicants.

Shefc has developed the plan in partnership with Universities Scotland, the QAA Scottish office and student representatives, and will consult on it early in the new year.

John Sizer, Shefc's chief executive, said: "The QAA's recent reviews have confirmed that the quality of learning and teaching in Scottish institutions is very good, and that our main focus should now be on promoting continuous quality enhancement."

It is hoped that there will be a common system of outcomes across the United Kingdom, but the Scottish scheme will not include sampling at subject level, as is proposed for England.

Shefc is likely to propose reviews of the issues facing the teaching of particular subjects, which could include evidence from professional bodies and international experts. This could lead to national action plans, which academics could draw on for professional development.

Norman Sharp, head of the QAA Scottish office, said the proposals reflected the maturity of institutions' own system for assuring quality.

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