TVU wins a clean bill of health

July 30, 1999

Undergraduate courses at Thames Valley University have received a clean bill of health in the latest audit, which contrasts sharply with a damaging quality report last November.

The audit, presented to the academic board on July 9, was conducted by senior TVU staff and external examiners. It said the undergraduate curriculum was sound. The earlier Quality Assurance Agency report led vice-chancellor Mike Fitzgerald to resign.

The QAA recommended the audit to review validation procedures of all pathways and modules introduced or altered by the introduction of the New Learning Environment in 1997. The NLE was the brainchild of Dr Fitzgerald and the new audit stands, in many ways, as a justification of the academic direction he wished to take the university.

It says: "There were no cases where the audit panel considered it necessary to recommend a full re-validation ... the audit confirmed the validating process for the design of the pathways and the current health of the pathways after two years of delivery.

"It is clear from the documentary evidence and audit interviews that the overall health of the undergraduate curriculum is sound. It is also clear that teachers have managed to maintain curriculum quality and academic standards through the difficult period surrounding the QAA review. The "NLE" curriculum is bedding down..."

The findings answer some of the questions raised in the QAA's original report. In recommending a review of validation, the report said: "We believe there is little to inspire confidence in the university's immediate past and current validation procedures."

It went on: "We further believe that the protection of the university's standards requires the correction of some defects in its quality assurance procedures fundamental to the proper operation of an institution with degree-awarding powers, such as the validation and monitoring of programmes, the processes of assessment and the appointment and use of external examiners and advisers."

Yet, in addition to giving the validation procedures a clean bill of health, the audit says: "The audit found that there were no cases where the processes agreed by the academic board and undertaken by the College of Undergraduate Studies had not taken place, including external scrutiny on pathway and module proposals."

TVU is implementing an action plan to tackle management problems highlighted by the QAA report and the financial deficit. Implemetation of the action plan was made a condition of grant by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Leader, p14, Features, p17

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