UK quality assurance plan is delayed

December 7, 2001

The new quality-assurance regime, due to be introduced next September, is likely to be delayed, writes Phil Baty.

Peter Williams, acting chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency, said: "It is better to get it right than rushed".

Leading institutions are concerned that it is too prescriptive. Simeon Underwood, assistant registrar at the London School of Economics, said the plans could mean "mountains of bumf".

The system abolishes universal subject-level teaching quality inspections. But institutions fear the devil is in the detail still to be agreed, such as how QAA auditors will determine what and how much to inspect at subject level.

Ministers are adamant that there be sufficient rigour to satisfy parents, students and employers.

The QAA has accepted that "there is general unease about the apparent continuation of subject review by another name".

Plans about the information auditors will require are contained in a consultation paper by Ron Cooke, vice-chancellor of the University of York. They outline basic quantitative data that institutions would be expected to collect and a range of qualitative data, including summaries of external examiners' reports and student feedback surveys.

Mr Underwood said: "I would doubt that the proposals will appeal as a package to very many universities, which have been led to hope for a greater trust in their internal processes."

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