Unions baying for QAA blood

May 25, 2001

Lecturers' leaders are predicting the death of the Quality Assurance Agency after they agreed a multi-pronged attack on its regime.

The Association of University Teachers declared war on the agency at its annual council in Scarborough last week. Members resolved to boycott QAA activities.

The union also agreed to take industrial action in a fight for a "notional" 35-hour week, in a move against bureaucracy imposed by the QAA and other external agencies.

Lecturers' union Natfhe was expecting to agree to a boycott of the QAA this weekend. Vice-chancellors in the elite Russell Group of universities are discussing plans to secede from the agency.

AUT council members were furious at comments made by John Randall, QAA chief executive, who mocked as ineffective previous "war-like noises" from the union.

General secretary David Triesman said the union should look at "a programme for systematic withdrawal" from overburdensome external regulation.

The AUT council passed a motion from the Liverpool association calling on members to boycott and withdraw from the QAA's academic review teams.

In a separate motion from Leeds, members dismissed the QAA's qualifications framework. They said that it was "unrealistic" and "intellectually void".

The members agreed that the framework and the QAA's moves to create benchmarks for standards in all subject areas spelt "an end to the variety of degree provision".

The executive won backing for a campaign for a 35-hour week. The AUT has called for an urgent independent inquiry to look at workloads, thought to be as high as 70 hours a week in many cases. If there is no inquiry, a work-to-rule campaign will be launched.

The union is confident that non-cooperation and boycott will damage the credibility of any of the QAA's judgements. If the boycott is joined by Natfhe, it would make the agency's job all but impossible.

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