University chiefs call for agency subscription cut

December 26, 1997

VICE CHANCELLORS are urging the Quality Assurance Agency to set its subscription levels as low as possible.

The agency has been holding talks with partner organisations to thrash out the details of a consultation paper on its funding to be published in February.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and funding council chiefs are hoping it will finalise its business plan soon, so that the issue of subscription levels can be addressed.

The QAA is under pressure to set subscriptions lower than they were under its predecessor Higher Education Quality Council.

But there are fears that a broader than expected role for the QAA arising from the Dearing report will mean higher costs.

The QAA this week denied it was being chased over the issue og cost. John Randall, QAA chief executive, said: "This is part of a routine discussion leading to the creation of a business plan."

But the CVCP said its members saw lower costs as one of the key reasons for introducing a new quality regime and setting up the QAA to oversee it.

A CVCP spokesman said it was more important to tackle the issue properly than to rush through a decision. But he added: "The original discussions prior to the establishment of the QAA were based on the assumption that the bringing together of the quality assurance processes would lead to economies of scale.

"Now that is complicated by the overlaying of the Dearing agenda, with quite a substantial programme of work arising from Dearing for the QAA. However, the principle of keeping costs down still applies, and our members will be looking for savings."

John Randall said it would not be possible to forecast costs accurately until the QAA knew more about its responsibilities with the publication of the Lifelong Learning white paper in the new year.

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