A university’s process for the validation of foreign partners has “serious shortcomings” and must be tackled as a “matter of urgency”, a report from the standards watchdog has found.
The Quality Assurance Agency says that the University of Wales failed to stage thorough checks on the new owners of a Singaporean business school that was offering the institution’s degrees.
Students at the Turning Point Business School were left unsupported after the owners disappeared a year after acquiring the college in an unannounced sale.
The QAA investigation found that the university’s vetting procedure had been “too dependent” on assertions made by the owners and had not checked the financial status of the school.
In a summary of its report, the QAA says that “the university’s decision to accept the assertions of the new owners at face value, and not to set in train a more thorough due diligence process…seems culpably credulous”.
As well as looking at the university’s dealings with the business school, the QAA also investigated its links with colleges in Thailand and Malaysia after a BBC Wales programme last year uncovered irregularities.
The QAA says that the vetting of Wales’ partner in Thailand – Accademia Italiana in Bangkok – was inadequate and its validations “flawed”. It adds that there had also been a lack of “due diligence” in vetting the Fazley International College in Kuala Lumpur, which had been run by a Malaysian pop star with a fake doctorate.
Meanwhile, an audit of overseas provision across the sector found problems in the university’s links with another Singaporean institution – TCA College.
And a separate institutional review, also published by the QAA this week, found “weaknesses” in Wales’ external validation processes.
In summarising the reports, the QAA says that “the shortcomings identified are serious and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency”.
Philip Gummett, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said that the reports “identify a considerable range of serious shortcomings in the university’s central processes and its relations with several partner institutions, and a failure by the university to establish proper control over these matters. There needs to be an urgent and effective response.”
A University of Wales spokeswoman said: "Over the last six months there have been concerns expressed about the validation operations of the University of Wales. The officers of the university have reviewed the validation activity and have come to the view that the current model is no longer fit for purpose and consequently has already imposed a moratorium on all validation developments.
"In order to continue to safeguard standards and the student experience the University of Wales will, in partnership with its proposed merger institutions, develop a new international strategy which is embedded within Wales."