VICE CHANCELLORS have warned that quality assurance across the United Kingdom is at risk because of the Scottish funding council's failure to join the new quality agency.
The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals has waged an unsuccessful battle to persuade SHEFC to join the single quality assurance agency.
Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, has now written to Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth to say that Scotland's absence could damage the UK and Scotland and lead to a divergence in monitoring standards.
She urged Mr Forsyth to "encourage" SHEFC to participate in the agency from inception.
SHEFC, however, has told him that it is following legal advice not to join unless operational questions are resolved. For example, how the agency deals with monitoring standards.
The CVCP argues that if it does not join initially, Scottish institutions will be denied the possibility of shaping a process compatible with Scottish needs.
"It may be that SHEFC is constrained in some way by its constitution to take a narrow view of its obligations and responsibilities with regard to quality in Scotland," says Ms Warwick's letter.
"If so, you alone will be in a position to express to SHEFC the wider needs of the UK."
COSHEP has told the Scottish Office that it wholeheartedly agrees with SHEFC that the new agency should take full account of Scottish needs and wishes. But it argues that the most effective way of ensuring this would be to set up a Scottish advisory committee and Scottish branch of the agency.
A Scottish Office spokeswoman said a Government statement on quality assurance was expected soon.