V-cs leap to defence of 'united' CVCP

May 22, 1998

Tony Tysome's article "Cracks appear over QAA" (THES, May 15) has interpreted the CVCP's position statement as supporting a system of registered external examiners to review quality. This is not the CVCP's position. It supports the external reviewer model, which was put forward in the QAA consultation paper as an alternative to the REE model and agrees with Sir Stewart Sutherland's group of 30 research-intensive universities that this approach, building on institutions' own systems, would be far more effective as well as more efficient.

In fact, Sir Stewart's group is advising the QAA in a manner consistent with the CVCP position on strengthening the system of external examiners: "There would be considerable merits in efforts by groups and clusters if institutions with similar distinct missions to work towards common guidelines and greater consistency of approach; collaboration in the provision of briefing and training; and wider dissemination of examiners' reports."

Thus there is little between the Russell/'94 group, the CVCP, or the Committee of Modern Universities for that matter, on the question of the externals. The CVCP hopes that the QAA will be able to develop its guidelines on external examining to provide support for the ideas from Sir Stewart's group.

The CVCP recognises in its position statement that subject benchmarking will be difficult. If, as Sir Stewart fears, it cannot produce the sector-wide shared view of threshold standards at which QAA is aiming, then some refinement to the approach will be necessary, to ensure that programme and course aims are expressed in terms that students, employers and others can understand in the context of provision elsewhere in the sector. The CVCP as a whole believes it is worth trying.

The CVCP and Sir Stewart's group are entirely at one in wanting a bidding process for any link between funding and quality.

A. Burslem Vice-chancellor and chair of the CVCP Standards and Quality Group, Manchester Metropolitan University

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