The Higher Education Funding Council submitted its proposals for a single quality assurance agency to Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, this week amid hopes that agreement had at last been reached with the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals.
Vice chancellors are to discuss the proposals at a committee meeting today. Their comments will go to the CVCP's council meeting late this month and then be submitted to Mrs Shephard.
Ken Edwards, chairman of the CVCP, is optimistic that agreement can be reached. He proposed a single quality assurance agency and a greater internalisation of quality assessment procedures in a letter to the funding council at the end of last month, and discussions have proceeded on this basis.
"I am very encouraged that we have now been able to agree general principles with the funding council, but the devil remains in the detail," he said. An acrimonious debate at the funding council's annual conference in April revealed deep splits between vice chancellors and the funding council.
However, the funding council paper had not reached the offices of the CVCP by Wednesday morning, giving the vice chancellors a day at the most to digest its contents before the next day's meeting.
Dr Edwards, who had not seen the final document by mid-week, said that institutions are keen to have a rolling programme of reviews of all their processes. Funding council assessments now only assess quality in particular teaching departments funded by the council.
"We need a process that goes wider than this, to those areas that are not funded by the funding council. We need a process that is largely owned by institutions but with some external input that will allow for the dissemination of good practice," he said.