Watchdog finds fault with Leeds Met validation

The Quality Assurance Agency has raised concerns about Leeds Metropolitan University's validation of degrees.

December 1, 2011

The watchdog said this week that it had "limited confidence" in the institution's management of academic standards for courses delivered by partner colleges.

It also had limited confidence in the university's procedures to ensure the quality of learning opportunities for students studying outside its two Leeds campuses.

At the time of the audit in June, Leeds Met had more than 15,000 students enrolled on courses with collaborative providers, including 43 UK colleges, 18 overseas partners and its flagship Indian campus in Bhopal.

But inspectors found that it did not always follow its procedures when signing partnership agreements with such providers.

"Institutional recognition events [were] often completed through events of short duration," the QAA noted.

It added: "Academic approval and validation are often combined into a single event and the panels frequently conclude their business within a short period of time."

This "limited the opportunity for panels to give full consideration to the proposed course and the college's capacity to deliver it".

The QAA also raised concerns about the absence of subject specialists on some academic panels, which mostly comprised staff from Leeds Met-affiliated colleges.

This "[called] into question the ability of these panels to make informed and independent judgements", it stated.

The watchdog ordered Leeds Met to review its procedures to ensure "full and effective oversight of all its collaborative programmes".

It also insisted that some panel members be fully independent.

Eight further recommendations were made, including more checks to ensure the quality of "staff teaching university programmes [at] collaborative partners".

In its response, Leeds Met said it intends to review its strategy for UK collaborations in 2011-12 and its international partnerships in 2012-13.

The university's collaborative-provision portfolio will be "smaller, more focused, streamlined".

The critical report follows a limited-confidence judgement in the university's management of on-campus academic standards, handed down in 2009.

An institutional audit action plan was signed off by the QAA in May 2010 in recognition of Leeds Met's good practice.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

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