Watchdog's eye may turn to institutional red tape

July 20, 2001

Higher education's regulatory burdens could soon be examined by red-tape watchdogs, it emerged this week, writes Alan Thomson.

The Better Regulation Task Force, an independent body set up by the Cabinet Office, is conducting detailed checks to assess the scope for a full investigation into regulation in higher education.

Task force members will meet with people from the sector and with the government before producing a "scoping paper" in the autumn and deciding which areas to investigate.

A task force spokeswoman said: "It is fairly likely that there will be an investigation into regulation in higher education, but sometimes we do scope out things and find that work is already being done."

The Association of University Teachers had called for a task force investigation. It is concerned by the burdens of teaching quality assessments combined with the research assessment exercise and the Treasury-driven transparency review of spending on research and teaching.

In March, David Blunkett, then education secretary, said that he favoured a lighter touch teaching quality assessment. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is also working to reduce the burden of accountability.

But AUT general secretary David Triesman, who is a task force member, thinks a lighter touch will make no difference to administrative burdens. "Reviewing bureaucracy systematically is the best way of doing things."

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