University departments that fail any aspect of new quality assessment gradings will face funding council sanctions unless they can show an improvement within a year.
This week the Higher Education Funding Council for England accepted plans for a graded scale of assessment under which departments will receive a mark on a one to four scale on each of six core aspects of provision.
If none of the core aspects is graded one (lowest) the department will be approved. If any receive a one the department will be judged inadequate and issued with a "yellow card" warning.
Assessors will revisit yellow card institutions within 12 months. Graeme Davies, chief executive of HEFCE, said: "We would expect that if they did not make the grade within the time available to them, the yellow card would develop into a red one with withdrawal in whole or part of their funding." The six core aspects to be assessed are :
* Curriculum design, content and organisation
* Teaching, learning and assessment
* Student progression and achievement
* Student support and guidance
* Learning resources
* Quality Assurance and Enhancement.
Professor Davies said it was likely that a numerical scale would be used. "It has so many advantages, including paralleling the research selectivity exercise."
The new system, combined with the universal visiting arrangements agreed at the last meeting of HEFCE, will come into force for the assessment round between April 1995 and September 1996. The subjects to be assessed are chemical engineering, sociology, linguistics, French, German and related languages, Italian, Iberian languages and studies, and Russian and Eastern European languages and studies.
Professor Davies said this activity would carry the assessment process forward at a pace in line with its original target of working through the entire system in five years. The switch to universal visiting will inevitably increase the volume of work.
Professor Davies said it was impossible in advance of the Budget and Autumn Statement to say whether this pace could be maintained beyond September 1996. The council will publish its programme on subsequent assessment "as soon as possible, in the light of the resources available".