‘Radical change’ is needed to reassure public on standards says THE

Follow up to earlier post on this topic.

According to Times Higher Education: “‘Radical change’ is needed to reassure public on standards”.

External examiners would be interviewed by inspection teams and universities would give a clear indication of the number of hours they expect students to study under plans to boost public confidence in the quality of higher education. A new “public-facing” role for the Quality Assurance Agency and an independent channel for external examiners to report concerns are also among the wide-ranging proposals published in a report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England on 1 October.

Hefce’s Teaching, Quality and the Student Experience sub-committee, chaired by Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of the University of Essex, was set up to investigate concerns about standards raised last year. Its key message is that while there is “no systemic failure” in the sector, allegations of poor quality pose a serious risk to its reputation, and “radical change” is required in the way that information about quality and standards is communicated.

It is important to stress that the ‘radical change’ here relates to the communication of information, not to the wider issues about the assurance of standards and quality (and to note that the word ‘radical’ appears only once in the report, in the foreword). Articulating arrangements for the assurance of academic standards in a clear and accessible way is notoriously difficult – as the IUSS select committee discovered when talking to the VCs from Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities.

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