Why the QAA should RIP

Read Frank Furedi's critique of the UK's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in the UK press: and a defence of 'quality assurance' by John Randall, who has just resigned as the agency's chief executive.

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Does the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education offer useful guidelines to students and their parents – or is it a bureaucratic institution that stifles teachers’ creativity? Frank Furedi, reader in sociology at the University of Kent, and John Randall, who has just resigned as the agency’s chief executive, fail to see eye to eye in the Guardian.

Frank Furedi:

‘“Good news!” That was my initial reaction to the resignation of John Randall, chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency. Many of us in the academic world have come to hate this bureaucratic institution. But his resignation will alter little in the academic world.

‘During the discussion after the resignation, everyone seemed to accept the assumption that the issue was whether higher education should be inspected by an external agency. What this overlooks is that the agency was not simply in the business of inspection. Through its activities and its advocacy of a managerial ethos, oriented towards a skills-focused system of education, the agency affected every aspect of university life.

‘Once teaching is reduced to an auditable object, it is no longer the subtle, ambitious, critical and open-ended phenomenon that a good university education should, and used to, be.’

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Agency of change, Guardian Education, 28 August 2001

John Randall:

‘Academics use public services, and so do providers of higher education. They should behave towards their customers as they expect other providers to behave towards them.

‘Parents making financial sacrifices to pay for university will want to spend wisely. They will look for reliable, independent and up-to-date comparative information on the courses available. And how will they feel when they learn that the most recent report on the quality of a university course was published a year or two before they first tearfully parted with their child at the primary school gate? That could well happen if plans to change external reviews of higher education go ahead.’

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A question of quality, Guardian Education, 28 August 2001

Read on:

If not quality assurance, then what?, by Bruce Charlton

spiked-issues: Education

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