V-cs eye single quality road

Vice chancellors are being canvassed by the Committee of Vice and Chancellors and Principals for their views on a single quality agency, as proposed by the chairman of the CVCP in a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England last month.

The decision to consult them was taken at a meeting of the CVCP council last Friday, when chairman Kenneth Edwards ann- ounced that he will be meeting Graeme Davies, chief executive of HEFCE, to discuss quality on Tuesday. HEFCE's council met this week and discussed Dr Edwards's April letter, which proposed that the assessment programme run by the funding council should be internalised by universities, but managed by an external quality assurance agency.

Professor Davies had already written to Dr Edwards, saying that his proposals had been met with "some warmth". He also said that in response to a consultation exercise carried out by the funding council on its own proposals for a single quality assurance agency, roughly half of vice chancellors had responded in favour of a process based around assessment and half in favour of a process based around audit as run by the Higher Education QualityCouncil.

Vice chancellors are also being asked for their views on a document prepared by the HEQC on the main issues facing any single quality assurance system. The paper says that if a single system is to improve quality and learning in British higher education there must be "open recognition and genuine acceptance that the quality and standards of higher education are the responsibility of institutions, individually and collectively, and depend ultimately on the high professional standards of the academic community."

In his letter canvassing vice chancellors' views Dr Edwards says that he will be expressing to Professor Davies "strong support for a new, single, integrated process to replace the current, separate visits for assessment and for audit" and "our belief that the focus should be on internally-generated reviews which are arranged to provide public accountability."

He will also be pointing out that there are other important activities carried out by the HEQC, in particular quality enhancement and surveys, which will have to be considered as asingle process.

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