Wales spurns QAA advice to link up with unaccredited US Bible college

University to validate Trinity degrees, after other UK institutions end collaboration, says Melanie Newman

The University of Wales is validating degrees at an unaccredited US Bible college against the advice of the Quality Assurance Agency.

The university has a validation agreement that allows the Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Indiana to teach and award University of Wales degrees.

Trinity, described on its website as "a conservative evangelical Christian institution", is not accredited by any agency recognised by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Canterbury Christ Church University had previously endorsed Trinity's programmes, but pulled out of the agreement last year, claiming that its name was being misused by Trinity's partners. The University of Liverpool also had a previous agreement with Trinity.

The QAA said: "As far as we are aware, Trinity College of the Bible is not accredited in the US. We have been aware of the college's previous links with UK higher education institutions and have advised (UK institutions) that they should not be collaborating with organisations that are not accredited."

Canterbury Christ Church endorsed courses offered at Trinity in 2002-07. Programmes were subject to the university's academic and quality-assurance processes but students did not receive its degrees or awards. The endorsement extended only to programmes offered directly by Trinity.

A Canterbury Christ Church spokesman said: "The university became aware that Trinity had entered into partnership arrangements with third-party colleges. Unfortunately, there was some evidence of Trinity's partnership colleges misusing Canterbury Christ Church University's endorsement to cover their own programmes. Consequently, the university's agreement with Trinity came to an end in September 2007."

The University of Wales is now validating Trinity's degrees. A spokesman said the university was happy with the academic standards of the teaching faculty.

"The university is confident that all its validation procedures in relation to the degrees at Trinity College comply fully with the QAA's code of practice. The programmes the university validates at Trinity are distance-learning qualifications, and thus appeal to international students rather than being confined to those resident in the US. However, the university is working closely with Trinity in relation to its accreditation status in the US, and is ensuring that all Wales-registered students at the college are being kept fully informed on this subject."

The University of Wales contacted Canterbury Christ Church University in 2007 and 2008, the spokesman added. "The member of staff responsible for Canterbury Christ Church's own assessment visits to Trinity College provided a very positive response to inquiries made about the college."

Before 2002, Liverpool had endorsed Trinity's courses. Liverpool decided that it would be more appropriate to "transfer the accreditation role to a theologically orientated institution" after an evaluation of the arrangement and talks with the QAA.

In 2004, Trinity began an accreditation process with US regional authorities, but withdrew from discussion in 2006.

Stephen Williams, vice-president for academic affairs at the US college, said: "(While) Trinity is not accredited by an agency of the United States Department of Education or Council for Higher Education, it is important to understand that the lack of accreditation does not in any way negate the right of any institution in the United States to exist, nor provide a quality education to its constituencies."

He said that accreditation in the US was a matter of "freedom of affiliation", adding that Trinity had "voluntarily withdrawn" from the accreditation process in 2006 because it did not believe that that accreditation agency would "meet the needs of the institution". It was now applying for validation with a different recognised accreditation agency, he said.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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