HEFCE (and HEFCW in Wales/DELNI in Northern Ireland) has placed itself firmly on the front foot today by announcing a review of quality assessment in UK higher education.
It’s surprising because normally such reviews are trailed widely and come at a particular time, such as when QAA is nearing the end of a cycle of audit or review. But this comes close to some very recent changes already made to review methods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
While it’s true that QAA already operates under a contract with the funding bodies and this was due for renewal. The process has been a little more closed than this in the past. Mark Leach has given his take on wonkhe . I’m not sure I’m quite as ready to predict a game changer as Mark, but I think the style and manner of the announcement, accompanied by QAA’s slightly defensive response , suggest that HEFCE wants a to have a wide ranging debate about this.
It will be interesting to see where this goes, a few initial thoughts:
- Should QAA join the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education and compete with other agencies for the funding council contract or even compete for each HEI?
- Should the funding councils provide a shopping list of review methods and agencies to choose from? (all adhering to a broad set of common principles, of course!)
- If QAA were not to be the agency managing reviews, what would happen to the UK Quality Code?
- Is this the first sign of break up in the UK Higher Education Sector? Note that the Scottish Funding Council are not part of this call.
Personally, I think QAA has established itself very well in the UK sector and has a strong and well deserved international reputation. It would be rash to throw that away.