Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Letter from Peter Williams, Chief Executive, Quality Assurance Agency to the Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 8 October requesting detailed information about the progress of the enquiries into the press stories of the summer relating to academic standards. I should be grateful if you'd allow me until the end of the month to prepare a report on progress to date.

  I should like to take this opportunity to inform you about some other aspects of our recent work in this area. Following the Select Committee's hearing in July, and the attendant publicity, we were expecting to receive a large number of potential causes for concern. To meet this expected demand we produced a "users' guide" and simplified access to the procedure on our website ( concernldefault.asp). Since then, however, we have received about a dozen letters and other communications from people with concerns, some of which have been referred to us by third parties. Most of them are personal grievances or relate to employment disputes, some relate to non-HE matters or to strongly held personal views on higher education in general, and only a very small number appear, prima facie, to justify any further investigation by us. These we are pursuing.

  We have also begun our enquiries into the specific areas of concern that were mentioned in the media during the summer. We expect to have a progress report on these by December.

  We shall, of course, send you a copy of this.

  Finally, I noticed at the July hearing that there appeared to be some misconceptions among the members of your Committee about the distribution of responsibilities for quality and standards in higher education and about the distinction between those two concepts; but that was not the occasion for a digressive exposition of these rather complex matters. If you and your colleagues would find it helpful, I should be very happy to provide a background briefing(lasting about 30 minutes) for your Committee, to describe, explain and clarify the quality assurance landscape and its main features and concerns. Please let me know if that would be useful to you and your colleagues.

  I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes

Peter Williams

Chief Executive

14 October 2008

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