Criticisms of Colleges Kept from Students: Universities' Failings Are Revealed in Reports That Are Not Publicised Although They Could Affect Enrolments. Ngaio Crequer Reports
Crequer, Ngaio, The Independent (London, England)
PROSPECTIVE students are being kept in the dark about reports which reveal universities' failings.
The Higher Education Quality Council, which is funded partly by the universities and partly by the Government, has so far produced about 75 reports on different institutions. But they are deliberately not publicised. Although the universities themselves receive a copy, they are not sent out to the national media and few people even know of their existence.
Yet although they are mainly positive, they also contain significant criticisms. Dons at Oxford, for example, were told to take a more active interest in the teaching and learning of their students. Lecturers at Sussex were required to give students more feedback on their academic progress.
An individual can write to the council and pay pounds 5 for a copy of a report. 'But a prospective student does not know they exist in the first place,' Dermot Kehoe, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, said. 'They should not just be restricted to the academic realm.'
He said that students might think twice about applying to a particular university after having read the report on it.
Last night, Bryan Davies MP, Labour's spokesman on higher education, accused the universities of being insensitive to public opinion.
'I think the wider world has a right to know that authoritative assessments are being made about university quality and we need to know about the work this council does,' he said. 'I have no sympathy with the view that these reports should be kept as a closed exercise, which the higher education world keeps to itself.'
Each report is based on a visit by a three-strong team appointed by the council, usually of academics. The team checks to see whether the right procedures or mechanisms are in place to ensure the highest academic standards. …