Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

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Delegates seen but not heard

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is consulting on proposals to change the system of quality assessment ("Hefce role under review as Johnson seeks 'cheap and simple' regulation", News, 17 September). The proposals would be the biggest changes to the external quality framework for at least 20 years.

The deadline for submission of responses was 18 September; and at least one of the sector representative bodies was not planning on submitting until then, to permit a final discussion at a meeting on 17 September.

At Hefce's final consultation event on 7 September, Hefce's chief executive Madeleine Atkins introduced the proposals and noted how important it was that the council not only listened to but also really heard what the sector had to say in response.

Imagine my astonishment, then, to find that Professor Atkins had published a blog discussing the outcomes of this consultation on 16 September, two days before this deadline ("Quality assessment must be more than a tick-box process", www.timeshighereducation.com).

Professor Atkins notes that at the consultation events they had "heard broad support for the principles being proposed". Now it may surprise Professor Atkins to learn this, but many of the delegates were quality professionals; and we know each other. And a general summary might be that yes, Hefce did hear some support, but at most events there was considerable criticism of many of the proposals, and we do not recognise the spin that is being put on these discussions.

It is incomprehensible that, well before the consultation deadline, the chief executive of Hefce sees fit to announce the outcome. These proposals would signal a complete change to the framework for quality assessment in England. They are also highly contentious. One might have thought that listening carefully before announcing the outcome would be at least prudent; and really hearing what people had to say a minimum requirement.

Jon Renyard

University secretary and director for student experience

Arts University Bournemouth

Leave of care

I note not a single comment from an academic taking leave to spend time with their children in the feature about summer holidays ("Lazy, hazy, crazy days", Features, 17 September). The smug "look how successful I am because I take the least leave" culture in academic life is very unhelpful to those who have no choice but to do so.

We all know that we must "make arrangements"; that's what you sign up for as a parent, and we make good use of our university's excellent summer childcare. But my six weeks of leave can only be used in the summer because of teaching, marking and exam commitments at other school holiday times, and my children can only spend longer quality time with me in their six-week summer holiday. Some of my senior colleagues suggest that I can work with the children around, surely? Or that "they must be old enough to entertain themselves by now...?"

Do the kids of academics deserve less time with their parents than others? What about others who, year round, depend on carers to take their annual leave in full? Can we ever have this conversation in public without feeling that we jeopardise our position or incite the blank faces, minor revulsion or ridicule of those who don't get it? …

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