Regulation and Quality Information
Following on yesterday’s post about moving towards a new regulated market in higher education, here is an very interesting paper from Prof Roger Brown on the problems of producing the kind of timely, valid and reliable information about quality that could inform applicant decisions.
Vince Cable and David Willetts have repeatedly stressed the aim of allowing ‘student choice’ to drive change in the sector. ‘The Operation of the Market in HE’ suggests that quality cannot be captured or assessed in this manner.
In other words, instead of assuming that students know best (or would do if only the necessary information could be prised out of the system), and wasting resources on things like the National Student Survey, we should be putting our regulatory effort into ensuring (a) that all institutions are using their resources, including their resources of research and scholarship, to give all their students the best possible learning opportunities and qualifications, and (b) that the information institutions put out about themselves and their offerings is rigorously scrutinised for its veracity. We also need to put more effort into improving various aspects of academic practice, particularly student assessment. In this way, we can do our best to protect our students from the risks of making bad choices, which is surely our public, as well as our professional, duty.
That is, quality in education really depends on academic and professional practice: this form of assurance is threatened by commerical and market pressures, the effects of which cannot mitigated by bureaucratic regulation.