The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has published the findings of an investigation into the management of a partnership arrangement between St Mary's University College London (SMUC) and the Brief Strategic Therapy and Clinical Hypnosis Foundation (BST) to deliver DipHE and BSc programmes in Clinical Hypnosis.
The report follows investigation under QAA's Concerns scheme, which invites students, staff and other concerned individuals to report issues that may indicate a systemic threat to academic standards or the quality of learning opportunities at a higher education provider.
The investigation found a number of issues with the management of the partnership, including:
- a partner approval process that has not been effective in establishing appropriate academic standards and quality
- a lack of clarity and information about how SMUC deals with complaints about its collaborative provision
- concern about programme monitoring, with SMUC unable to give assurance, as the awarding authority, that stated contact hours were actually delivered
- concern about the accuracy of information provided about the programme and 'out-of-date' learning resources
- a lack of clarity about the existence and operation of the process for approval of staff engaged in teaching and assessment.
The concerns investigation team has made a number of recommendations to SMUC, including:
- reviewing how complaints about partner institutions are managed
- strengthening its validation and revalidation arrangements, ensuring that validation panels give specific attention to new and unusual programmes, flexible delivery, and proposed partners new to the delivery of higher education
- developing clear guidance to ensure that SMUC staff who are engaged in the preparation or formal approval/validation of collaborative provision have no link with their prospective partner, to guard against real or perceived conflicts of interest
- ensuring that the approval and monitoring of all programmes pay proper attention to stated requirements for contact time and independent study hours
- taking more effective steps to check that the information published about its courses delivered in partner institutions is accurate, consistent and complete.
The University College now has six weeks to draw up an action plan to address the findings of QAA's investigation and confirm how it intends to put the recommendations into practice.