Could (or should) we separate teaching and examining?

The new British Universities Minister, David Willetts, has suggested in a speech at Oxford Brookes University that there might be advantages in allowing new institutions to enter the higher education market to offer programmes that would then be examined by other (older) universities with ‘an established exam brand with global recognition’.

The major idea behind this suggestion appears to be the desire to admit new institutions into higher education. These would be able to establish themselves more quickly by linking to examinations (and, presumably, the syllabus) of highly reputable existing universities. This would be an extension, presumably, of the franchising of degree programmes that has been a feature of British higher education for the past decade or more. The new model would separate teaching and examining in a way that is similar to the secondary school system.

I confess I don’t find it easy to see the point of such a proposal. Restructuring the higher education sector in such a way that new colleges do service teaching for older universities (who then examine the outputs) does not seem to me to solve any of the various problems facing the sector right now. In any case, a proliferation of higher education providers with a teaching-only agenda may create its own quality assurance issues.

I suspect we all need to think again at how we can re-imagine university teaching to allow it to cope with the new resourcing environment. But I have serious doubts whether this proposal is the answer.

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3 Comments on “Could (or should) we separate teaching and examining?”

  1. Vincent Says:

    In reality is this not what is happening within the existing Universities. And is this not a fairly simple expansion of the duties of an expensive group of offices and general facilities. Where if the timing can be managed there is no reason why the offices cannot be on the boil for six to eight rather than the current three or thereabouts.

  2. iainmacl Says:

    oh that’s great. the universities do the hard work of examining and take the risks associated with being the quality agency whilst the private providers take the cheap and profitable parts of the work. It also is based on a naive school-type notion of what teaching and assessment are and how they can most effectively be integrated

  3. Aidan Says:

    That model is already somewhat in place with the London University External system. There are institutions in many countries who teach courses leading to London University exams.
    I think that this is a very democratic model. For me though it makes mores sense to have a national examining body which would set exams with links to professional exams as necessary. The lack of equivalence between universities is a major annoyance for employers.
    To give an example I would be far better able to assess somebody’s ability a language based on say the Goethe Institut exmas for German than on a Diploma in German from University X. Many universities actively encourage language students to sit DELE, DALF etc. for this reason. Basically anything that ensures consisten quality is a positive for employers.


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