Universities' warned over funding link to quality

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(First Edition)

UNIVERSITIES where teaching is poor could lose funds, Tim Boswell, the minister for higher education, warned yesterday, writes Donald MacLeod.

He told academics at a conference in Warwick that universities must be accountable to taxpayers and students. The Government would not tolerate unreasonable delays in implementing plans to monitor the quality of teaching.

The proposals have been criticised by many vice-chancellors as too bureaucratic. There are also fears that linking funding to quality assessments will threaten academic freedom.

The Government's charter for higher and further education would give students a series of rights, including having their views of courses - and perhaps lecturers - taken into account, Mr Boswell said.

In addition, the Government intends to improve teaching standards in universities by linking their income through the funding councils to assessments of all departments. The universities have also set up their own Higher Education Quality Council.

Assessments of teaching would be published to help students choose a university.

Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of the University of Central England in Birmingham, called the proposals a 'fundamental threat to academic freedom'.