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Charity Commission Complaint – Quality Assurance Agency

September 2nd, 2010 · No Comments

Complaint against 1062746 – The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

Having completed a five stage complaints process with the QAA and being dissatisfied with the reply, I am now making a formal complaint under section CC47 of the Charity Commissions guidance notes.

I have no connection with the QAA my relationship with them is on the basis of a complainant.

QAA – Stated Charitable Purpose

A range of activities to secure HE standards & quality: reviews & audits of standards & quality in HEIs; published reports & intelligence arising from those reviews & audits; maintenance of the academic infrastructure (subject benchmarks, qualifications frameworks, codes of practice); advice on degree awarding powers & university title & support for HEIs in relation to international developments.

Reasons for Complaint

My complaint is that this part of the QAA’s stated charitable purpose.

A range of activities to secure HE standards & quality: reviews & audits of standards & quality in HEIs

Under which it has exceeded its powers to set up a Cause for Concern (CfC) Complaint Process in breach of its Memorandum of Association and various aspects of charity law.

Cause for Concern available here and Memorandum of Association here

My complaint relates to the refusal of the QAA to investigate my Causes for Concern and the admitted structural limitations of a charity being able to investigate and regulate the issues that I raised. However, the QAA has in my opinion used its structural limitations as an excuse to do nothing.

The CfC process is being passed off by Governments as being a valid whistle blowing process when in fact the QAA has no powers to investigate any complaint nor enforce any course of action. Universities such as the University of Wales Lampeter can and do simply ignore anything the QAA says with regard to risk management.

This has created a totally misleading public perception that the QAA has the same powers as schools and colleges regulator OFSTED or its Welsh equivalent ESTYN and its CfC process is comparable with the criteria of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). When in fact it has no powers whatsoever and the criteria set out for a CfC complaint falls below standards set for PIDA or acceptable whistle blowing standards in industry.

No protection is offered which in the case of students they are routinely subjected to threats of legal action and required to sign undertakings never to repeat their allegations under threat of high court injunctions and claims for compensation against them.

The result is that vulnerable beneficiaries who are both university students and staff are put at serious risk in that they could be misled into making a complaint on the understanding that the same regulation applies to schools and colleges does not exist. Moreover, the lack of expertise in handling victims of institutionalised abuse can only reinforce their sense of helplessness and could push a vulnerable student to suicide.

It is the duty of Government to ensure to ensure proper enforceable standards in higher education institutions HEI’s which is legally classified as a public spending body and not that of a charity. The Government claims that individual institutions should have their own arrangements for whistle blowing . However, those that exist are ignored and cannot be enforced by the QAA; again it is the duty of Government to ensure a protected whistle blowing process for students as staff may be protected by PIDA.

The inability of the QAA to take issue with its brief from, or the conduct of, its fund provider the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to whom they are contracted together with the Welsh Vice Chancellors Association High Education Wales calls their independence into question.

The issue of independence is further questioned by the refusal of the QAA to investigate the Federal University of Wales, the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College. This I suggest is in part due the involvement of the Church in Wales in the governance of these institutions and the involvement of the Archbishop of Wales in political campaigns contrary to section CC9 of the Commissions guidelines which will the subject of a separate complaint.

This serious non-compliance has already led to serious damage to its reputation as a standards regulator being lambasted by the former IUSS Select Committee who in effect described it as being unfit for purpose and called for it to be “transformed into an independent Quality and Standards Agency with a specific standards remit”.

Therefore this QAA Cause for Concern process offers no public benefit to anyone except to Governments and funding councils to give the dangerous impression of a whistle blowing process being in place when in fact by its own admission it is not only meaningless but potentially dangerous.

The QAA board has clearly failed to assess the risk to its own credibility as a charity but more importantly to the vulnerable beneficiaries they should be serving. I suggest it was put in place as a cosmetic attempt to answer the growing student discontent with their experience at university and the refusal of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to investigate any complaints of a serious nature.

What is wholly unacceptable is the game playing over what constitutes a personal complaint as opposed to a Cause for Concern. I have submitted hard evidence that was also accepted as such by a Commons Select Committee therefore, I also expect the QAA to do the same. However, the QAA that a complaint from an individual such as myself despite that fact that it concentrates on a failure of due process, academic and financial fraud is not a cause for concern as its only me making the complaint. Whereas, a public interest disclosure under PIDA and the concept of whistle blowing a complaint can be made by a single individual.

Given the tactics of Universities with the use of bully boy solicitors to isolate, discredit, label crazy, threatened with legal action and required to sign an undertaking not to repeat their allegations is a limiting factor in being able to get a number of other people to provide supporting evidence. Students on the receiving end of this uncontrolled serial abuser behaviour should be treated the same as any other victim of abuse, it sets up feeling of inadequacy, shame, public humiliation, worthlessness, isolated and made to feel it’s all their fault which is reinforced by the abuser(s) at every opportunity.

Moreover, given the QAA has in my view compromised its independence I cannot trust it with any confidential information, particularly as they can offer no safeguards.

Moreover, what would the ordinary member of the public consider is a personal issue and what is a Cause for Concern? I suggest an issue over marking or a clerical error would be a personal issue whereas the institutionalised abuse of a student or abuse of power or a due process even if it’s just one, is one too many, and a cause for concern worthy of investigation by a proper regulatory body and the appropriate action taken against the perpetrator(s).

The nature of Cause for Concerns that I submitted to the QAA are quite common in higher education institutions, the above reasons the effect of this procedure is to keep on the lid on the most appalling institutionalised of vulnerable students. The mere fact that the average student debt is £25,000 it makes them vulnerable, they are at a distinct disadvantage when any complaint can lead to the end of their education and career.

In the case of the University of Wales Lampeter regarding the failure of a due process concerning false allegations of plagiarism which were supported by the QAA’s own review, it would lead to the loss of their academic integrity and force its closure. This adds to my complaint of loss of independence as the QAA are clearly not going to upset its paymaster the Higher Funding Education Funding Council for Wales who has a case to answer for failing to address its statutory duties with regard to the regulation of Lampeter.

It would be in the public interest for this Cause for Concern to be abolished, any further action against the QAA would be for the Commission to decide. This way it would force respective Governments to face up to their responsibilities in providing a regulatory body in keeping with the recommendations of the IUSS Select Committee. In my opinion the people most vehemently opposed to this are these institutions that are resisting all attempts to introduce OFSTED/ESTYN style inspections that would put an end to the abuses I and others have suffered simply for complaining about discrimination.

Cause for Concern Complaints and Details of Attempts I Have Made to Get the QAA to Address My Complaint That the QAA Refused to Investigate my Causes for Concern.

Please read in chronological order the emails which details my CfC’s and attempts to reconcile my complaints with the QAA. I also attach letters from the QAA and my final letter to the Director of Reviews stating my intention to complain to the Charity Commission, QAA – Complaint Charity Commission 26-08-2010.doc.

Additional Information with Regard to the Legal Framework of Higher Education and Whistle Blowing.

  1. Letter from former Education Minister Jane Hutt
  2. My reply to Jane Hutt via former Chair of Petitions Committee Val Lloyd
  3. Reply from current Education Minister Leighton Andrews to current Chair of Petitions Committee Chris Chapman
  4. My reply to Leighton Andrews via Chair of Petitions Committee Chris Chapman.

There issues are not subject to any legal proceedings but related issues are still under consideration by the Petitions Committee

I have submitted all correspondence if you need any further documentation or help with putting things into place please let me know.

Trevor Mayes

UK Governments response to the IUSS Committee’s Eleventh Report of the Session 2008-9 Page 31, and a letter from Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews to me as a petitioner for greater accountability and public consultation in Higher Education.

Review of the University of Wales Lampeter by consultants Haines Watts Corporate Finance, copy on request.

Press release from the former IUSS Select Committee 2nd August 2009

UK Governments response to the IUSS Committee’s Eleventh Report of the Session 2008-9 Page 31

Press release from the former IUSS Select Committee 2nd August 2009

Letter to Education Minister Leighton Andrews 5th May 2010

Tags: Quality Assurance Agency