Basic education, including numeracy, literacy and English for speakers of other languages, is the sixth-largest FEFC programme. Mr Donaldson told a Basic Skills Agency conference in London: "When considering the grades colleges have awarded themselves, it is evident that colleges rate this work more highly than do inspectors. Just under half of all colleges inspected in 1997-98 have overstated the strengths of this work in their self-assessment."
"A key message from self-assessment is that you consider quality and standards are better and that this is at variance with the evidence gathered by inspectors," he said. "The idea is not to think of the inspectorate as a kind of police force and to fight the inspectorate, but to ask, 'how can I make constructive use of inspectorate evidence to make things better?'."
Mr Donaldson said data on student achievement was at the heart of quality improvement. It was used by the inspectorate to support judgments in college self-assessment reports.
He said there were significant deficiencies in information management - students' achievements and destinations were rarely reported effectively at programme or college level.