HMI ready to loosen the reins
All 46 colleges have now undergone the first round of inspections, although reports on the final few have still to be published. The second phase will begin in January and run until the 2007-08 academic year.
The main features of the inspections, which comprise subject and college-wide reviews, will continue, but the intensity of "follow-through" reviews will depend on the outcome of the first visit.
A joint statement from the funding council and HMI states that if key areas in learning and leadership are rated very good or good, the follow-through stage will focus largely on good practice. Colleges that have too many fair or unsatisfactory grades will undergo a fuller investigation.
A further briefing document from the council and inspectorate describes the follow-through phase as being "at any point on a continuum from 'light touch' to 'comprehensive'."
Any college given a vote of "no confidence" by HMI will have to submit an action plan.
The number of days spent on a typical inspection is expected to fall from 105 to around 80. The inspectorate has promised that it will reduce the volume of information it requires before a review.
The funding council and HMI believe a proportionate regime is possible because of the progress colleges have made on quality matters. A circular issued earlier this year "expressed confidence in the increasing maturity of the sector".