DUMFRIES and Galloway College has been slated for the quality of its quality assurance. Despite "a serious commitment" by Jim Neil, the principal, and his depute, HMI has judged the arrangements as "unsatisfactory", the lowest rating, signalling major weaknesses. Management overall was rated "fair".
The inspectors said a clear commitment among staff at all levels to improve the service provided to students "was not underpinned by robust and systematic quality assurance arrangements. Senior management had not ensured that all policies, procedures and responsibilities were clearly set out and effectively communicated to staff."
There was "a significant weakness" in the lack of a comprehensive system for monitoring the college's performance and setting out targets for improvement.
The college could not supply the inspectors with "robust data" on student achievement for 1997-98 and figures for the previous year used the wrong formula. When the data was eventually supplied, there were discrepancies with information provided by section heads.
Mr Neil was "disappointed" at the comments, particularly as an inspection carried out under the Scottish Quality Management System (SQMS) gave the college's procedures a clean bill of health for another three years. "But we are taking cognisance of the HMI report and have taken steps to put right the things they weren't happy about," he said. Senior staff have been given specific deadlines.
The college lost approval to validate its own awards in 1996 because the former Scottish Vocational Education Council was unhappy with internal verification procedures. Mr Neil said he was confident permission would be restored following a visit by the Scottish Qualifications Authority in June.
It was much more relevant that HMI was highly complimentary about the state of teaching. Mr Neil said: "What they are saying is that our students are getting a very good educational experience here and that is what matters at the end of the day."
The inspectors saw 102 lessons in eight subject areas, representing 70 per cent of the college's work. Of these, 29 per cent were very good and 58 per cent were good.
None was unsatisfactory.