Minutes of Meetings with UKBA

G Vahi made this Freedom of Information request to Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
This authority is not subject to FOI law, so is not legally obliged to respond (details).


This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was refused by Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Dear Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education,

Can you please provide minutes of meetings with UKBA in regards to Tier 4: Educational Oversight?

Yours faithfully,

G Vahi

Barbie Panvel, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Dear G Vahi

I acknowledge receipt of your request for minutes of QAA meetings with
the UKBA concerning Tier 4: Educational Oversight, dated 23 September
2011.

QAA is not covered by the Freedom of information act, but we do seek to
maintain high standards of openness and accountability.

I will contact you with a reply to your enquiry soon.

Yours sincerely

Barbie Panvel
Records manager and archivist
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Tel: 01452 557090
www.qaa.ac.uk

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Barbie Panvel, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

Dear Sir/Madam

I write further to your request dated 23 September 2011 and QAA's
acknowledgment dated 26 September 2011.

As stated in our initial acknowledgement, QAA is not covered by the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the "FOIA") but, in accordance with our
voluntary Information Publication Scheme, QAA has considered in the
spirit of the FOIA your request for minutes of its meetings with the
UKBA concerning Tier 4 educational oversight.

I confirm that QAA holds the minutes of two meetings attended by the
UKBA. However, QAA believes that disclosing the minutes of its meetings
with UKBA concerning Tier 4 educational oversight would, or would be
likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the
exchange of views between QAA and government officers, for the purpose
the development of policy and procedure. Accordingly, QAA does not
consider it appropriate to disclose the minutes to the wider public.

In reaching that position, QAA has taken into account the following
factors:

* While formulating and developing policy, it is often necessary
to be able to have a full and open debate away from external scrutiny.
The disclosure of differing policy options under consideration before a
policy is finalised would be likely to prejudice the effective
development of policy, because it would inhibit a full discussion of the
range of policy options and their potential impacts and could affect the
frankness and candour with which relevant parties would continue to
contribute to the process.

* Disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the ability
of those attending meetings between the QAA and UKBA and other similar
parties in the future to express themselves openly, honestly and
completely and so to enable QAA and other approved education oversight
bodies to explore with government all the options that are available to
it.

* Further, disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit QAA's
ability to discuss freely and frankly with the government in future the
conditions and expectations which an education provider has to satisfy
before they are allowed by the UKBA to 'sponsor' an international
student to study in the UK. QAA has published full policy guidance and
the finalised QAA handbooks describing the process for reviews for the
purposes of Educational Oversight at:
http://www.qaa.ac.uk/InstitutionReports/...
* QAA's mission is to safeguard the public interest in sound
standards of higher education qualifications, and to encourage
continuous improvement in the management of the quality of higher
education. QAA considers that if the information held were to be
released, there is a risk that it could lead to misinterpretation of
policy on the part of education providers as they prepare for their
review for educational oversight.
* In the course of preparing its response, QAA has consulted with
the UKBA as a third party potentially affected by disclosure of the
information requested. From that consultation process, QAA understands
that you have submitted a similar request to the UKBA and the UKBA has
confirmed to you its decision not to disclose minutes of its meetings
with QAA. QAA understands the UKBA has done so on the basis that the
meetings to discuss educational oversight arrangements between Home
Office and UKBA officials and the QAA for Tier 4 sponsors contributed to
the formulation and development of government policy and section 36 of
the FOIA therefore applies.

QAA has also considered the public interest in favour for and against
disclosure. In doing so, it has recognised the general public interest
in promoting openness and accountability in relation to government and
public bodies and the decisions they make. QAA recognises the need for
the public to be confident of robust and fair decisions that affect UK
higher education as whole and individual students in particular.

However, QAA considers that there is also a strong public interest in
QAA being able to discuss policy options with stakeholders with
frankness and candour and so come to fully informed decisions. The loss
of this ability would not be in the public interest, as it would
ultimately result in poorer decision making, and less robust, well
thought out, or effective policies on educational oversight, with the
implications this would have for UK higher education, its reputation
abroad, commercial interests and the interests of the students who pay
to study here.

Having balanced carefully the public interest considerations above, QAA
has concluded that while there is some public interest in disclosure, on
considering all the circumstances, this is clearly outweighed by the
public interest in not disclosing the information requested.

QAA considers that the public interest is served by the open publication
of QAA review handbooks, guidance to providers and as educational
oversight reviews are completed, the publication of review reports.

In conclusion, QAA's decision is that it is not appropriate to disclose
minutes of meetings between QAA and the UKBA for the reasons given
above.

Yours faithfully

Barbie Panvel
Records manager and archivist
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Southgate House
Southgate Street
Gloucester
GL1 1UB

Tel: 01452 557090
www.qaa.ac.uk

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