In the early 1980s and with great foresight, the then vice-chancellor set in train discussions about quality assurance in the University of Southampton. These led, after reports from working parties and after discussion with the local branch of the Association of University Teachers, to the establishment of a joint committee of senate and council for the Assessment of Departmental Academic Performance (ADAP), which was charged with the implementation of a programme of departmental self-assessment. Wisely and deliberately, progress was slow: two 'pilot' studies (of history and chemistry) were undertaken in 1986/7, followed in 1987/8 by a further six 'prototype' assessments. Much was learned from these initial eight assessments and in 1989 the University was ready to embark on a full-scale programme of self-assessment for all its academic and medical departments in our eight faculties (Arts, Education, Engineering, Law, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Science, plus a faculty of Medicine on a separate campus at the city's General Hospital). The joint committee was chaired by a deputy vice-chancellor and from the outset included representatives of senate and lay members of council, thus ensuring that academic members of staff as well as the institution's external laity were fully involved in the development of the scheme. This is not a mere procedural nicety: I shall argue that the success of the University's ADAP programme is crucially bound up with academics' sense of 'ownership' and also with the very real involvement of lay councillors — retired businesspeople, academics and educational administrators — who have been able to bring to bear a variety of invaluable external perspectives.