Qualifications Authority head Karen Van Rooyen will get $50,000 to "work" from home for three months after she resigned yesterday following a damning report into the controversial Scholarship exams.

The chief executive admitted accountability for the Scholarship debacle when she resigned - a move that has been called for since the scholarship problems first surfaced in February.

Ten days ago the pressure on Ms Van Rooyen to resign intensified following the release of the State Services Commission report, which largely blamed the authority for the problems with the Scholarship exams, and the subsequent resignation of board chairman Professor Graeme Fraser.

The Government has been quick to say Mr Van Rooyen, who earned $200,000 a year, would not get a golden handshake.

But Ms Van Rooyen, who had two years of her contract remaining, will get $50,000 to do "project work" from home for three months.

It is not clear what the project work will entail, but Ms Van Rooyen said she wants to "restore a sense of equilibrium" to her life.

Prime Minister Helen Clark likened the arrangement to that of former Police Commissioner Peter Doone, who resigned from his job in January 2000 but was then employed in the Prime Minister's office for six months and kept his $275,000-a-year salary for that period.

Act education spokeswoman Deborah Coddington called Ms Van Rooyen's $50,000 severance arrangement a "Clayton's golden handshake".

National education spokesman Bill English said Ms Van Rooyen was a "political sacrifice" and that the resignation made no difference to the thousands of students who have not got a fair and valid assessment in NCEA.

Ms Van Rooyen yesterday admitted accountability for the problems with last year's Scholarship exams, in which hundreds of top students failed to get Scholarships.

"I am conscious that I have been closely identified with the debate that has arisen out of the way Scholarship was conducted," Ms Van Rooyen said.

"I have decided in the best interests of the students of New Zealand, and of myself, that the best course of action is to resign."

Ms Van Rooyen admitted she had considered resigning in February.

Helen Clark said she was not surprised Ms Van Rooyen had resigned, saying it had been a volatile time for the authority.

"The chair has resigned, the chief executive has resigned, there is an acting chair, there is a sector review going on.

"Suffice to say the system could do a good deal better."

The State Services Commission still has to complete the second part of its review into NZQA, which is due on July 31.

Another report due in two weeks has been reviewing the work between the Qualifications Authority, Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Education.

Yesterday, Helen Clark said she was considering bringing the three separate organisations under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education.

Karen Van Rooyen

* Trained as a physical education teacher at the University of Otago before her first job at Taita College.
* Taught at a school for dyslexics in the United States.
* Was academic director at the Open Polytechnic.
* Managed the implementation of the $170 million Tainui settlement for the Office of Treaty Settlements in 1995.
* Worked for prison service and the Ministry of Maori Development.
* Became deputy chief executive at NZQA in 2001.
* Became acting chief executive when the authority was introducing NCEA and was promoted to the top job in 2003.