In many batch processes, frequent process/feedstock disturbances and unavailability of direct on-line quality measurements make it very difficult to achieve tight control of product quality. Motivated by this, we present a simple data-based method in which measurements of other process variables are related to end product quality using a historical data base. The developed correlation model is used to make on-line predictions of end quality, which can serve as a basis for adjusting the batch condition/time so that desired product quality may be achieved. This strategy is applied to a methyl methacrylate (MMA) polymerization process. Important end quality variables, the weight average molecular weight and the polydispersity, are predicted recursively based on the measurements of reactor cooling rate. Subsequently, a shrinking-horizon model predictive control approach is used to manipulate the reaction temperature. The results in this study show promise for the proposed inferential control method. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.