Procedures for the Review of New and Existing Undergraduate Programmes

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1 Procedures for the Review of New and Existing Undergraduate Programmes 1. Quality Assurance at Imperial College 1.1 The Senate of Imperial College has established a number of principal committees which form the framework for the quality assurance of learning and teaching in the College: for example the Engineering Studies Committee, the Graduate School of Engineering and Physical Sciences Management Committee, the Graduate School of Life Sciences and Medicine Management Committee, the Medical Studies Committee, the Quality and Academic Review Committee, the Recruitment and Admission Policy Committee and the Science Studies Committee. 1.2 Procedures have been established whereby new and existing undergraduate programmes are subject to regular and critical scrutiny by the appropriate Committee of the Senate. 1.3 The procedures incorporate suggestions and recommendations in the various codes of practice published in the 1980s by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals relating to Universities' methods and procedures for maintaining and monitoring academic standards in the content of their programmes and in the quality of their teaching. Account has also been taken of the quality assessment methods employed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). 1.4 The procedures were originally approved by the Board of Studies (the forerunner to the Senate) in June 1987 and have been periodically revised since then in the light of experience and reports submitted by external assessors in their reviews of academic departments, considering individual teaching quality audits/subject reviews of Departments undertaken by the QAA and taking into account the various precepts of the QAA Code of Practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. 1.5 It is appropriate to record here the College's mission and strategic intent:- Our Mission Imperial College London embodies and delivers world class scholarship, education and research in science, engineering and medicine, with particular regard to their application in industry, commerce and healthcare. We foster interdisciplinary working internally and collaborate widely externally. Our Strategic Intent * To remain amongst the top tier of scientific, engineering and medical research and teaching institutions in the world. * To develop our range of academic activities to meet the changing needs of society, industry, commerce and healthcare. * To continue to attract and develop the most able students and staff worldwide. * To establish our Business School as one of the leading such institutions in the world. * To communicate widely the significance of science in general and the purpose and ultimate benefits of our activities in particular. 1

2 1.6 The following is taken from the Charter of Imperial College:- The objects of the College shall be to provide the highest specialised instruction and the most advanced training, education, research and scholarship in science, technology and medicine, especially in their application to industry; and in pursuit of these objects to act in co-operation with other bodies. 1.7 It is also pertinent to indicate that while quality assurance is undertaken by the College Senate through the principal committees mentioned above, the responsibility for quality control lies with individual academic departments and with faculties. 2. Existing Programmes 2.1 The Quality and Academic Review Committee (QARC) reviews the undergraduate teaching of a number of departments each academic year. The review is normally on a rotational basis, so each department should expect to be reviewed about every five years. Departments might be reviewed out of turn in response to information that would suggest that an earlier review would be desirable. 2.2 The QARC aims to time reviews so that they are adjacent to either an accreditation visit by a professional body (e.g. one of the engineering institutions) or an assessment undertaken by QAA. This is to minimise the load placed on Departments by ensuring that the same or similar documentation can be utilised for two different but related exercises. 2.3 The QARC normally invites outside assessors to assist with a review: typically these will be appropriate academic staff from other higher education institutions in the UK, experts from the industrial or business field and sometimes educationalists, and appropriate staff from the other member institutions of the IDEA league (TU Delft, ETH Zurich and RWTH Aachen) or from an appropriate overseas university. 2.4 The purpose of the periodic review of departmental undergraduate teaching by the QARC is to ensure:- that undergraduate programmes have clearly defined aims and intended learning outcomes and are appropriately designed to ensure their achievement; that the structure, content, academic coherence and assessment procedures for undergraduate programmes are well-defined, made explicit to students and achieve academic standards appropriate to the award; that through a regular and systematic process of curriculum review and development action is taken to introduce improvements to undergraduate programmes, building on existing strengths and correcting identified weaknesses; that undergraduate programmes are exposed to external scrutiny; that opportunity is taken to consider future goals for undergraduate programmes in the short, medium and long term; that good practice in teaching, learning and assessment is identified and widely disseminated throughout the College. 2.5 The first stage of the review is for the Head of Department to submit a report to the Committee covering the following aspects of the Department and programme(s) under review 2

3 (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i) (j) (k) (l) (m) (n) (o) the future direction of undergraduate teaching in the Department: two brief statements are desirable - one covering the short/medium term future of the Department (i.e. the likely position in 5 years' time), the second projecting the long term directions that the Department expects to take (i.e. 10 years' hence); a clear statement of the overall aim of the programme or cluster of programmes; these will reflect the mission of the College and might place study of the discipline in contexts such as meeting international or national needs, or preparing students for employment or for further study; the programme aims should demonstrate the promotion of racial equality; evaluation of the appropriateness of the learning outcomes in relation to the overall aims of the provision, making clear their relation to subject benchmark statements and to the programme s positioning on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ); the appropriateness of the content in supporting the achievement of the learning outcomes; the effectiveness of the teaching and learning in providing good learning opportunities to support the achievement of the learning outcomes and academic standards; details of progression showing how demands made upon students increase as they move through the programme; and how particular courses may extend students prior knowledge and prepare them for the later stages of the programme. details of joint programmes offered with other Departments including liaison arrangements showing how joint programme students are integrated into each Department; total student workload and its distribution over the year; the effectiveness and appropriateness of assessment methods in: supporting the achievement of learning outcomes; enabling students to demonstrate achievement; discriminating between different categories of performance; how assessment and curricula determine the academic level of the awards; the extent to which students achieve the aims and learning outcomes; how progression through the programme is supported and monitored: the arrangements for induction; the identification of and action on any special learning needs; how feedback is given to students; the latest set of examination papers (examples of project reports to be made available if assessors so request); availability of resources (including staff, staff teaching load, space, equipment, and library and computing provision); evaluation of the effectiveness of the deployment of human and material resources in supporting the learning of students and the effectiveness of their linkage to learning outcomes; academic staff activities, development and appraisal; staff feedback on the course; industrial contacts and participation in programmes; employers views on graduates student demand for the programmes; recruitment and entry qualifications; the management of year abroad programmes with reference to the Best Practice agreed by Senate on 14 February 2001; the rationale for the integration and management of placements; career prospects for graduates including known destinations of recent cohorts; 3

4 (p) (q) (r) (s) (t) (u) (v) distribution of classes of honours, and student progression and failure rates in each year, with a comparison of grades from year to year (if available); comments drawn from reports of external examiners; student opinion (e.g. a report from the Departmental Student Representative outlining the current concerns of the student body and encompassing comments on the resources for teaching including IT Provision and on assessment arrangements). a set of minutes of staff/student committees for the previous 12 months; a summary of the numerical data from the most recent SOLE survey; the results of any recent accreditation reports; evaluation of the effectiveness of procedures for maintaining and enhancing the quality of provision and academic standards. The Registry will normally collate the information requested under (p) and (q) above. The Student Departmental representative should be asked to include the information requested under (r) with the main Departmental submission. 2.6 The material is sent to the external assessors appointed for the review who are free to request additional information or clarification. 2.7 Arrangements are made for the assessors to visit the Department together, normally over one day, for separate discussions with its staff and student representatives of the programme and with representatives of the QARC itself; the opportunity is provided for the assessors to see appropriate departmental facilities. 2.8 Assessors are invited to submit individual reports based on their impressions gained from the documentation and the discussions during the visit, with any recommendations thought appropriate. Assessors are invited to formulate their reports in the light of the following questions:- Are the educational objectives of the programmes appropriate and are they achieved? Are the learning outcomes appropriate to the educational objectives and are they achieved? Do the curricula allow the learning outcomes to be achieved? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are the assessment methods appropriate to the achievement of the learning outcomes? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are the students adequately supported by the learning outcomes, study skills help, personal tutoring etc? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are the procedures for maintaining and enhancing the quality of provision and the academic standards effective? What are the strengths and weaknesses? 2.9 Assessors are encouraged to highlight as examples of particularly good practice any aspect of the Department's procedures which might be considered worthy of dissemination throughout the College. 4

5 2.10 The assessors' individual reports are made available to the Head of Department for consideration within the department; copies of their reports are also given to the Rector The documentation supplied under 2.4 above together with the assessors' reports plus any written response to these submitted by the Department will be considered by the full QARC to which discussion the Head of Department and his/her chosen senior colleagues (e.g. Director of Undergraduate Studies) are invited together with the Student Departmental Representative Thereafter the QARC will submit its report and any recommendations to the Senate (based on the discussion of the assessors' reports with the Department) The QARC follows up the discussion at the Senate by requesting a report 12 months later on the progress made by the Department in implementing any recommendations; a summary of such progress is then reported to the Senate. 3 New or Radically Modified Programmes 3.1 The College considers it impracticable for new or radically modified undergraduate courses or degree programmes to be subject to a full scale review procedure prior to their introduction. The amount of time the College has to respond to changing market situations is already constrained but principally by UCAS deadlines. 3.2 A two stage review procedure has therefore been established. Firstly, prior to the introduction of new or radically modified undergraduate degree programmes, proposals should be submitted for approval to the appropriate committee: the Engineering Studies Committee (ESC) considers proposals from engineering departments, the Medical Studies Committee (MSC) handles submissions in medicine and the Science Studies Committee (SSC) scrutinises proposals from science departments. A new programme that crosses faculty boundaries will normally be considered by all the relevant Studies Committees as appropriate. 3.3 A submission for a new degree programme should include information under the following major headings: Objectives and purposes of the programme (a) (b) (c) A statement of the structure and purpose of the new programme, including the compatibility of the proposals with the College s mission and strategic intent; Rationale for the course in terms of changing national or European needs, developments in or between professions, opportunities to achieve economies of scale/rationalisation of departmental/college resources etc; proposals should demonstrate the promotion of racial equality; Market information, including: - Note of similar/competitor courses elsewhere in UK or Europe; - Career prospects for graduates (including mention of specific industrial or other interest or relevance which has been expressed); - Student demand for the course (including a note on how this has been ascertained); (d) Admission requirements and intended student numbers; Practice (e) Details of course content and structure including: 5

6 - its relation to the proposed level of the FHEQ - programme specifications; - organisation and pattern of teaching; - workload; - subject-specific skills; - personal transferable skills; - balance of programme, e.g in relation to academic and practical elements, personal development and academic outcomes, breadth and depth in the curriculum (f) Assessment methods; Planning (g) Resource implications, including - staff; - staff development needed; - costing of industrial liaison work; - space; - campus location; and whether split site - equipment; - library provision; - IT provision; (h) Proposed schedule of implementation, including dates - Imperial College Committee; - UCAS Handbook; - First intake of students; - Opportunity, if appropriate, for students already on course to transfer to new programme 3.4 The proposals should be accompanied by suggestions for external referees; two from academe and two from either industry or the health service/medicine. The Chairman of the relevant Committee selects one referee from each of the categories who are invited to send written comments on the proposals. 3.5 The programme proposals together with the responses from the referees are considered at a meeting of the appropriate Committee to which the Head of Department and the programme organiser are invited to attend to aid discussion. 3.6 The Committee may recommend to Senate approval of the proposals with or without modification or may reject them. 3.7 If the first intake to a programme is delayed beyond the agreed starting date, the Senate must reconfirm approval annually until its commencement. 3.8 The second stage of the review would take place during the second or third year of operation of the new course or programme. The review at that point would be more detailed and rigorous than during the first stage and the new course would be expected to meet the objectives originally laid down and satisfy specific criteria as set out below. 6

7 3.9 The Head of Department is requested to submit a report covering the following topics:- (a) Objectives Are the stated objectives being fulfilled? Are the objectives of the individual parts of the course becoming submerged because insufficient time is available for the student to place knowledge gained into a wider context? (b) Curriculum Is the pattern of teaching appropriate (e.g. lectures, tutorials, seminars, laboratories)? Is the curriculum satisfactory in the sense of syllabus content, workload and contact hours; and does it provide suitable development of insight and creativity on the part of the student? Is the course attempting to be too comprehensive, so that workload is too high? Is there too much emphasis on memorising facts at the expense of real understanding of broad principles and concepts? Is the course academically sound in that it forms a satisfactory body of knowledge upon which to build an honours degree? (c) Recruitment and viability Is the student demand for the course reaching the intake targets set, and are the students of suitable calibre? Is the course viable? (d) Resources Have adequate resources been made available in terms of qualified academic staff, support staff, equipment and library and IT provision? (e) Career prospects Does it appear that the training offered by the course will provide a student with adequate career prospects? 3.10 The ESC, MSC or SSC (whichever committee is conducting the second stage review) normally appoints a small sub-committee to consider the material supplied by the department and invites external assessors to assist. An external assessor will normally be invited to provide written comments on the documentation provided by the Department and on any preliminary observations by the sub-committee. As part of the review process the sub-committee will usually hold discussions with staff and student representatives of the particular course. A report is then prepared for the parent committee The ESC, MSC or SSC submits a report to the Senate on programmes reviewed under this procedure If the report recommends that approval of the programme cannot be confirmed, and consequently the programme should be withdrawn, the College will ensure that students currently registered on the programme will be able to complete their degrees. 7

8 4. Minor Changes to Existing Programmes These are considered routinely by the Engineering Studies Committee, the Medical Studies Committee or the Science Studies Committee as appropriate. 5. Undergraduate Degree Programmes Involving a Year Abroad Registry July 2006 An additional document is available summarising special procedures for the review of new and existing undergraduate degree programmes involving a year abroad. 8

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