Who checks the quality of your degree course?

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Universities have a fair bit of independence about what and how they teach – allowing them to offer distinctive courses that students will value – but is there any quality control? External examiners review courses annually to check standards and whole courses are checked against national standards for HE – it’s this second process that brought Matt Wood to Kingston Maurward College in Dorset.

Despite the Downton Abbey facade, KMC has a new library and laboratories and building has started on a £3m specialist facility for teaching, aquaculture and animal science – a package that many universities would envy. They offer a foundation degree in Marine Ecology & Conservation with the option of a top-up year at Bournemouth University (or other universities). Foundation degrees are distinctive in their work placements, focus on applied practical skills and accessibility to students that may have been in employment already and this course was due for review.

In a nutshell, the review process brings people from outside the course to check it meets national standards for degrees and the subject area – if you want to know more about those standards (or you’re suffering from insomnia) simply browse the several hundred pages of guidance from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
http://www.qaa.ac.uk/AssuringStandardsAndQuality/quality-code/Pages/default.aspx.
Yawn!

Result? The course was revalidated with some suggestions to improve teaching and staff training. The focus on coastal marine conservation and aquaculture makes great use of local resources, like the Jurassic Coast and work placements including Weymouth SeaLife Centre and Dorset Wildlife Trust. Nearly all students top up their two-year FdSc with a final year at Bournemouth, something that might happen at KMC one day. A great course that gives students the knowledge and hands-on practical experience that employers value in a competitive job market.

Nice to catch up with Claire Kirkhope (left) and Dr Rachel Williams (right), KMC lecturers who both did their PhDs at the University of Gloucestershire, pictured here in their undergraduate days in the midst of some science communication about honeybees…!

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