Annual faculty academic quality assurance and enhancement report

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24 February 2010

Paper 3.1
Annual Faculty Academic Quality ASSURANCE and Enhancement Report


The Annual Faculty Academic Quality Assurance and Enhancement Reports are the mechanism for providing the Quality Monitoring Committee with assurance that robust quality assurance and enhancement procedures are in place in each of the five faculties. The information provided in these reports informs reports to Senate and Court as well as the Quality Assurance Agency and the Scottish Funding Council. The Reports also form part of the documentation provided for Enhancement-led Institutional Review.
The revised template for session 2008/09 has been restructured into five sections: Section A seeking responses for which information can be gathered early in session 2009/10, Section B seeking responses that will be dependent on information from the Planning Office and the Careers Service, Sections C and D to give an opportunity for the Faculty to provide more up-to-date information and Section E for the conclusion.


1 Introduction

1.1 Please provide an overview of the Quality Assurance structure at Faculty Level.
The Faculty monitors the quality of provision through a system of committees, annual reports, quinquennial departmental reviews and monitoring of annual central performance statistics.
The Academic Administration Committee (AAC) is the main committee responsible for quality assurance. It scrutinises regulation changes, new course proposals and course withdrawals before submission to the Board of Study. It also makes recommendations to the Board of Study on policy issues, for example, amendments to assessment procedures and progress regulations.
The new Board for the Graduate School of Engineering (GSEB) considers proposals for all new PGI courses to ensure that financial and marketing aspects have been addressed by the department and that the courses align with the overall Faculty Academic Strategy before proposals are progressed to AAC.
As part of the process to progress the Academic Strategy, the Faculty Teaching and Learning Forum meets on an ad hoc basis to consider Teaching and Learning from a strategic position and facilitate the exchange of good practice in this area throughout the Faculty.
Course reviews for all undergraduate and PGI degree courses are conducted annually. Outcomes are reported to AAC and the Board of Study. This facilitates monitoring of developments, tracking of statistical performance and stakeholder feedback and creates opportunity for the dissemination of good practice across the Faculty. A new process was introduced in 2007/08 where feedback was obtained at the end of each session via individual meetings with the Vice Dean Academic, Assistant Faculty Officer, Heads of Department and Course Directors.
Departmental reviews, conducted every five years, involve a comprehensive examination of Departmental activities including research, teaching, internationalisation, management and resources. Review reports are presented to the Faculty Planning and Resources Committee (FPRC). Departments provide an action plan to FPRC on the recommendations from the review and provide annual updates to FPRC of progress against the action plan until all of the recommendations have been addressed satisfactorily.
Central statistics for admissions and progress are monitored at Faculty level through course review and by the Undergraduate Recruitment Group. Pass rates for individual classes are monitored by the Vice-Dean Academic through the QMC and any generic issues reported to AAC and the Board of Study. The Vice-Dean Academic also makes annual reports to these committees on External Examiners’ reports (making use of summaries compiled by the Faculty Office) and accreditation reports, sent by departments to the Faculty Office.
The Faculty’s position is mapped against the Strategic Objectives in the Academic Strategy in Appendix 1.
1.2 Please comment on how the actions identified in the Faculty’s last Academic Quality Assurance and Enhancement Report have been carried forward and on the impact these have had on the academic quality of the Faculty’s programmes.
Action: Establish a Working Group to address issues surrounding feedback to students.

The Faculty and Departments are working together to enhance student feedback. A Working Group was established to address issues surrounding feedback to students at departmental and Faculty level. The Group will monitor student attitudes to feedback throughout the duration of their course to allow departments to take targeted action before students reach final year and seek to manage student expectations with respect to feedback. This should ensure that students know the different forms of assessment and feedback and the respective benefits of each and ensure that staff deliver to student expectations.

The Student Experience Champion in DMEM set up a Working Group to identify ways to improve student experience in DMEM. Nine identified priority areas and eighteen agreed actions were addressed by an Implementation Group from Semester 1 in 2008/09. The Group prioritised the recommendations and piloted the simplest, most practical solutions that could be put in place quickly with maximum impact. These included feedback, student workload, PDP, exhibition of student work and the formation of a graduate network (DMEM Reunited) which will be rolled out in the Department in 2009/10. The Faculty is monitoring this work with a view to identifying good practice which can be adopted by other departments.
The NSS 08/09 survey results for the feedback questions were disappointing and the Associate Dean, appointed in August 2009, will work with CAPLE to take forward a Faculty wide initiative on feedback in 2009/10.
Action: Conduct an academic audit of undergraduate teaching delivery and rationalise teaching where possible, especially at first and second year level.

All undergraduate courses were reviewed by departments in 08/09 as part of the restructuring to the 20 credit framework. A special meeting of AAC was held in April 2008 to discuss preliminary departmental plans for the restructuring and implications for the Faculty. The extent of restructuring and rationalisation of teaching varied between departments. Accrediting bodies were also consulted.

Action: Conduct an academic audit of postgraduate instructional teaching delivery and rationalise teaching where possible.

The Director of the Graduate School has been tasked with auditing PGI teaching. He reported at the Graduate School of Engineering Board in May 2008 that the best use of resources would be to develop a small suite of generic modules which are attractive and useful to students and employers and can be incorporated within any MSc course. These should include accrediting bodies’ requirements for ‘soft’ skills. The review will continue in 2009/10 to agree the portfolio of generic classes, examine commonality in current provision to avoid duplication across departments, and consider guidelines for how these can be assessed. Feedback from existing generic modules showed that students like working in cross-disciplinary groups.

All PGI courses will be restructured during 2010/11 to the University’s new 20 credit framework, providing an opportunity to revise content and incorporate generic modules.
Action: Continue to monitor the problems of attendance and motivation which appear to be experienced by some second year students following the introduction of first year initiatives.

The progression rates for both 2007-08 and for 2008-09 produced by the Planning Office following standard HESA procedures do not indicate any major progression problems. However there is a concern across the Faculty that some of the initiatives introduced as part of the First Year Experience exercise has shifted a subset of problems into second year. It was decided not to investigate this in 2008-09, but wait until the impact of the new 20 credit 2nd year curriculum in 2010-11 could be assessed.

Action: Review the operation of undergraduate Boards of Examiners and provide more input into PGI Exam Boards.

The Assistant Faculty Officer attended the PGI Board of Examiners in Civil Engineering in September 2009. This highlighted the benefit of improved consistency in applying the Exam Board guidelines across the Faculty. From 2009/10 a Faculty Officer will attend each PGI Board in addition to the undergraduate examination and Honours boards. In order to make this practicable, the number of examination boards will be streamlined in 2009/10 and some current operating procedures changed. The key changes are:

  • Departments should, where possible, have a single Board to consider all of their PGI courses

  • A new Board should be introduced for the Sustainable Engineering programmes

  • Registry schedules to be used for all PGI Boards

  • A reduction in the number of General Boards from nine to five

  • The introduction of a General Board for the Engineering Studies degree

  • The introduction of a Faculty Committee to review all medical and personal circumstances held on central files prior to the Boards of Examiners

  • The introduction of a Faculty template for the recording of degree award decisions for Honours Boards.

Action: Monitor the progress and activities of the new Graduate School of Engineering.

A new MSc in Power Plant Engineering was launched in collaboration with Doosan Babcock, with over 40 part time students enrolling in 08/09. The Graduate School of Engineering Board has the authority to scrutinise the business cases of all proposals for new PGI courses to make certain that there is a market for each course and a sound rationale for its introduction. Funding was obtained to install video recording facilities into two teaching rooms so that lectures could be recorded for online viewing. The pilot will be rolled out to more teaching rooms in 09/10.

Action: Review the Faculty’s portfolio of collaborative agreements with a view to terminating any non-active agreements.

An audit of collaborative agreements began in July 2009 and a significant number of non-active agreements were identified. The audit will continue in 09/10 and it is anticipated that the final number will be reduced from 133 to around 45 live collaborative agreements, most of which are articulation arrangements.

Action: Introduce an additional meeting of AAC to review the minutes of SSC meetings in order to identify any Faculty-wide issues that require to be addressed and any areas of good practice that could be rolled-out more widely across the Faculty / University.

AAC met at the end of April 2009 to discuss the outcome of the DMEM feedback project, common issues arising from Staff-Student Committees and External Examiner reports. This practice will continue.

A problem affecting the wider Faculty related to level 5 MEng and MSc students sharing classes. MEng students are generally high achievers who are accustomed to the university and departmental teaching style, but most MSc students are new to the university and from overseas. Some MEng students feel they are held back because the year 5 teaching is to the lowest common denominator. The Faculty will continue to monitor feedback on this issue.
DMEM recommended an area of good practice in pastoral care: Year Coordinators stay with the same cohort throughout their course, moving from year to year with them. Students like having the same person concerned with their progress and welfare, and build good rapport with their year coordinators. Staff have commented on the benefits of becoming familiar with the full course curriculum. After five years, each year coordinator gets one year off. This is separate to the role of the four Course Coordinators, each of whom looks after one course, taking a long term view of content.
1.3 Please provide details of the course and class approval and renewal procedures operated by the Faculty
Each Department has a Committee for learning and teaching issues which regularly reviews the need for new courses and updates to the curriculum. They are required to submit detailed documentation for course changes or proposals to AAC, including a proposal, regulations, detailed module descriptor forms for any new classes and Programme Specification. New course proposals must state the rationale including evidence of need and fit with strategy as well as resource implications, academic and operational details. Module descriptor forms for all new classes including electives must be approved by AAC and the Board of Study.
The AAC sets strict deadlines for new courses and regulation changes which are to be included in the University Calendar for the following session. The AAC representative must be fully briefed on proposals coming from their department. Once these have been approved by AAC, and any corrections made, they are submitted for approval by the Board of Study.
1.4 Please provide details of the link between quality assurance at departmental and faculty levels.
Departments monitor quality of teaching provision through class and course review, departmental teaching committees and ongoing monitoring of feedback from students, external examiners, industrial liaison groups and employers. The outputs from departmental level processes feed into the AAC meetings, Faculty course reviews and quinquennial departmental reviews. This includes annual reports from Exam Boards and Registry which go to AAC in September and summaries of External Examiner reports which are considered by AAC in January.


2.1 Please confirm that the 5-year rolling plan of Departmental and other Reviews is accurate and provide an explanation for any drift in the proposed timetable.
The plan is accurate.
2.2 Please list the Departmental and other Reviews (e.g. Strategic and Excellence Reviews) carried out in session 2008/09 (Reports in full should be forwarded to GMAP; the Recommendations should be attached as an Annex to this Report).
The first phase of a Strategic Review of the Department of Bioengineering was conducted in June 2009. The Executive Summary is attached in Appendix 2.
A Departmental Review of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering was carried out in January 2009. The Executive Summary is attached in Appendix 3.
A Departmental Review of the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics was carried out in February 2009. The Executive Summary is attached in Appendix 4.
2.3 Please detail any significant developments or issues other than those in learning and teaching (which should be dealt with under section 5) arising out of Departmental Reviews or Excellence Reviews conducted in session 2008/09, including any follow up and the Faculty’s proposed response to these.
Department of Bioengineering

A Strategic Review of the Bioengineering Unit took place in June 2009. The Department has delivered excellent RAE outcomes in successive exercises, consistent with its postgraduate-only remit, and is at the heart of the Faculty’s and University’s strategy to grow its research and other activities at the Health interface. However, the review was held in recognition that there are long-standing operational and strategic issues that the current Department management and Faculty identified as restricting the department from achieving its full potential and ambitions. Fundamentally, staff research performance was uneven; research funding was characterised by low-FEC sources; PGI student recruitment had fallen over a number of successive academic years and, marketing strategies have been weak. Collectively, these issues resulted in the creation of a fragile economic position which if not addressed would have exacerbated the department’s current budget deficit and led to an inability for the department to invest the resources required to allow it to remain competitive in training and research. The Head of Department fully recognised that the immediate leadership and financial challenges facing the department were such that external Faculty and University guidance and backing were required to assist in the revitalisation of the department. Accordingly, the Head of Department requested a Faculty ‘Strategic Review’ to help identify a new structure that would allow the department to realise its full potential. Biomedical engineering has been recognised by many other institutions as an area for investment and growth. Within the UK this has resulted in the establishment of a much more competitive teaching and research landscape to which the department was slow to respond. The primary purpose of the review was to facilitate changes that would allow Strathclyde’s brand of Bioengineering to remain internationally significant.
A wide-ranging list of recommendations was made and the department was advised to:

  • Undertake a review of the department’s management structures to include a review of operational processes which had already been initiated in some areas of the department. A reconfiguration and refocusing of these structures and processes should facilitate driving forward the necessary changes identified in the recommendations of the review and ultimately free up staff time for other strategically targeted activities.

  • Organise a series of away days or events for staff to provide an opportunity to ‘think outside the box’ about strategic issues and to improve communications. This would hopefully invigorate staff, improve communications, generate new ideas and engender a greater sense of shared responsibility for the department’s future.

  • Discontinue the current income-based staff performance indicator with immediate effect. Give consideration to the development of more holistic metrics for reviewing staff performance in order to strengthen the overall performance of the department.

  • Establish a more robust mentoring programme for early career academics.

  • Adopt a managed ‘team’ approach to drive forward a step-change in the department’s portfolio of research activities. This would require a change in culture away from the individually driven ‘silo’ approach to research that was evident in the department.

  • Refocus the department’s research vision to identify cognate areas in which the department has strength and from which it could build critical mass. This might require a reduction in the number of research groups and research themes that exist currently.

  • Encourage staff to engage in activities that would increase their visibility on the research landscape and contribute to restoring the esteem and international reputation that the department previously enjoyed.

  • Ensure the department’s academic and research staff begin proactively to target external sources of funding in a more coordinated way to reduce the over-reliance on DTC and SFC resources and to bring new funding streams into the department. In broadening the department’s research funding portfolio, consideration should also be given to the formation of strategic partnerships with other universities and external organisations to target high value income streams. Given the unique research focus of the department, diversification of research income streams is critical to the department’s future sustainability.

  • Take a much more strategic approach to the selection of doctoral research project topics. Projects should align with the research priorities identified in the department’s new research vision. This would facilitate the development of critical mass in strategically important research areas and support the development of external research funding proposals in these areas.

  • Ensure staff capitalise on the research opportunities offered via the collaborations that have been forged through the DTC. In particular, project findings should be developed in partnership with collaborators into external research grant proposals.

  • Encourage senior academic staff to mentor early career academic staff in the development of research funding applications.

  • Undertake a root and branch evaluation of the department’s marketing activities. This should encompass a market analysis to determine whether the department is currently offering the right products to meet market needs and at the right price and to identify opportunities for new provision. The findings from this review should be drawn on to develop a marketing strategy for the department.

  • Channel unsuccessful DTC applicants towards other postgraduate study opportunities in the department where studentships are available for PhD or MRes courses as this could provide an additional mechanism for improving recruitment.

  • Drives forward a healthcare technology initiative as a matter of urgency drawing together the multidisciplinary expertise that exists across Strathclyde to support the development of this vision. This will require a project champion to lead this development.

  • Establish an internal Implementation Group, chaired by the Dean, to work with the department to implement the recommendations of stage 1 of the Review. The Group will also liaise with the external members of the Review Panel as appropriate.

The department has begun to embrace change and is determined to drive forward an implementation programme in 09/10 that will serve the best interests of the discipline and its place within Strathclyde. A further review meeting will be held to address the remaining areas outlined in the remit for the strategic review. A quinquennial review was scheduled for 2008/09 but in view of the Strategic Review, the University agreed that the departmental review could be postponed to December 2009 and that this would focus on the areas that were not reviewed in detail in step 1 of the strategic review, i.e. Teaching and Learning, Quality Assurance and Knowledge Exchange.

National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics

The Faculty undertook a Quinquennial Review of NCPO in February 2009 with the additional remit to investigate: (1) How the NCPO could operate more like a ‘conventional’ Department, particularly with respect to developing a strong research profile; and (2) How the NCPO would cope with a reduction and change in its funding arrangements, which had been signalled by SGHD. The review resulted in a number of significant recommendations, particularly with respect to research performance. An Implementation Group, chaired by the Dean, was established to progress the recommendations and to develop the options appraisal for the future direction and structure of NCPO.

The action plan included that the Centre should:

  • engage more widely with the other Allied Health Professions, particularly with regard to the development and operational models for its teaching programmes

  • take care to ensure that the strong sense of community does not create an insular department or detract from the student experience

  • encourage greater integration of its students with students elsewhere in the Faculty and University

  • develop a research strategy as a matter of priority. The Departmental Research Committee (DRC) should take a pro-active approach to planning research activities within the department against the priorities in this research strategy

  • take a more radical approach to the management of research in the Centre, with strong leadership

  • review the remit and membership of the DRC to empower the Committee to drive forward change in the department’s research culture and to distribute ownership of research ideas more widely across the department

  • encourage staff to engage with relevant research seminar programmes on offer elsewhere in the Faculty and University

  • sharpen the business models for the CPD courses to maximise the benefits that flow to the Centre.

The biggest single challenge facing the Centre is the move to a new funding model that will be imposed by the SGHD. It is anticipated that there will be a move towards a more conventional FTE-based funding model which will reduce significantly the level of funding that the Centre receives. This will require a new and radical approach to the financial management and business models of the Centre to absorb this reduction in funding whilst continuing to deliver a high-quality Prosthetics and Orthotics undergraduate education programme and develop a research profile.

The recommendations from the review were discussed at FPRC in May 2009. The department was broadly accepting of the review’s recommendations. The Centre reports directly to Parliament and a copy of the report was also submitted to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Government Health Directorate. The Centre’s governance arrangements require that it undergoes a quinquennial Policy and Financial Management Review (PFMR). However, as the SGHD was represented on the review panel they agreed to adopt this report in the interim period removing the need for an imminent PFMR review.
Discussions are continuing with SGHD to confirm the support that they will provide for the NCPO. Once this position has been confirmed the University will be able to reach a final decision as to which option should finally be adopted for the future of the NCPO.
Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

The quinquennial Faculty Review of Electronic and Electrical Engineering was a valuable exercise in which a number of issues were highlighted. An action plan presented a number of recommendations which the department has implemented. These included that the department should

  • consider ways of optimising current activities as well as developing a balanced strategy for future growth

  • review the volume of technical support required and consider appointing additional staff

  • continue engaging with Estates Management to develop the current facilities and prevent planning blight and press for investment in the building to allow it to carry out its work better

  • consider applying for funding for new equipment to allow better use of technician time and that also would be of use to other departments and fill gaps in current provision

  • continue to review regularly the necessity of running a separate IT system with independent IT support in light of perceived benefits to the Department.

These actions were followed up at FPRC in June 2009 and January 2010 and all recommendations have been addressed satisfactorily.

2.4 Please list any accreditation visits/reviews by Professional and Statutory Bodies that took place during session 2008/09 and report the outcome. If these have made any recommendations in respect of improvements to learning and teaching, how are they to be addressed? If these have highlighted areas of good practice which might be applicable elsewhere in the University, please note these below. (Reports in full should be forwarded to GMAP)
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) visited the Department of Architecture in May 2009 and granted accreditation of the MSc in Urban Design backdated to the 06/07 intake. A number of conditions were made which are to be met by May 2010. These include adjustments to the curriculum and development of formal links with the RTPI. The Department has made the appropriate changes in advance of the deadline.
The Health Professions Council visited the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics in May 2008, and granted accreditation of the BSc and new MSci in Prosthetics and Orthotics in March 2009 after a comprehensive list of conditions had been met. The programme has now moved to open-ended approval subject to satisfactory completion of an annual written report.
Due to the redevelopment of courses to the 20 credit framework during 08/09, several accrediting bodies agreed to postpone visits planned in 2008/09 until 2009/10 so that they could review the content and delivery of the new courses.

3 University Guidelines, Policies and Procedures
3.1 Are there any areas in which Faculty practice was not consistent with the University’s Policies and Procedures for Teaching and Learning or with any of the supplementary Guides listed below? If so, please give details and the reasons for deviating from normal University practice in each instance.

  • Academic Strategy 2006-09 (May 2006)

  • Policy and Code of Practice for Collaborative Courses leading to Award or Joint Awards of the University and Flexible and Distributed Learning (including e-learning) (June 2005)

  • Procedures and Guidelines for Course and Class Approval (December 2003)

  • Dealing with Applications from Students with Criminal Convictions (November 1999)

  • Dealing with Instances of Possible Academic Dishonesty (November 2001) (update approved by Senate in June 2009)

  • Procedures and Guidelines for Faculty Board Reports to Senate (March 2004)

  • Departmental Reviews (October 2008)

  • Guidelines and Procedures for the Management of Support for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Disabled Students (March 2005)

  • Policy and Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research Programmes (May 2005) (currently being updated)

  • Procedures and Guidelines for Postgraduate Instructional Programmes (December 2003)

  • Guidelines for Examiners of Research Degrees (October 2005)

  • Policy, Procedures and Guidelines for Summative Assessment (May 2005)

  • Framework for Professional Doctorates (December 2005)

  • Procedures and Guidelines for External Examiners of Instructional Courses (October 2005)

  • Student Complaints Procedure (May 2007)

  • Policy on Students’ External Engagement (November 2006)

The Faculty believes that its practice is compliant with University procedures.

3.2 Are there any aspects of the guides to policies and procedures which the Faculty believed required reviewing? If so, please give details.
Several Engineering Departments have recently been approached to set up agreements with European universities, particularly in France, who are in favour of awarding double degrees. This would allow Erasmus students, who have done well during their exchange year, the possibility to spend a further year at Strathclyde with a view to obtaining a Strathclyde degree award and then an award at their home University. Students would be able to go from Strathclyde to France in the same manner. Although few students want to study French for four years and go to France in fifth year, more European universities now teach in English so this trend could change in future. Many European university collaborations include a French partner and consequently faculty participation is being compromised. The revised Charter allows for the University to award double degrees if desired.
Current University policy is not to allow such practice. Some other British universities are now reviewing and amending their position with respect to allowing the award of double degrees and Strathclyde may be disadvantaged by not considering such arrangements.

The Faculty believes that a review of the current University policy on the award of double degrees would now be timely.

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