Annual faculty academic quality assurance and enhancement report

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13 Collaborative Arrangements

13.1 Please confirm that the information contained in the summary spreadsheet of all active collaborative agreements active in 2008/09 by type (validated, jointly delivered, articulations) is up to date.
A list of all active collaborative agreements as at December 2009 is attached in Appendix 5.
13.2 Please confirm that all collaborative agreements were reviewed during the summer of 2009 as required by Senate.
The Vice Dean Academic and Assistant Faculty Officer met with a key contact in each department to ascertain which of their collaborative agreements were current, which needed to be renewed and which could be archived as they were no longer active.
At the start of the review the Faculty log of Collaborative Agreements contained 134 entries with corresponding documents, many of which were out of date or no longer active. The audit led to a major reduction in the number of active agreements to 40. This figure also includes some agreements which had recently expired and are currently in the process of being renewed. Almost all of the agreements are for articulation into undergraduate or postgraduate courses in the Faculty. Most departments have now completed a Collaborative Checklist for each active agreement.
13.3 Was the Faculty satisfied with the continued validity and viability of its collaborative agreements? If not, what was done to address any concerns?
The main outcome was confirmation of those collaborative agreements to be discontinued with immediate effect, thereby reducing significantly the number of active agreements, and confirmation of the process going forward with regard to renewal of contracts with collaborative partners. The paperwork for Faculty approval of collaborative agreements has been revised as indicated in section 13.4 below.
13.4 Did the Faculty identify any issues arising from these collaborative agreements which needed to be addressed at Faculty level?
As ongoing collaborative contracts require to be renewed, the new University templates will be used to ensure consistency and transparency across agreements within the University.
The audit also led to the development of a new Faculty Collaborative Agreement proposal form which must be completed for all new agreements for consideration by AAC. Completion of this form confirms that full consultation has taken place within the relevant department(s) and the proposal has the endorsement of the relevant Head of Department prior to submission to the Faculty for approval.
Through this process, the Faculty of Engineering has confirmed that all collaborative agreements with partner institutions listed in Appendix 5 are live and valid, or are being renewed. The audit is continuing in order to review the detailed aspects of each agreement to ascertain that all of these adhere to the University of Strathclyde policy and procedures in this area.
Concerns were raised at an AAC meeting over the perceived poor performance of some students articulating from Malaysia. A review was conducted of the performance of all students entering directly into third year from Malaysian institutions via ‘2+2’ articulation agreements. Qualifications on entry and subsequent performance were examined from sessions 06/07, 07/08 and 08/09, to ascertain whether a more direct Faculty policy was needed for these students. The study showed that most of the students had performed well including those who entered with diplomas. Three EEE students had performed poorly, but this appeared to be due to individual lack of engagement with the course. Malaysian students entering Architecture courses performed exceptionally well with very high levels of attainment across all of the classes undertaken.
13.5 Did the Faculty identify any issues arising from these collaborative agreements which needed to be addressed at University level?
13.6 Are there any issues of note for the quality monitoring of provision that has come out of the negotiations for new and renewed.
A review of the Faculty’s package of support for international students will be undertaken early in 2009-10. As significant numbers of international students now enter the Faculty via 2 + 2 articulation arrangements there may be recommendations that emerge from this review that will inform the negotiation of new and renegotiation of existing collaborative agreements.
14 Please provide any current observations on information provided for session 2008/09
There are no additional comments to make other than those articulated in the body of the report.

15 Please outline the Faculty’s priorities for session 2009/10.
These are articulated in the Faculty Strategy Update Statement submitted to the University in March 09.

16 From a quality assurance perspective, please outline any issues in the Faculty’s Strategy Statements that might usefully enhance the work of Quality Monitoring Committee and/or Educational Strategy Committee.

Please summarise all required follow-up action for the session under review and any additional academic quality assurance and enhancement actions required to align with the Excellence Agenda.

(i) The Faculty will continue to conduct and monitor the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at improving student feedback and results in the NSS.

(ii) The introduction of undergraduate courses redesigned under the 20 credit framework will be monitored.
(iii) The Faculty’s package of support for international students will be reviewed, including student induction and in-sessional support, particularly in relation to English Language teaching.
(iv) The undergraduate General Boards of Examiners will be restructured to streamline the process and allow time for Faculty Office staff to attend PGI Exam Boards in addition to Honours Boards.
(v) The Faculty Module Descriptor Form will be edited to include a section on how the 12 principles of assessment have influenced the assessment criteria outlined for the module.
(vi) An audit of Knowledge Exchange activities in the Faculty will be conducted.
(Vii) A review of PGR monitoring procedures will be conducted as part of a wider research audit process that is already underway across the Faculty.


Appendix 1

Faculty of Engineering’s progress matched against the
Strategic Objectives in the Academic Strategy

Academic Strategy Action Plan – Session 2007/08 – Strategic Objectives
1. To promote opportunities for students from all backgrounds (including the expansion of international student numbers)

Sections 5.3, 5.5, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 10.1, 11.1, 11.2, 11.4
2. To deliver a quality learning experience (which also addresses the issue of undergraduate student retention)

Sections 1.2, 4.2, 4.8, 4.9, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 8.1, 8.4, 10.1
3. To support student development

Sections 1.2, 4.2, 4.8, 4.9, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 10.1
4. To expand professional development programmes

Sections 5.9, 5.10
5. To provide effective learning support

Sections 4.2, 4.8, 4.9, 5.4, 5.5, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 10.1, 10.2
6. To revitalise the campus environment and ensure maximum accessibility for all students

Sections 4.10, 8.1, 8.3, 8.4
7. To support staff in the pursuit of excellence in learning, teaching and assessment

Sections 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 4.2, 4.9, 5.4, 5.5, 8.3, 8.4

Appendix 2


Date of Review: June 2009

Presented to Faculty Planning and Resources Committee: October 2009


The Panel thanked the department for its positive approach to, and engagement with, the review exercise. In order to realise the department’s full potential staff recognised that the status quo was unsustainable and a collective desire for change has emerged from the review process.

.1 Management and Operations

The Panel resolved that the department’s current leadership structure has been unable to drive forward the necessary change within the department. The Faculty has pledged its support to developing a refocused management structure to implement the process of change but it is critical that all staff in the department take a shared responsibility for delivering change.

With regard to the management and operations of the department the panel
RECOMMENDS to the department that:

  1. A review of the department’s management structures be undertaken. This should include a review of operational processes which has 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 this review and ultimately free up staff time for other strategically targeted activities.

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

  3. The department should give consideration to the creation of a Teaching Directorate headed up by the Director of Teaching to drive forward the recommendations outlined in section 7.4 below. The Director of Teaching should henceforth be a member of the refocused DMT.

.2 Staff development

With respect to Staff development and mentoring the Panel

RECOMMENDS to the department that:

  1. The current income-based staff performance indicator be discontinued with immediate effect. Consideration should be given to the development of more holistic metrics for reviewing staff performance in order to strengthen the overall performance of the department.

  2. The department establishes a more robust mentoring programme for its early career academics.

.3 Research

The department’s international reputation whilst still strong is in danger of diminishing and therefore requires to be strengthened. Aside from publications and numbers of PGR students the University Management Information Profiles indicate that some of the department’s other research metrics have been in decline. The decline is principally due to too few staff obtaining grants and taking on external activities. However it is interesting to note that despite this the per capita research spend per member of staff is the third highest in the Faculty (source: MIPs). The panel is of the view that the department’s international reputation can be reinvigorated through a managed team approach to research that is guided by a cohesive research vision that differentiates the department from its peers. With external competition now fierce an identifiable niche/market focus will be critical. A revamped marketing strategy will also be essential for increasing the visibility of the department’s research activities and strengths.

.3.1 The Doctoral Training Centre (DTC)

The DTC has provided significant opportunities for the department but in parallel its success has contributed to some of the problems in other areas. The resources available from the DTC have perhaps contributed to the low number of external research funding proposals submitted by some staff in the department. As a result, the drive to target external funding has not been a priority for a significant proportion of the staff cohort. This presents a major risk to the department as the DTC resource is a diminishing funding stream.

A much more strategic approach to the development of postgraduate research project topics within the DTC is required. Currently, this process is influenced by student choice. Project topics should support the department’s key research themes to ensure that project outcomes boost the department’s research outputs in the form of funding applications, publications and possibly commercial opportunities and staff must participate more in project generation and attend the networking events held for this purpose.
With respect to the overall management of research within the department the panel
RECOMMENDS to the department that:

  1. A managed ‘team’ approach be adopted to drive forward a step-change in the department’s portfolio of research activities. This will require a change in culture away from the individually driven ‘silo’ approach to research that is currently evident in the department.

  2. The department’s research vision requires urgent refocusing to identify cognate areas in which the department has strength and from which it can build critical mass. This may require a reduction in the number of research groups and research themes that exist currently.

  3. Staff should be encouraged to engage in activities that will increase their visibility on the research landscape and will contribute to restoring the esteem and international reputation that the department previously enjoyed.

  4. The department’s academic and research staff must begin to proactively 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 will be critical to the department’s future sustainability.

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

  6. Staff must 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.

  7. Senior academic staff should be encouraged to mentor early career academic staff in the development of research funding applications.

The panel strongly encourages the department to build on the findings of its review of research and, in concert with the recommendations from the strategic review, develop an action plan for change. A newly constituted departmental Research Committee might provide the vehicle for overseeing the implementation of the research-specific recommendations. A key objective through implementation of the recommendations will be to improve the department’s overall performance in the research environment and esteem metrics that are likely to feature strongly in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF). However, with the REF census date only three years away there is an added urgency to implementation of these recommendations to maximise the potential impact that these changes might make on the department’s REF performance.

.4 Student Recruitment and Marketing

The predominant focus within the department on the DTC and the recruitment of postgraduate research students has diverted staff attention away from taught postgraduate matters. As a result, student numbers are in decline with worryingly low numbers of students registering for taught postgraduate study in the department. This needs to be addressed urgently. Student recruitment to non DTC activities must be a priority in light of the fact that DTC funded studentships have an uncertain future past the current EPSRC grant. Energy and effort must be exerted into developing strategies to mitigate against the potential loss of funded studentships from the EPSRC.

The department’s marketing activities are also weak which has exacerbated the decline in student recruitment. The mini-marketing review conducted by the Faculty has provided a good foundation for addressing some of the department’s immediate marketing issues, but a robust long-term marketing strategy is now required.
With respect to the overall management of recruitment and marketing within the department the Panel
RECOMMENDS to the department that:

  1. The department take forward the recommendations from its review of teaching as a matter of urgency. A departmental team (Teaching Directorate) should be established to take this forward under the direction of the Director of Teaching and drawing on support from across the Faculty as required.

  2. A root and branch evaluation of the department’s marketing activities should be undertaken. 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.

  3. Unsuccessful DTC applicants should be channelled towards other postgraduate study opportunities in the department where studentships are available for PhD or MRes courses as this may provide an additional mechanism for improving recruitment.

  4. The department should monitor the success of its new online Masters programme as this model may also present new opportunities for the future development of postgraduate provision.

.5 Strathclyde Healthcare Strategy

The panel would like to emphasise the importance of the University developing a strong presence in the healthcare technologies sector and the panel agrees with the department’s Research Review that Bioengineering should play a central role in this agenda. However, a Strathclyde healthcare strategy is still in the embryonic stages of development and is not yet well defined. There is a real opportunity for Strathclyde to differentiate itself in the sector, particularly from those institutions that have a medical school, by identifying and targeting key market niches. The University’s excellent links with the NHS and the formation of new strategic partnerships will serve to grow the University’s strengths in this area. The panel therefore

RECOMMENDS to the University that:

  1. It 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.

.6 Managing the Change Process

This first stage of the review, captured within this report, has identified issues associated with the management, operations and activities of the department and recommended actions that can be taken to address these issues to improve the department’s overall performance in these areas. It is now imperative that an Implementation Group be established to drive forward the implementation of the recommendations that have emerged from stage 1 of the review and the panel

RECOMMENDS to the Faculty that:

  1. An internal Implementation Group be established, 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.

There is now a need to move to stage 2 of the review which will examine in detail issues concerning the long-term sustainability of the department and whether it should continue to operate as a stand-alone unit. The Panel, therefore,

RECOMMENDS to the Faculty that:
A further review meeting be held to conduct the final stages of the review and to make recommendations to the university with respect to bullet point iv of the remit for the strategic review. The second stage of the review should take place from October – November 2009 with final recommendations to the University by December 2009.
Appendix 3


Date of Review: January 2009

Presented to Faculty Planning and Resources Committee: June 2009


The Panel acknowledged the helpful and extensive documentation provided. The Department is successful and well-managed and has been in financial surplus for the last three years. It has strengths in research and teaching, a balanced portfolio and good diversity of income. The large size and ethos of working together enables staff to balance resources and take up opportunities. There is a strong research culture and a wide range of research opportunities. The Panel advised the Department to examine its strategy for growth to ensure continued diversity of income for financial stability. Therefore, the Panel recommends that the Department should consider ways of optimising current activities as well as developing a balanced strategy for future growth.

The Department has undergone significant growth in recent years. The team structure provides an integrated approach across the Department and there is a clear and fair workload model. Staff development is fundamental and there is recognition of the importance of building up early career researchers and other staff in preparation for the next Research Assessment Exercise. There is a lack of community among Research Assistants because of the Department’s size, but they mixed well in their research groups.
As a result of the increase in research staff, administrative and secretarial staff reported a substantial increase in their volume of work. Technical staff were also struggling to meet the conflicting needs of undergraduates, postgraduate students, and researchers and the Panel recommends that the Department review the volume of technical support required and consider appointing additional staff.
The Panel observed that the outstanding laboratory facilities are connected by rather dilapidated corridors in an unsuitable building but was concerned that estates development must be ongoing so that the building did not fall into disrepair while its longer term future was considered. The Panel recommends continuing engagement 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.
The equipment and facilities available to students are excellent, but there is scope for better use of resources by sharing throughout the Faculty. The Panel encouraged staff to bid for equipment that could be used by several departments and recommends that the Department 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.
For historical reasons the Department runs its own IT system so that in-house custom applications and adapted software are available for research. Although some integration with the University IT system has taken place, the current arrangement should be subject to regular review. The Panel recommends that the Department continues to review regularly the necessity of running a separate IT system with independent IT support in light of perceived benefits to the Department.
There is a clear recruitment strategy and student numbers have been increasing since 2004/05 with a current total student population of around 900. Further growth of home and international student numbers is planned. Undergraduate recruitment is strengthened by a successful industrial and department scholarship scheme.
The Department has reviewed all its undergraduate courses in preparation for the new 20 credit curriculum structure which will be rolled out from 2009/10. Some new teaching methods such as problem based learning and project based learning have been introduced in the first three years of study. The new structure will create problems at 4th and 5th year level which have not yet been fully addressed. The use of superclasses has assisted in creating the necessary flexibility in final year classes but there are concerns about the effects on mobility across departments and faculties.
The allocation of teaching duties is fair, most staff are research active and there is an ethos of sharing duties to enable staff to released for particular duties as required. The Panel warned against becoming too introverted in teaching and commended the collaboration with the Maths Department in delivering jointly-taught undergraduate mathematics classes which included specific engineering applications. The Panel recommends that the Department should regularly review the balance of internal and external teaching.
Teaching and learning are well managed, courses show good pass rates, and much of first year experience is an exemplar for the rest of the University. The Department faces a challenge in cascading similar support to the second and third years of the course to increase retention. The Panel recommends that the Department should use some of the first year support methods to improve the support given to second year students.
Department staff work hard to provide a good student experience and students were generally very satisfied with their courses, facilities and feedback mechanisms, however, the Department faces a challenge in ensuring that the whole student group is looked after. The Panel was concerned that the articulating international students were not integrating well with the existing student body. Although staff had developed a one month induction programme and addressed various academic issues that had arisen in the early years of the programme, the perspective of the UK students on the course was that the Chinese students do not generally mix with the rest of the cohort and tend no to attend social events. There is a significant language barrier and their lack of experience in group working is also a problem. The Panel suggested setting up a focus group with the Chinese students to gather their views and find out if they are getting the ‘Scottish experience’ they expected. The Panel recommends that the Department should set up a focus group to assess the Chinese students’ perceptions, with the aim of addressing the integration issues from the student perspective.

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