The Panel also recommends that the Department give home students a more formal role in introducing articulating students to the University, and ensure that lab and project groups include a mix of home and overseas students. There is a lack of international culture among the students in the Department and few EEE students take the opportunity to study abroad. The Panel recommends that the Department find ways of encouraging more EEE students to go participate in exchange programmes. PGI students found the transition to postgraduate study more difficult than they had expected. They found the first semester exams difficult and felt insufficient time was given to answer the questions. They had not received any feedback from coursework prior to exam and thought that tutorials had not prepared them for the complexity of the exam questions. The Panel recommends that the Department ensures PGI students receive feedback on first semester coursework before the January exams. The Department has a diverse and well-funded research portfolio which is important in sustaining income. It is well-connected nationally and internationally and collaborates widely. Investment from companies has assisted in the creation of high quality research facilities. Although 50% of the RAE outputs were at 3* and 4* in the RAE 2008, the Department is placed relatively low on related UK league tables. The Department therefore faces a challenge in marketing its capabilities and outputs to industrial and academic partners. Early career researchers and other staff will be supported to increase their contribution at the next REF. There is a drive to increase journal publications and build an ethos of publishing research.
The Department has been very successful in commercialising research and currently has twelve spin-out companies. Knowledge transfer is achieved through strategic partnerships with industry and government agencies. Experts from the Department are involved in agenda setting at all levels of government and industry.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF DEPARTMENTAL REVIEW
NATIONAL CENTRE FOR PROSTHETICS AND ORTHOTICS
Date of Review: February 2009
Presented to Faculty Planning and Resources Committee: April 2009
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Panel welcomed the view from the Scottish Government Health Department that there was a continuing need for the Prosthetist and Orthotist undergraduate education programme provided by the Centre. This is of clear importance to Scotland and should continue to be supported.
The Panel commended the Centre on the strength of its undergraduate teaching and the reputation of the BSc (Hons) in Prosthetics and Orthotics programme which is held in high regard nationally and internationally. However, the Panel was concerned that the recent restructuring of the course had been conducted without sufficient regard to developments in the education of other Allied Health Professions (AHP). The Panel was also concerned about the programme’s low retention rates, particularly in first year. Additionally, the Panel questions whether there might be scope to reduce the volume of material in the current programme as students were subject to a particularly heavy timetabled commitment across each academic year. Therefore, the Panel recommends 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.
The Centre should further review the BSc programme material to determine whether the volume of the current course content was still appropriate whilst ensuring that the needs of the profession continue to be met.
The Centre should monitor retention rates and the impact that recent measures taken to address this issue have on improving retention rates. The Centre should also monitor whether there is any link between the mathematics qualifications of entrants and drop-out rates.
A real strength is the Centre’s strong sense of community and the enthusiasm amongst its staff, both of which impact very favourably on the student experience. However, the Panel also detected some feelings of isolation from the rest of the Faculty and University amongst the Centre’s staff and, in a few cases, a unwillingness to engage in change and moving forward. The Panel also noted that, whilst students received good year-round mentoring and support from within the Centre, there was almost no integration of the Centre’s students with other students outside of the department. As a result, students do not have a sense of belonging to the University of Strathclyde. The Panel recommends that:
Care should be taken to ensure that the strong sense of community does not create an insular department or perpetuate any feelings of isolation that is evident amongst the staff.
The Centre should encourage greater integration of its students with students elsewhere in the Faculty and University.
The Panel was encouraged to see a real enthusiasm for research amongst some of the Centre’s staff. However, the overall research performance of the Centre is weak by comparison with the rest of the University: no staff were returned to RAE 2008 and, without radical change, there is little realistic prospect of achieving an RAE-equivalent research profile over the next few years. Overall research leadership, strategy and vision are weak and, despite the efforts of the Director of Research, there remains little engagement and commitment from some staff to plan or deliver research. While the Centre’s new research appointments clearly have research potential and will help catalyse a more research orientated culture, a more radical approach to the management of research in the Centre is now required. If this is not undertaken there is a real danger of separate teaching and research factions emerging within the department. The Panel, therefore, recommends that:
A radical rethinking of the role of research, and how research is managed within the Centre, be undertaken as a matter of priority.
Strong research leadership will be critical to the success of this process.
A research strategy for the department be developed.
The DRC should have a pro-active approach to planning research activities within the department against the priorities in this research strategy.
The remit and membership of the DRC should be reviewed 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.
Staff should be encouraged to engage with relevant research seminar programmes on offer elsewhere in the faculty and University.
The Centre’s CPD programmes are a strength and there is evidence of strong external demand. However, the business models for these courses could be sharpened to maximise the return of benefits to the Centre. Conversely, the Panel had significant concerns regarding the Centre’s Masters-level provision. The MSc programme in Rehabilitation Studies is weak with poor progression and retention rates: only 5 students have graduated with an MSc award since the programme was introduced in 2000. The Panel saw significant opportunities at Masters-level and was disappointed that these were not being actively exploited by the Centre. With respect to postgraduate provision the Panel recommends that:
The business models for the CPD courses be sharpened to maximise the benefits that flow to the Centre.
A radical overhaul of the management of the MSc in Rehabilitation Studies programme be initiated.
The Centre investigate opportunities to expand Masters level provision.
The biggest single challenge facing the Centre is the move to a new funding model. It is anticipated that there will be a move towards a more conventional HE funding model in future which will reduce significantly the level of funding that the Centre receives. It will, therefore, be imperative to diversify the Centre’s income streams to cushion against this reduction in funding. The Panel considers that, against this background, the Centre’s existing structures and activities would not be capable of absorbing this change in funding. Consequently, the Panel recommends that a new and radical approach to the financial management and business models of the Centre is now required for the Centre to meet these new challenges. The Panel or Faculty does not currently have the answers as to what this approach might look like. However, the Faculty is committed to working with the Centre to achieve this.
There remains an issue of the ‘fit’ of the Centre within the Faculty of Engineering or with the University more widely. The activities of the Centre are more closely aligned with the AHPs than with the Engineering disciplines. The Panel, therefore, recommends that an options appraisal exercise be conducted to identify and assess possible future models for the Centre.
The Faculty of Engineering will establish an internal Implementation Group, chaired by the Dean, to work with the Centre in implementing the recommendations of the Review. The Group will also liaise with the external members of the Review Panel as appropriate.