Quality chiefs have warned they have "no confidence" in the academic standards of the law degree at Bell College of Technology, condemning the Scottish institution as the first of almost 100 institutions to fail a new-style subject review, writes Phil Baty.
In a critical subject review report published this week, the Quality Assurance Agency says it has "serious concerns" about the effectiveness of the external examination system at the law department, and warned that the department did not have "sufficient mechanisms to safeguard against plagiarism" by students.
In a list of ten "issues" regarding low academic standards the QAA also criticises poor curriculum design.
The QAA report concludes: "Overall, the reviewers have no confidence in the academic standards achieved in the BA legal studies programme in law at Bell College of Technology."
The college's degree in legal studies and higher national diploma and higher national certificate programmes were reviewed in 2001-02. The QAA could make judgements only on standards of the degree, as the sub-degree courses are the responsibility of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
The reviewers said external examiners had raised "serious concerns relating to the effectiveness of the security and integrity of the assessment process", including the lack of a "consistent and transparent assessment strategy", but it was not clear whether the concerns were being properly addressed.
The reviewers were concerned that too much of the degree course relied on coursework.
A spokeswoman from Bell said the college had received the highest rating for teaching and learning, and its student progression, for the entire law provision, showing its commitment to students.
Principal Kenneth MacCallum said: "We recognise that there were some areas of weakness in the BA legal studies programme. Immediate and strong action has been taken to guarantee the future quality of this course. This included a thorough review of the course... The course development team and its management have been reorganised to ensure that the new course is delivered to the highest standards."