Exeter University is to drop two taught masters courses in English after they were rated unsatisfactory by quality assessors from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The rating was given for three courses - American cultural studies, criticism and theory and the theory and practice of modern fiction - being taken by 48 full-time and 24 part-time students. A new course on the history and literature of witchcraft was not assessed.
Exeter said this week that it will drop the American cultural studies and modern fiction courses, and concentrate resources on the criticism and theory degree.
Undergraduate programmes in the school of English and American studies were rated satisfactory.
The assessors, who visited Exeter in February and March this year, found considerable discontent among the students with provision on the masters courses.
The assessors expressed concern both about the quality of teaching and management: "The assessors are deeply concerned about most aspects of the management of the taught MA programmes and about the vagueness of the links between this provision and the school's administrative structures and quality assurance processes."
Specific problems included :
* A research methodology day described by students as "wholly inadequate"
* Low quality of documentation and difficulties in obtaining accurate information
* Low student awareness of the school's postgraduate seminar programme
* Vague and uneven assessment criteria: "Postgraduates were unable to describe how they were assessed."
* Serious delays in the return of work. Some essays never returned, while two students who had submitted theses in September 1994 were still waiting for their results at the time of the visit
* Negative attitudes of some staff, making consultation difficult
* No personal tutor system or tutor with overall responsibility for the programmes
* Inadequate representation for students
* No evidence of any systematic attempt to review learning quality
* No course director's report
* Irregular and in some cases non-existent submission of external examiners' reports
* Heavy wastage. The last of a "succession of sometimes contradictory
statistics" pointed to a failure/drop-out rate of 25 per cent in the 1988/92 period.