Health course fails its medical

February 7, 2003

Quality inspectors have uncovered "strong evidence of plagiarism" on a masters course at Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, which was missed by internal and external examiners.

The Quality Assurance Agency said it had "no confidence" in the academic standards of the MSc in health informatics after discovering evidence of plagiarism and other problems. The QAA has demanded an urgent review of procedures for monitoring students' work.

Courses at the department of information management were inspected last year. The inspectors' report says: "The department stated that it had not faced a recent suspected case of plagiarism or collusion. However, the reviewers found strong prima facie evidence of plagiarism and/ or collusion during their scrutiny of a sample of student work from the programme, which had not been detected by either the internal examiners or the external examiner."

The inspectors add that standards in dissertations for the MSc in health informatics "do not meet the minimum expectations" and there is inadequate feedback to students on their coursework.

Although the QAA team found the quality of teaching and learning, student progression and learning resources commendable, the problems gave them no confidence in the standards of the course. They had only "limited" confidence in two other courses in the department: a BA and an MSc in information management.

The report says: "The reviewers have serious concerns with the security and integrity of the assessment procedures and practices across all of the programmes."

John Laver, acting principal at the college, said there were many positive aspects in the report, not least the "commendable" judgements for the quality of learning opportunities offered to students.

"We are disappointed, however, that the QAA has judged that, in the case of two students' masters dissertations, we fell short of the praiseworthy standards that our courses have attracted in previous teaching quality assessments.

"We accept the QAA findings on this point, and we have therefore immediately and thoroughly reviewed our teaching and supervisory provision."

Queen Margaret is the latest of five institutions to fall foul of the "academic review regime", a new version of the old Teaching Quality Assessments that applies to Scottish universities and English colleges. The others are Barnsley College, South Tyneside College, Bolton Community College and Bell College.

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