'No-effort' courses under fire

June 6, 2003

The University of Glamorgan has been criticised over a scheme that awards qualifications to practising chiropractors for work they are already doing "with virtually no additional time or effort".

The university is recruiting professional chiropractors as part-time students and claiming teaching funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales under a scheme to award formal "academic credit" towards full degree and postgraduate qualifications.

Credit is awarded for routine continuing professional development activities such as attending conferences and reading journals.

"This does not look like an entirely proper use of public money," said one professor of chiropractic who did not want to be named.

Bob Brown, head of Glamorgan's School of Applied Science, wrote to all members of the College of Chiropractors, a postgraduate professional body of practitioners, saying: "All you have to do is complete and sign the enclosed enrolment form... and carry on with the continuing professional development you are currently doing. Any work that you are currently doing... can be applied toward university credits."

The letter boasts that chiropractors will, in essence, be rewarded for the same work twice, earning "university academic credits for the CPD work you are currently doing with no fees, and virtually no additional time or effort".

Members of the College of Chiropractors are expected to undertake CPD activities as part of their membership, filling out a "learning needs record sheet" as they attend approved courses, conferences and discussions, or read relevant journals. Members are given points for this work, monitored by their professional body.

Under the Glamorgan scheme, chiropractors submit "a summary" of this work, and tutors "review it" and award credits towards university qualifications.

"The time spent on your usual CPD activities can fulfil the requirements of university credits as well as CPD points for the College of Chiropractors," the letter explains.

The credit can be put towards Glamorgan qualifications, including a BSc or a postgraduate certificate in clinical professional development.

A spokeswoman for the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards said: "What possible requirement to meet standards can there be if there is a promise upfront that whatever a student is already doing will be accepted regardless? It also goes against the presumption that work done for another qualification elsewhere can't be counted twice to get you a second qualification for the same effort."

Professor Brown said: "We were responding to a request from the College of Chiropractors for continuing professional development. There is no question of misuse of HEFCW funding or the awarding of qualifications without any work. All CPD work would be fully validated in line with Quality Assurance Agency standards."

He said that Glamorgan had agreed the content of the development activities with the relevant professional organisations, and would undertake a final assessment of the work submitted. The university would claim HEFCW funding only "where the student qualifies".

He said that the letter, which went out under his name, "may have given an overly simplistic view of the process" and the university's systems for checking such material would be improved.

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