Pioneering degree falls under QAA fire

January 23, 2003

Quality watchdogs have "no confidence" in the academic standard of a pioneering Sheffield University degree offered through its partner, Barnsley College.

In a review of Barnsley's combined studies (humanities) BA, the Quality Assurance Agency says there is "serious concern for the security and integrity of assessment practices", that standards are set too low and that the curriculum is "unchallenging".

It says that standards on the degree, which combines English, geography, history and politics and is designed for non-traditional students, are not comparable to standards on courses elsewhere.

The main concern is with the methods of assessment, which reviewers say are "uniformly conservative and restrictive".

The college relies entirely on written exams and coursework.

The range of assessment methods is so poor that the college "may restrict the potential of some students to gain higher grades" and "adversely affect their ability to gain employment", the QAA says. The agency also identifies too much overlap between coursework and exams.

The degree has special entry routes to encourage widening participation. It is offered through an extended course, providing a foundation year before the BA proper begins, and through a diploma course that offers the potential to progress directly to the final year of the degree. But the reviewers say that the course is not sufficiently challenging for a higher-level programme.

Barnsley's director of higher education, Jenny Nichol, was not available for comment.


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