QAA fails 'out-of-date' course at Barnsley

May 21, 2004

A second university-validated degree course at Barnsley College has been failed by quality watchdogs after they found that some teaching material was up to 20 years out of date.

In an academic review report on the quality of social science courses at the college, the Quality Assurance Agency this week reports that it has "no confidence" in the academic standards of the social sciences' combined studies honours degree, which is validated and awarded by Leeds University.

As well as out-of-date material, the reviewers found serious problems with assessment practices, including "extremely divergent marks or classifications for the same piece of work" from first and second markers, "over-assessment" and the unauthorised change of assessment tasks.

The decision follows a January 2003 "no confidence" judgement on a Sheffield University combined studies degree delivered by Barnsley, which comprises units of English, geography, history and politics.

The latest report says that the college was preparing a new curriculum for the BA social science course as the QAA reviewers visited, but much of the updated material was still badly out of date in key units, including a health and welfare course, and a course in mental health.

"The reviewers consider that, in general, the historical content of health and welfare results in units that are unbalanced and do not give sufficient weight to recent developments such as social exclusion and the third way."

It says that a unit in welfare studies has some modern content, "but the literature in the indicative reading list... is out of date... by 20 years".

The report says that the college has also renamed a mental illness and society course as mental health and psychology, but the unit has not changed in anything but name.

The QAA reviewers say they have "concerns about the scope and rigour of the assessment process for the degree".

The report says that assessment loads vary unduly between modules, ranging from a 1,500-word essay in one to a 10,000-word portfolio in another.

"Students contend they are overassessed, and the reviewers support this view," the report says.

A spokeswoman for Barnsley said: "At the time of the visit in March 2003 Barnsley College was involved in a full college Ofsted inspection, institutional reviews for 11 degree programmes as well as the QAA review of social sciences. The social sciences programme reviewed by the QAA was being revised for revalidation and indeed has since been approved.

"We are confident the issues identified have been addressed for the remaining two years of the degree and the college is firmly committed to supporting the students for the duration of the programme, as is Leeds University."

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