Swansea University passes QAA review after upscaling quarrel

Positive feedback as agency makes recommendations after controversy over student grades at the School of Management

October 9, 2014

Source: Margaret Darms

The Quality Assurance Agency has given Swansea University a clean bill of health despite the controversial “upscaling” of students’ grades in its School of Management.

The QAA’s institutional review, published last week, finds that Swansea has met UK expectations for academic standards and commends it for its enhancement of student learning opportunities.

However, it also says that the review team – which carried out its visit in May – calls on Swansea to “clearly articulate at module and programme level the models of moderation in operation”. This is likely to be a reference to an internal spat this summer over the “upscaling” of student grades at the School of Management, the QAA’s investigation into which is understood to have delayed the publication of its report.

As Times Higher Education has reported, the school intended to raise students’ grades on a significant number of modules, which one external examiner described as a “gross debasing of standards”.

Most of the upscaling was blocked by the university’s learning and teaching committee, chaired by Alan Speight, Swansea’s pro vice-chancellor for student experience and academic quality enhancement. This led the school’s deputy dean for operations, Niall Piercy, to indicate that he would put forward a motion to this month’s university senate censuring Professor Speight and Adrian Novis, Swansea’s acting director of academic services and the facilitator of the QAA review.

Mr Novis said he was “delighted, but not surprised” by the QAA’s verdict, and he pledged to act on the agency’s recommendations.

Upscaling is one of a number of controversies that have marked the first year in post of Professor Piercy and his father, Nigel, who is dean of the school.

However, the latter told THE that rumours that Professor Niall Piercy had been put on gardening leave over his spat with Professor Speight were inaccurate. Although he had not been on campus since the summer, he was “catching up on research” and visiting companies to set up placements.

In a press release put out earlier this week, he trumpets significantly improved admissions and student satisfaction figures. “The haters [are] going to hate, but we’re doing great!” he says.


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