Upgrades queried by QAA

June 15, 2001

Quality chiefs have criticised the research-degree standards at London University's Queen Mary College, writes Phil Baty.

An audit report from the Quality Assurance Agency warns that Queen Mary does not always stick to its procedures for upgrading MPhil candidates to PhD-level work and the college "cannot always demonstrate" that its processes are "transparent, effective and equitable".

The QAA expresses "broad confidence" in the college's quality assurance systems for its taught provision but says that "in the area of research degrees, a lesser degree of confidence is merited".

The QAA was concerned that although the processes for upgrading students to PhD level were well documented, "the criteria on which judgements are made appear to vary from department to department". It says that the composition of decision-making bodies also varied between departments.

An internal review of the criteria used in upgrading decisions by the college's research degrees committee revealed variations in practice. The QAA says that, for example, an applicant's completion of research training units was used as a criterion only in a minority of cases.

It adds that "recommendations to upgrade are not always made in accordance with the agreed procedures".

The agency makes seven recommendations for "advisable" changes to its quality assurance systems and seven recommendations for "desirable" changes.

Queen Mary College was commended for five aspects of its quality assurance. It has avoided any recommendations for "necessary" action.

Nigel Relph, the college's director of external relations, said he was "extremely happy" with the report.

He said: "The comment about research degrees refers to matters of procedure, not standards."

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