Refocusing the undergraduate curriculum and undergraduate framework

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All feedback is welcomed from internal and external sources. Please email your comments to l.m.wilson@leedsmet.ac.uk.


Faculty or Service Area: Registrar and Secretary's Office
Name of policy owner: Sally Glen
Original policy document: None.
Creation date: 2011/05/25
Purpose of the policy being assessed:
To review undergraduate courses drawing on past and current successes ensuring all courses are focused on student needs and demand; supported by consistently good teaching; offer students choice of delivery; underpinned by effective resource.

The draft undergraduate academic framework outlines a common undergraduate fragment and offers three models.

This policy applies to all undergraduate students.

The project is managed through 4 interrelated work streams:

1.Curriculum

2.Learning resources

3.Academic regulations

4.Registry

Customer groups affected by the policy: Staff, Students
Relevant protected characteristics affected by the policy: Age, Disability, Gender, Religious belief, Mode of attendance (part-time or full-time)
Examples of how these protected characteristics are affected by policy with evidence, justification and course of action:
This initiative does not have a disproportionate impact on any group. Its aim is highly inclusive as it seeks to improve student experience, achievement and employability across the board. The project timetable runs from March 2011 until September 2012 but does not include a reference to equality impact assessment.

There are several protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010 that will need to be considered in terms of disproportionate impact when considering changes to the curriculum and undergraduate framework. This review is an opportunity to rectify existing imbalances with a view to making the system more supportive of minority groups.

For example, there is strong evidence to suggest that black minority ethnic (BME) students are more likely to attain lower degree classifications both here at Leeds Metropolitan and in other Universities across the United Kingdom, for example statistics from the Equality Challenge Unit in 2009 showed that 66% of White students studying first degrees received a first class or second class honours compared to BME students at 48%. At our University the table below shows the percentage of BME students that received a particular degree classification in comparison to the percentage of White students that received the same degree classification for the years 2005-2010(download supporting evidence).

The emboldened central columns show that year on year the highest proportion of degrees for White students is a 2:1, whereas for BME students it is a 2:2. There is some evidence of some very slight year–on-year improvement between periods but the plans discussed in this document provide an opportunity for real intervention to escalate and accelerate these positive changes as part of a unified university-wide strategy.

This issue is not localised and affects every faculty, the graph below illustrates this. The average dispersion of degree classifications for White students across all faculties is shown with the thick black dotted line and then the degree classifications for BME students in different faculties is shown using the various coloured lines. The graph uses data for the 2009/10 academic year(download supporting evidence).

The graph shows a clear trend that each faculty appears to follow. Some possible explanations for this include language barriers for international students, lack of positive role models in academic staff provision and the entry routes into higher education differing between BME students and White students. For example a recent report by the Department of Education and Skills (2009) showed that 65% of applicants from Black ethnic groupings are more likely to choose an alternative route in to HE other than from a sixth form like the majority of White students. BME students are more likely to use access routes from FE Colleges and their entry points are more likely to be derived from vocational courses rather than academic qualifications like A-Levels – this raises questions as to how prepared for University any students that take this route are likely to be.

There is also evidence that disabled students who do not take up offers of support in relation to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) do less well. The table below shows the degree classification for students with disabilities between 2007 – 2010(download supporting evidence).

It is clear that over the years the percentage of students getting high degree classifications has increased for students who received the Disability Support Allowance compared to those that haven’t. With only a few exceptions, generally students that have taken the allowance are more likely to get a better degree. Students that require the allowance are not always identified by their college or school so it is important that systems and staff within the university are able to direct students that need support towards funding that it available to help them.

Any proposed review of the curriculum and the support provision for all students should consider this data and ensure that new processes offer relevant support to these groups to address academic imbalance and ensure all of our students are competing in a fair environment and have the tools to succeed with their studies.

(Data on Gender (Sex), Age and Mode of Attendance will be included when available).

Supporting evidence: Curriculum Changes.pdf
Feedback from Equality Forums and other interested parties:
Feedback on this impact assessment is still being recieved - please email your thoughts to l.m.wilson@leedsmet.ac.uk.
Recommendations:
These are very draft suggestions of a way forward to support this strategy. They will require wider discussion

1.Equality impact assessment should be routinely considered in the area of Student Experience and equality and diversity should be represented at Quality Enhancement Committee or a subcommittee thereof.

2.BME attainment to be considered as part of the curriculum changes. This provides an opportunity to leverage interest in attainment issues. These framework changes can provide a rationale for changes to improve the BME learning experience.

3.Open up discussion on BME student attainment via the Equality and Diversity Committee. Ian Clarke to produce paper and recommendations.

4.Embed inclusive teaching practices BME project – teaching fellows? Is there mileage in initiating a curriculum audit/review – for example, to examine particular areas of concern relating to the BME learning experience

5.Further work on what is good practice and where attainment gaps are in faculties. Identify areas of good practice and areas for development.

6.Issue of unconscious prejudice to be considered.

Further details: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/files/improving-degree-attainment-bme.doc/view

Consultation open: Feedback on this impact assessment is welcome, but it is not officially under consultation at this time.
Review date: A review date will be set after all feedback has been received and recommendations have been made and implemented.
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