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The UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B11: Research Degrees applies to all UK higher education institutions. It is one of a suite of inter-related documents which forms the overall UK Quality Code for Higher Education (the Code)for the guidance of higher education institutions subscribing to the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (the Agency).
The Code is a statement of good practice that has been endorsed by the higher education community. As such it is used as the relevant benchmark in the Agency's audit and review processes that consider the extent to which an institution, in developing and implementing its own policies, has taken account of the Code and its indicators. The UK Quality Code for Higher Education was published in June 2012 and replaced the Code of Practice (2004).
It is intended to give institutions clear guidance in respect of the management, quality and academic standards of research degree programmes.
Chapter B11 of the Code commences with an Expectation which is the key benchmark statement setting out the overarching requirements for institutions awarding research degrees. Its list of indicators and supporting commentary are intended to cover the many different types of students undertaking research programmes in the UK, including full and part-time, students of all ages and with different needs, UK and international, and from all backgrounds. From the OU perspective, they apply equally to directly registered students and those registered through the ARCs.
The website below provides further explanation about the Code and contextualises the indicators with helpful supporting commentary.
This Chapter of the Quality Code sets out the following Expectation about research degrees which higher education providers are required to meet: Research degrees are awarded in a research environment that provides secure academic standards for doing research and learning about research approaches, methods, procedures and protocols. This environment offers students quality of opportunities and the support they need to achieve successful academic, personal and professional outcomes from their research degrees.top ^
Higher education providers that are research degree awarding bodies have regulations for research degrees that are clear and readily available to research students and staff, including examiners. Where appropriate, regulations are supplemented by similarly accessible, subject-specific guidance at the level of the faculty, school, department, research centre or research institute.
Higher education providers develop, implement and keep under review codes of practice for research degrees, which are widely applicable and help enable the higher education provider meet the Expectation of this Chapter. The codes are readily available to all students and staff involved in research degrees, and written in clear language understood by all users.
Higher education providers monitor their research degree provision against internal and external indicators and targets that reflect the context in which research degrees are being offered.
Higher education providers accept research students only into an environment that provides support for doing and learning about research, and where excellent research, recognised by the relevant subject community, is occurring.
Higher education providers' admissions procedures for research degrees are clear, consistently applied and demonstrate equality of opportunity.
Only appropriately qualified and prepared applicants are admitted to research degree programmes. Admissions decisions involve at least two members of the higher education provider's staff who have received training and guidance for the selection and admission of research degree students. The decision-making process enables the higher education provider to assure itself that balanced and independent admissions decisions have been made in accordance with its admissions policy.
Higher education providers define and communicate clearly the responsibilities and entitlements of students undertaking research degree programmes.
Research students are provided with sufficient information to enable them to begin their studies with an understanding of the environment in which they will be working.
Higher education providers appoint supervisors with the appropriate skills and subject knowledge to support and encourage research students, and to monitor their progress effectively.
Each research student has a supervisory team containing a main supervisor who is the clearly identified point of contact.
Higher education providers ensure that the responsibilities of research student supervisors are readily available and clearly communicated to supervisors and students.
Higher education providers ensure that individual supervisors have sufficient time to carry out their responsibilities effectively.
Higher education providers put in place clearly defined mechanisms for monitoring and supporting research student progress, including formal and explicit reviews of progress at different stages. Research students, supervisors and other relevant staff are made aware of progress monitoring mechanisms, including the importance of keeping appropriate records of the outcomes of meetings and related activities.
Research students have appropriate opportunities for developing research, personal and professional skills. Each research student's development needs are identified and agreed jointly by the student and appropriate staff at the start of the degree; these are regularly reviewed and updated as appropriate.
Higher education providers put in place mechanisms to collect, review and respond as appropriate to evaluations from those concerned with research degrees, including individual research students and groups of research students or their representatives. Evaluations are considered openly and constructively and the results are communicated appropriately.
Higher education providers that are research degree awarding bodies use criteria for assessing research degrees that enable them to define their academic standards and the achievements of their graduates. The criteria used to assess research degrees are clear and readily available to research students, staff and examiners.
Research degree final assessment procedures are clear and are operated rigorously, fairly and consistently. They include input from an external examiner and are carried out to a reasonable timescale. Assessment procedures are communicated clearly to research students, supervisors and examiners.
Higher education providers put in place and promote independent and formal procedures for dealing with complaints and appeals that are fair, clear to all concerned, robust, and applied consistently. The acceptable grounds for complaints and appeals are clearly defined.