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Case study: Accreditation by BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT

BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT is the professional body which (amongst other activities) accredits computing and IT courses in the UK (and occasionally elsewhere). A member of BCS who has a degree which is accredited by the Society may apply for professional qualifications, including CITP (Chartered Information Technology Practitioner) and CEng (Chartered Engineer) status in the UK, and the European Euro-Inf Quality Label. So, studying for a BCS accredited degree has many important advantages for students.

The process for the department to apply for accreditation requires both a documentary submission and a visit from an accrediting panel. To ensure best practice is maintained and BCS standards continue to be upheld, regular reaccreditation is required every five years.

The Department’s main courses (including our flagship Computer Science degrees) have been accredited since their inception, and the Department has always viewed accreditation as an important aspect of both its quality assurance mechanism and its marketing strategy.

Department(s) / colleagues involved

Department of Computer Science

Our aim was to …

Ensure that the process for processing the application is managed efficiently and effectively, does not impinge on course delivery, and does not require significant academic or administrative time to process.

Much of the accreditation process relates to ensuring that the course in question has evidence supporting a claim that it is delivered at a certain level of quality, that the course includes a (small) number of prescribed elements, and that the “ethos” of the course is appropriate for the accreditation. A course seeking CEng accreditation must also be delivered in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Engineering council. These requirements impact on core content, including (inter alia): mathematics; legal, social ethical and professional aspects of computing; inclusion of groupwork in course assessment; and the meaningful involvement of industry in the design and delivery of courses.

What we did …

We have always recognised that there is no fundamental difference between the accreditation requirements and what is often considered by practitioners and academics as “good practice”. As such, we have consistently ensured that the pedagogical underpinning for our courses is documented clearly (currently on our web site, where the detailed requirements for our courses and modules are available) and that the regulations are aligned with the accreditation requirements. We enthusiastically engage with local and national industry and commerce to incorporate material into our modules (and at the time of writing, for example, we work closely with Deutsche Bank to deliver our second year Software Engineering module).

Given our commitment to ensuring that our courses meet the highest standards at all times and that our documentation is constantly reviewed to reflect this, our application for accreditation was able to substantially reuse existing internally produced documentation into the forms. This resulted in a substantial saving in time and effort by both Department and BCS staff.

The outcome has been …

Our most recent accreditation was in 2017 with successful (re)accreditation for the degrees we put forward. The BCS commended us that:

“The University of Warwick regularly appoints staff members at all levels within a teaching -focused career route (Teaching Fellow, Senior Teaching Fellow, Principal Teaching Fellow and Professorial Teaching Fellow) as well as the more traditional research focussed academic route. […] The University is committed to recognising teaching excellence, and the criteria for teaching-focused promotions is aligned with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), managed and lead by the Higher Education Academy (HEA).”


The benefit/impact has been …

In addition to the efficiency gains from our approach, the Department has been able to showcase good practice both at Department and University level, and as such we were privileged to be commended for aspects of our good practice. Students taking our core degrees can be assured that they will graduate with a BCS accredited degree.

We have close links with the BCS and work with them in a variety of contexts which benefit both our students and Computer Science teaching in general (for example, in conducting innovative continuing professional development for school teachers).

This supports the Education Strategy by …

The Strategy includes a commitment to “Ensure students can progress into their choice of high quality employment through skills development, work experience, employer and alumni relations.” Our positive experience with accreditation, and the alignment of our course requirements and delivery with the accreditation requirements, ensure that the external and internal perspectives of our products are enhanced.

The response of students / staff has been …

Very little! But that’s what we want! We do have evidence from course applicants (especially overseas applicants) that the accreditation is valued and impacts positively on or recruitment. Otherwise, the fact that the last accreditation went through without complaints or negative feedback from staff suggests that our strategy is effective.

Our next steps will be …

First of all, we will continue our rigorous approach to the development of and documentation supporting our courses, both as good practice in itself and in order to support subsequent accreditation exercises. Secondly, we will proactively engage both with the BCS and with other external agencies to understand in advance expected changes to accreditation and other external requirements, and align our course content and delivery accordingly.

To find out more, you can contact …

Jane Sinclair - j dot e dot sinclair at warwick dot ac dot uk
Mike Joy - m dot s dot joy at warwick dot ac dot uk

Other information