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Joint and Cross Departmental Courses

In its “key findings” letter arising from the Institutional Audit of November 2008, the QAA told the University that a review of the management of joint degrees was “advisable”. A joint degree working group, convened by the Chair of the Board of Undergraduate Studies, was already undertaking a review of support and SSLC liaison arrangements for these degrees following concerns expressed by students in a number of surveys and SSLC reports. The working group included the Students’ Union Education Officer, the Senior Tutor, the academic staff SSLC co-ordinators, members of the Teaching Quality section and academic staff from the Arts, Social Studies and Science faculties with direct responsibility for overseeing joint and cross-departmental courses.

This Good Practice Guide arises from the meetings of that working group and from a Joint Degree Student Forum convened by the Education Officer of the Students’ Union in November 2008. Following consultation with academic departments and SSLC Convenors and student representatives during 2009-10, it was originally approved by the Academic Quality and Standards Committee in May 2010.

A review of the content and implementation of the Good Practice Guide was undertaken in June 2012, in the context of the Institutional review of Teaching and Learning at departmental and Faculty level between November 2011 and March 2012, and also in light of the review of the role of the personal tutor undertaken by the University Senior Tutor throughout the 2011/12 academic year. Amendments were approved by the Academic Quality and Standards Committee in June 2012.

This Guide aims to set out and, to a degree, formalise areas of good practice that characterise the management of many joint and cross-departmental courses in the University. It seeks to strengthen the ways that these courses are managed within and across departments, rather than through greatly increased central oversight. In particular, it promotes the notion of a “one-stop-shop” for joint and cross-departmental course students by strengthening the role and visibility of course directors and “home departments” for each course. And it aims to limit the number of occasions where students with questions or problems are cross-referred to other departments.

It is recognised that the University has many excellently run joint degrees and that there is a healthy diversity of practice across the University. It is not the purpose of the Guide to impose uniformity for its own sake, or to dismantle existing successful collaborations. Departments should carefully assess their own practices against those recommended by the Good Practice Guide. Where practice deviates significantly from that recommended by the guide, departments should consider carefully whether their own practice is satisfactory.

Note: For the purposes of this Guide, JCDCs = joint and cross-departmental courses. A course is defined as “cross-departmental” if students are required to take modules from more than one department.

Updated June 2012.

The University Dimension

Departmental Management and Support (Part 1)

Departmental Management and Support (Part 2)