Report of the Periodic Review Panel of the Board of... Faculty of Social Studies on the Undergraduate and

TQI: Periodic Review
Title of report
Report of the Periodic Review Panel of the Board of the
Faculty of Social Studies on the Undergraduate and
Postgraduate Degrees of the Department of Economics
Date of report
14 January 2005
JACS codes
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Objectives of review
The objectives were:
 To review the following courses of study in order for the department to
consider their long term development
 To stimulate new initiatives
 To enhance the quality of education for students in the department
BSc in Economics
BSc in Mathematics and Economics
BSc in Industrial Economics
BSc in Economics and Economic History
BSc in Economics, Politics and International Studies
MSc in Economics
MSc in Economic Analysis and Policy
Diploma in Economics
MPhil/PhD in Economics
Conduct of review
The review panel comprised Professor Paul Stoneman, Warwick Business School,
(Chair); Professor Naomi Eilan, Department of Philosophy; Professor Sebastian van
Strien, Institute of Mathematics; and Professor Stephen Smith, Department of
Economics, University College London (external member).
The panel first discussed the Department’s provision for undergraduate students
Professor Michael Devereux, Chair of the Department
Professor Robin Naylor, Director of Undergraduate Studies (from January
Professor Wiji Arulmapalam, Director of Undergraduate Studies (until
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TQI: Periodic Review
December 2004)
Professor Ben Lockwood, Director of Graduate Studies, and Professor
Jeremy Smith, Senior Tutor for the Department, to conduct a discussion on.
Following this, the panel met with a group of undergraduate student representatives
from the Department.
The panel then moved to the postgraduate aspect of the review with a discussion
 Professor Michael Devereux, Chair of Department
 Professor Ben Lockwood, Director of Graduate Studies
 Professor Ian Walker, Director of MSc Economics & Senior Tutor for
Graduate Students
 Professor Margaret Slade, Director of PhD Programme.
A meeting with a group of postgraduate students then took place.
A final discussion was then held with Professor Michael Devereux, Professor Robin
Naylor and Professor Ben Lockwood.
Evidence base
The Department’s submission comprised:
A self-evaluation document, including statistical information and
module maps and course specifications.
Previous Periodic Review reports and Departmental responses.
Subject Benchmark Statements.
Annual Course Review reports.
External Examiners’ Reports and Departmental responses.
SSLC Annual Reports.
Course prospectuses.
Student handbooks and promotional literature.
External peer contributors to process
Professor Stephen Smith, Department of Economics, University College London was
the external member of the review panel.
Overview of the main characteristics of the programmes covered by the review
Each of the undergraduate courses was delivered by full-time study over 3 years.
The MSc courses were delivered by full-time study over 12 months, including a
dissertation of original research.
The PhD programme was of four year’s duration with a compulsory, examined
component in the first year.
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Conclusion on innovation and good practice
The Department was well organised and was successfully meeting its academic aims
and objectives.
Innovations included:
 Support of the Economics Society, leading to improved student learning
opportunities, such as a programme of talks on economics topics and an
annual weekend economics summit
 A compulsory taught component for all first year PhD students
 Re-structuring of the MSc in Economics
The Department was consistently demonstrating good practice in terms of its:
 Teaching and learning (as recognised by its outstanding achievement of 24
points in the QAA Subject Review)
 Strong pastoral system within the Department including a personal tutor
 Annual review of all taught courses
 The operation of a European variant for most of the Department’s
undergraduate provision
 The quality assurance processes for the operation of the Graduate Teaching
Assistant system.
 Proactive approach to teaching quality review mechanisms
Conclusions on quality and standards
The Department’s quality and comprehensive review documentation was indicative of
its habitual high standards, as was the dedication and professionalism of its
administrative staff.
At undergraduate level, there was a comprehensive structure of quality assurance,
which included regular meetings of the Undergraduate Management Committee,
scrutiny of issues raised at the Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC), analysis of
external examiners’ comments and review of student feedback. Graduate Teaching
Assistants were also subject to a similar peer observation as academic staff.
Learning outcomes and objectives for modules were documented clearly.
At postgraduate level, quality assurance was also thorough, with regular meetings of
the Graduate Management Committee, scrutiny of issues raised at the graduate
SSLC, analysis of student feedback, and analysis of external examiners’ comments.
At all levels, the Department had clearly defined systems for progression and
Resources including computers and lecture facilities were considered to be of a high
Conclusions on whether the programme(s) remain current and valid in the light of
developing knowledge in the discipline, practice in its application and developments in
teaching and learning
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The Department had responded positively to the recommendations of the previous
Periodic Review in 1999-2000. It also monitored developments within the university,
the discipline and within the wider academic community. Teaching in the Department
is research-led; students are well-placed to benefit directly from the research
undertaken by teaching staff. The Department regularly considers its position with
reference to the Subject Benchmark Statement. Programmes are regularly reviewed
and discussed by the Undergraduate Management Committee, the Graduate
Management Committee, and the input of the SSLCs and the external examiners is
carefully considered. As a result, its programmes remain responsive to the changing
marketplace whilst maintaining their academic rigour and integrity.
Forward-looking recommendations for actions to remedy any identified shortcomings,
and for further enhancement of quality and standards
1. Establishing some involvement in the recruitment to the BSc in Mathematics
and Economics and the new BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
2. Reflecting upon whether students who had taken Econometrics in year 2
were at an advantage over other students in the Research in Applied
Economics module.
3. Establishing a pre-sessional course in mathematics and statistics for MSc
4. Formulating a clear strategy regarding the length of the newly re-structured
PhD. The introduction of compulsory first year examined courses has created
a tension between a UK and US type doctoral system. This may only be
resolved by lengthening periods of study. The implications should be studied
and any conflicts resolved. This point should also be considered in future
Periodic Reviews.
5. Reviewing the mechanisms for monitoring and recording PhD supervisions, in
relation to the revised QAA Code of Practice.
6. Reviewing the current fee for the MSc.
Actions taken by the institution in response to the review
The following points relate directly to the forward-looking recommendations (1-6),
1. Discussion of strategy of recruitment and admissions to BSc Mathematics
and Economics already takes place, with the Department’s Undergraduate
Management Committee consulting with the Department of Mathematics where
required. Effective liaison exists between the degree course leader for PPE and the
Departmental PPE Course Co-ordinator.
2. The Department has determined that students who have not taken Econometrics
in year 2 suffer no disadvantage in terms of the core Research in Applied Economics
(RAE) module in year 3.
3. The Department has recently been investigating the administrative feasibility of
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TQI: Periodic Review
establishing a two-week pre-sessional course for entrants to the MSc Economics.
Further investigation on the academic feasibility will take place before a formal
proposal is submitted to the University in due course.
4. The Department remains convinced that there is a strong academic case for the
recent re-structuring of the PhD programme, which now includes a year of advanced
coursework at the pre-upgrade level. The Department believes that this development
concurs with its goal to provide a doctoral programme comparable to the best
internationally. The extra year’s advanced coursework will markedly improve
students’ ability to undertake high-quality independent research. However, the
Department does recognise that, as a result, the PhD becomes a four-year course,
and that students will typically need a fifth year to write-up the thesis. In the light of
this, the Department will be submitting a proposal to the University to formally
recognise the Economics PhD as a four-year course, and that the fifth year of writing
up is granted without the usual procedure of requesting an extension. The
Department will also continue to seek to provide financial support for its PhD
students, wherever possible.
5. It has not been Departmental policy to record and monitor the content and
frequency of supervisory meetings between PhD student and supervisor. The
Department will seek to review its practice on this.
6. The Department is currently in discussion with the Academic Office regarding the
possibility of increasing the fee for the MSc Economics, to bring it more in line with
those of its competitors. Market research is underway.
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