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Course Development

Staff who intend to develop new postgraduate courses should contact the Dean of Graduate Studies as soon as possible. You should also directly contact Ewa Sadowska in Academic Affairs at esdowska@tcd.ie for guidance and assistance.

Suspension of course

Suspension of Postgraduate Taught programmes (P.Grad Cert., P.Grad Dip., M.Phil., M.Sc.) must get approval from the Dean of Faculty. Please complete the Programme Suspension Form (PDF 318 KB) and submit it to the PG admissions activity lead in the Academic Registry (academic.registry@tcd.ie) and to the Dean of Graduate Studies (Dean.GradSecretary@tcd.ie) as early in the application and admissions cycle as possible.

Course development documents can be downloaded below:

Course review

There are ca. 4,500 postgraduate students in Trinity College; of these about 60% are engaged in a taught programme at Masters or Postgraduate Diploma level. Currently there are over 110 taught Masters and over 70 Postgraduate Diploma courses.

The Postgraduate Taught course review process allows issues such as changing demand by students and changing emphasis or direction in academic development to be addressed. Common course problems common are highlighted and development of current and new programmes facilitated. Reviews ensure that postgraduate courses maintain their current high standards, that Course Coordinators/Directors, teaching staff and students are given the opportunity to discuss issues and progress and improvements are made.

The review process is linked to the cyclical process of Academic Unit Reviews and the discussion of development of Unit Research strategies. Unit Reviews cover the entire spectrum of a unit's activities and, minimally, detailed consideration may be limited to two of the main teaching programmes, one of which should be a postgraduate programme. Under the Academic Unit Review scheme it is likely that the depth of review of postgraduate courses will vary. In units running a large number of courses, for example, some courses may never form an integral part of College's (High) Quality development strategy. The process of Postgraduate Taught course review has been designed with the Unit Review and Research structures in mind and fills the gap which is left. It allows for re-assessment of all postgraduate courses in a reasonable time frame. Courses which have gone through the Postgraduate Taught Course review process are not subject to further review under the Academic Unit Review system.

Reviews of Postgraduate Taught courses are normally linked to the current process of external examination of courses and to the process of an Academic Unit review. Therefore reviews involve the external examiner for the course and occur on a seven-yearly cycle, one year prior to a Unit review. If an external examiner is in their first year of tenure at this time, it is not an impediment to the process, given the detail of the submission the examiner receives and the possibility that exists for use of previous external examiners.

To take account of exceptional circumstances, reviews may also be initiated through the Dean of Graduate Studies acting, if necessary, on the advice of the Senior Lecturer, the external examiner, the Course Coordinator/Director or the Dean of the Faculty.

Resource implications

There are three broad categories of resource implication associated with the review process:

  • External examiners will be asked to conduct the review and will be paid a flat fee for their work in addition to their normal fee.
  • The review may conclude that extra resources of a physical or infrastructural nature are essential to continued delivery of a particular course. Such demand for extra resources must be realistically rooted in the context of overall levels of funding within the university as a whole. In particular, Course Coordinators/Directors must acknowledge that unrealistic expectations of resource availability cannot be met. A small fund has been created under the control of the Graduate Studies Committee and the Dean of Graduate Studies to allow changes (signalled as academically essential by a review) to be implemented. Limitation of resource is likely to mean that some changes may not occur or may be delayed.
  • There may be issues raised relating to staff work loads. This must be considered in the context of loads in the faculty as a whole. Where the academic integrity of the course is compromised, the issue must be faced and a solution found - this could range from dropping of a course to, for self-financing courses only, recruitment of extra staff.

The overall review process

The structure of the process is modelled around well established procedures which operate elsewhere and is as decentralised and non-bureaucratic as possible. Courses will be reviewed under this process every 7 years.

There are four distinct elements to the review process; self-assessment, input from interested third parties, assessment by the external examiner and implementation of any changes suggested by the review process.

Self-assessment

Self-assessment is a process of self-reflection and does not, necessarily, involve self-justification. It should provide a critical evaluation of the academic content of the course, its objectives, structure, intake, drop-out rates, place in the departmental research strategy, student experience of the course, teaching, supervision, finance and other cognate resources.

The Course Coordinator / Director is responsible for completion of the self-assessment report and must consult with all involved parties; both staff and current students. Any directly relevant documentation - e.g. student assessments, course brochure, etc. should be appended to the self-assessment report.

The self-assessment process forms the basis for further comment by the external examiner.

Input from interested third parties

In order to try to get as full a picture of the course as possible the Heads of Unit will be invited to provide written comment on their perception of the role of the course in relation to their unit's research and teaching strategies. These comments are circulated to the external examiner along with the self-assessment pro-forma.

In addition, for courses where there is already an element of 'professional assessment' already in place, e.g. courses in the Health Sciences, input from such reviews will be made available to the external examiner.

Review

As previously stated external examiners are central to the review process and will be directly responsible for writing the review. It is probable that external examiners will be unable to complete this extended role within the normal time frame allowed for their visit, which may therefore have to be extended by half-a-day. External examiners will be asked to submit their review within two weeks of their final visit.

Implementation of recommendations

A meeting between the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Course Coordinator / Director will be held as soon after submission of the final report as possible to discuss the review, its process, findings and the implementation of any recommendations. There are a number of possible outcomes to the review process as follows:

  • continue exactly as it has in the past
  • be slightly modified either academically, structurally or financially so as to meet any expressed concerns as soon as possible
  • be modified either academically, structurally or financially so as to meet any expressed concerns as soon as possible (the Course Coordinator / Director must personally inform the Graduate Studies Committee that the changes have been implemented)
  • be substantially modified academically or structurally. This will necessitate submission of a proposal for the course to the Graduate Studies Committee (which proposal, will be treated as if it were a new course proposal)
  • be discontinued as soon as possible for academic or structural reasons.
  • The time-span for initiating implementation of any suggested modifications is expected to be six months.
  • The outcome to the review process will be determined by the Graduate Studies Committee operating with the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Further details of the process

Self-assessment

A standard pro-forma is available and must be used for compilation of the report. The form is available for download here. It may therefore be filled in electronically but must given to the external examiner for return to the office of the Dean of Graduate Studies as hard-copy (i.e. Electronic Submission is not allowed at present). The form deals with the areas outlined in 2.1 above as well as publicity, selection of students, and entry requirements for the course.

The Course Coordinator/Director must complete their sections of the pro-forma and give a hard copy of this document to the external examiner for return to the Graduate Studies Office. The Head of Department's prose account of the course will be presented to the external examiner by the Head of Department.

In addition Course Coordinators/Directors must provide the external examiner with any other relevant information e.g. student assessments, course brochure, reports of professional reviews.

Review and report

The review by the external examiner should take no more than a single half-day. In general the external examiner, in conjunction with the Course Coordinator/Director, will have arranged the timetable and framework for the review well in advance of commencement of the process.

The external examiner will be asked to bear in mind the aims and objectives of the Unit, its organisation, staffing, accommodation, facilities and resources, support facilities and extra-course teaching commitments. Key areas are obviously the relationship of the course to the unit, the course's aims and objectives, organisation, planning and staffing, delivery, assessment, student feedback and previous reports from external examiners.

The external examiner will be provided with the pro-forma, Head of Unit's statement and any other relevant documentation to use as the base for formulation of a concise (4 pages) but nevertheless comprehensive, prose account of the present state of the course, clearly defining and highlighting its achievements to date as well as unambiguously indicating any limitations or shortcomings and how these may be ameliorated or overcome. Writing this account is the responsibility of the external examiner alone.

The completed pro-forma together with the external examiner's account will be sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies by the external examiner who, following Council's decision of 13/1/99 (Minute 48/a), will only be paid his fees on its receipt. The external examiners report will concern itself with the maintenance of academic standards and the proper application of examination regulations. These issues should be addressed under the following sub-headings:

  1. Aims and Objectives of the Course
  2. Current Management of the Course
  3. Physical and Financial Infrastructure of the Course
  4. Staffing and Teaching on the Course
  5. Student Feedback on the Course
  6. External examiners reports on the course
  7. Relationship of the course to the Academic Unit and to the wider community
  8. Conclusions

Aftermath i.e. implementation

The external examiners report will be circulated to the Course Coordinator/Director immediately after it is received by the Dean of Graduate Studies who will discuss it with her/him. The Course Coordinator/Director will then have 2 weeks to respond to any factual inaccuracies in the report and request their correction. Thereafter the report will be finalised and a summary brought for consideration to the Graduate Studies Committee. The committee will consider the report, and the recommendations made in it and finalise the outcome of the review on the basis of the options.

Relevant policy issues arising from the summary report and recommendations will be brought by the Dean of Graduate Studies to the Heads of School Committee. If necessary the report itself and recommendations will be brought forward for action to relevant College committees and Officers. Implementation of any recommendations of the Graduate Studies Committee will be the responsibility of the Dean of Graduate Studies acting in conjunction with the Course Coordinator/Director. As stated above the time-span for initiating implementation of any suggested modifications is expected to be six months.

Course Coordinators/Directors of courses receiving a generally unfavourable review will be asked to report back to the Graduate Studies Committee in one year's time detailing the remedial action taken.