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Wales Higher Education System

Structure of the Higher Educational System in Wales, the UK
Admissions to Higher Education in Wales, the UK
Types of Higher Education Institutions in Wales, the UK
Cycles of Higher Education in Wales, the UK
 


Types of Higher Education Institutions


Universities

Not all higher education institutions have the right to use the title ‘university’, which is regulated by law. Under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, the Privy Council is responsible for approving the use of the word ‘university’ (including ‘university college’). Prior to 2005, there was an additional requirement of research degree awarding powers.

Since 2005, institutions that have taught degree awarding powers and at least 4 000 full-time equivalent students, of whom at least 3000 are registered on degree (including Foundation Degree) level courses have also been permitted to apply to use the title ‘university’.

Other Higher Education Institutions

The use of other institutional titles such as ‘college’ is not regulated by law.

Further Education Institutions

Higher education programmes are also provided in some further education institutions. Such programmes are normally designed and approved directly by a higher education institution with degree awarding powers, under a formal recognition arrangement. Some short cycle programmes are awarded by a national awarding body. Higher education provision in further education institutions may either be funded directly by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), or alternatively via a franchise arrangement. A franchise arrangement, which can cover all or part of a programme, means that a student is registered at a higher education institution, which receives the funding and is responsible for quality assurance. The HEI then passes a proportion of the funding to the further education college providing the teaching.

Private Institutions

In the UK as a whole, there is a very small number of independent private higher education institutions. None of them is located in Wales. However, students from Wales on designated courses at these institutions in other parts of the UK may be eligible for financial support.


First Cycle Programmes


First cycle programmes include bachelor’s degrees with honours – the largest group of higher education qualifications – and other qualifications at Level 6 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ). See the article on 'Bachelor'.

First cycle programmes also include Foundation Degrees, Diplomas of Higher Education and Higher National Diplomas and other qualifications at Level 5 of the FHEQ. See the article on ' Short-Cycle Higher Education’.

The FHEQ also includes some higher education qualifications at a lower level. Higher National Certificates, Certificates of Higher Education and other qualifications at Level 4 of the FHEQ are not covered in this article.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma provides another route for mature entrants. See the subheading on ‘Access to Higher Education’ in the article on ‘General Programmes’ in the ‘Adult Education and Training’ topic.

Bachelor

Branches of Study


The largest group of higher education qualifications at this level are bachelor’s degrees with honours – often known as honours degrees. Bachelor’s degrees can also be awarded without honours, in which case they may be known as ‘ordinary’ or ‘pass’ degrees. Programmes leading to a bachelor‘s degree are normally of three or four years' duration for full-time students. Three years is more common, but four year programmes are more common for languages and for 'sandwich' courses that include a year abroad or a work experience year. Most, but not all, higher education institutions (HEIs) use credit-based systems in the design and management of curricula and the standards of qualifications, and share a common understanding of credit and usage of 120 credits to denote a volume of learning that a learner will spend, on average, to achieve the specified learning outcomes in an academic year. Bachelor's degrees with honours have a typical total volume of at least 360 credits, and bachelor’s degrees awarded without honours have a typical total volume of at least 300 credits.

Degree-awarding institutions are responsible for the design of their own programmes and awards (see the ‘Introduction’ to this topic). Programmes typically focus on a particular subject area, but there are also combined studies programmes involving two, or possibly three, specialisations. There is also normally choice within each programme. Typically, a relatively fixed menu of modules covers the core knowledge of the subject, and is combined with a menu of options in the more specialised aspects of the subject area.

Note that the terminology used in this area varies considerably, as higher education is a diverse sector made up of autonomous providers which use different approaches to the definition of academic regulations. Some of these different approaches can be summarised as follows: • A student registers on a course made up of compulsory modules and optional modules that leads to the award of a qualification. • A student registers on a programme made up of compulsory modules and optional modules that leads to the award of a qualification. • A student registers on a course that awards credit that can be counted towards a qualification.

For a more detailed consideration of the variety of interpretations and models that exist across the sector, see the December 2011 report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), entitled What is a Course … or Programme or Route or Pathway or Learning Opportunity…

Admission Requirements

Admissions Policies and Entry Requirements


Institutions determine their own admissions policies and the minimum entry requirements for each programme. For bachelor’s degrees, the minimum entry requirement is usually two or three General Certificate of Education Advanced-level (GCE A level) passes, as well as a minimum number of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) passes at grade C or above. These remain the most common form of entry qualification held by young entrants to higher education. A wide range of other qualifications is acceptable for entry. They include the International Baccalaureate and some vocational options such as GCE A levels in applied subjects and Edexcel BTEC National Qualifications.

There is a points scoring system establishing agreed comparability between different types of qualifications across the whole of the UK – the UCAS tariff.

HEIs are not obliged to express their entry requirements in terms of tariff points. Those that do may additionally require some or all of the qualifications for entry to be in specific subjects and at specific grades. An applicant who meets the published minimum admission requirements for a particular programme may be offered a place, but this is not guaranteed. Entry is competitive, with wide variations between institutions and programmes in terms of the competition for places. For some highly over-subscribed programmes, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and law, applicants may be required to take an additional admissions test. Examples of such tests include the BioMedical Admissions Test and the UK Clinical Aptitude Test.

Most HEIs do not routinely interview applicants for most programmes. However, applicants for entry to professional and vocational programmes such as initial teaching training and medicine are usually required to attend a selection interview.

Information on programmes and entry requirements is available from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). UCAS is the single organisation responsible for managing applications to all full-time undergraduate (first cycle) programmes in the UK. UCAS is funded by participating HEIs and from the fees paid by each applicant.

Alternative Access Routes

The Access to Higher Education Diploma provides another route for mature entrants. See the subheading ‘Access to Higher Education’ in the article ‘General Programmes’ in the ‘Adult Education and Training’ topic.

Most institutions also welcome applications from mature candidates who have had appropriate experience but may lack formal qualifications. Many institutions give credit for prior study and informal learning acquired through work or other experiences: Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) or Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

Widening Access

Social justice is a key Welsh Government priority, and higher education is seen as having an important contribution to make to this aim in terms of widening access. In its 2011 circular Strategic Approach and Plan for Widening Access to Higher Education (W11/09HE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) sets out the aim of widening access as being,

“to ensure equity, opportunity and success in higher education to enable learners across all age ranges and backgrounds, who face the highest social and economic barriers, to fulfil their potential as students, lifelong learners, citizens and employees.”

Circular W11/09HE is available from HEFCW’s 2011 circulars page. Activities supporting this objective include:

• funding support for HEIs’ widening access strategies

• co-ordinating Reaching Wider, an initiative that aims to make higher education a real option for many more people in Wales

• promoting opportunities for local study by funding higher education courses in further education colleges

• supporting part-time students through allocating funds to HEIs to enable them to provide financial support to eligible students.

Control of Student Numbers

In July 2010, the Welsh Government announced measures to control full-time undergraduate (first cycle) student numbers from the 2011/12 academic year. These measures remain in place in 2012/13 and are expected to remain in place in 2013/14, but with a revised methodology.

For medicine and dentistry, education and initial teacher training, funded numbers are established on the basis of intake quotas set by the Welsh Government.

Curriculum

Institutions have the autonomy to design and develop their own programmes of study. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) provides subject benchmark statements explaining the core competencies at honours degree level in a range of disciplines, which are intended to assist those involved in programme design, delivery and review.

The QAA also provides guidance on programme design and approval for higher education institutions in Chapter B1 of its Quality Code for Higher Education.

Some courses are provided through the medium of Welsh.

Welsh medium education is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) which acknowledges the extra costs of delivering through Welsh by incorporating a Welsh medium premium in the teaching grant.

Welsh medium education is also supported through Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which was established in March 2011. The Coleg is funded by HEFCW and through institutional subscriptions. All higher education institutions in Wales are members of the Coleg. The Coleg's object is: “for the benefit of the public, to advance learning and knowledge by promoting, maintaining, developing and overseeing Welsh medium provision in higher education in Wales, working with and through higher education institutions in Wales”.

The Coleg’s programmes include:

• scholarships for students studying through the medium of Welsh

• research scholarships

• academic staffing scheme

• strategic development and projects fund.

The Coleg incorporates the Centre for Welsh Medium Higher Education which previously had the role of supporting the sector in developing Welsh medium provision.

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods are decided by the individual teacher, department, faculty or institution, or a combination of these. Most courses involve a combination of formal lectures and less formal seminars, in which students are encouraged to participate and lead discussions. Certain courses require practical sessions such as work in a laboratory for science subjects and oral classes for foreign languages. Open and distance learning is increasingly available. The Open University, which specialises in ‘open supported learning’ admitted its first students in 1971 and is now a major provider of distance learning and the UK’s largest university in terms of student numbers. Other institutions also increasingly offer courses on this basis.

Progression of Students

Each institution has its own regulations governing student progression within a programme. The QAA provides guidance in its UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B6: Assessment of Students and Accreditation of Prior Learning. The Code recommends that each institution should publicise and implement clear rules and regulations for progressing from one stage of a programme to another and for qualifying for an award. Guidance at institutional and programme level that includes reference to the following can support implementation of this recommendation:

• the extent to which a student’s overall success in a programme can include failure in part of the programme, where this is permitted by institutional rules and regulations. In modular systems, guidance can helpfully distinguish between core and optional modules and include details about any modules that must be passed to meet PSRB requirements. It is important to ensure that students receiving an award have achieved or exceeded the learning outcomes for the programme

• defining which marks contribute to the decision about whether a student receives an award

• on what basis re-takes or re-submissions can occur, making clear the number and timing permitted and the accompanying procedures; for example, re-sitting examinations; re-submitting a dissertation; repeating a work-based or other type of practical assessment; or repeating an oral examination

• the rules for deferring or not completing an assessment, together with any special assessment conditions or penalties that may apply, including any restriction on the marks, grades or levels of award that can be obtained on the basis of retaken or deferred assessments. It is helpful if such rules cover a wide range of circumstances, including any progression permitted or awards conferred because of a student's absence due to illness or other personal circumstances.

Employability

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has defined employability as ‘a set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure that they have the capability of being effective in the workplace – to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy’. This definition is cited in FutureFit: Preparing Graduates for the World of Work, a 2009 joint publication from Universities UK and the CBI, illustrating how universities and business can work together to help equip graduates for their future working lives.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) supports the higher education sector in activities that contribute to the economic and social well-being of Wales. HEFCW’s involvement focuses on strengthening relationships between higher education institutions (HEIs) and the public and private sectors, and between HEIs and their local communities. Examples of HEFCW activities in this area include: • The Innovation & Engagement Fund, which was originally established as the Third Mission Fund in 2004 and renamed in March 2010. The Fund aims to support institutions’ ‘third mission’ activities, defined as those that “stimulate and direct the application and exploitation of knowledge to the benefit of the social, cultural and economic development of our society”. • The Graduate Opportunities Wales (GO Wales) programme, which helps students and graduates from Welsh universities to find work – or work experience – in Wales, and encourages Welsh businesses to look to home grown talent to meet their high level skills needs.

All higher education institutions in Wales make provision for careers guidance for students who wish to take advantage of it.

Guidance on the provision of careers education, information, advice and guidance is included in the QAA Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B4. A revised version of this chapter is subject to consultation until January 2013. Guidance was also provided by the sector representative body, Universities UK, in 2002, as Modernising HE Careers education: A Framework for Good Practice.

See also the subheading ‘Career Guidance’ in the article ‘Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education’.

More recently, many higher education institutions have introduced the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), an electronic document providing a record of a student’s achievement during their time in higher education. It can support students as they move to employment by enabling extra-curricular achievements to be recorded alongside their academic achievements. From 2012/13 the sector representative bodies Universities UK and GuildHE have recommended its introduction by all member organisations.

Student Assessment

Assessment procedures are decided by the individual institution. They typically involve a range of methods. QAA provides guidance on good practice in its Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B6.

External examining provides one of the principal means for maintaining nationally comparable standards within autonomous higher education institutions. The assessment procedures include the appointment of one or more external examiners for each subject. Their role is to give an additional opinion on the performance of candidates for degrees and thus ensure compatibility of standards between universities, and that the examination system and the award of degree classifications is fairly operated. These examiners are usually senior members of the teaching staff of a similar department in another university. QAA provides guidance in its Quality code for Higher Education. Chapter B7 covers arrangements for external examining.

Certification

Subject to the status of their degree awarding powers (see the article ‘Types of Higher Education Institutions’) institutions are responsible for their own awards, the conditions on which they are awarded and qualification titles.

Guidance is provided by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), developed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The FHEQ forms part of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education - Part A: Setting and maintaining threshold academic standards – Chapter A1: the National Level.

The Framework includes qualification descriptors that set out the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of bachelor’s degrees.

Qualification titles for bachelor’s degrees include:

• Bachelor of Arts, abbreviated to BA

• Bachelor of Science, abbreviated to BSc

• Bachelor of Education, abbreviated to BEd.

Institutions traditionally use the same system of classifying (ie grading) student attainment in programmes leading to a bachelor’s degree with honours. The honours degree classification system has four points on the honours degree scale: first class; second class (subdivided into upper second 2:1 and lower second 2:2); and third class. In addition, institutions may award a ‘pass‘ degree which does not carry honours, or a fail.

Bachelor’s degrees awarded with honours may be designated thus: BA (Hons), BSc (Hons) etc. In recent years there has been debate around replacing the honours degree classification system. Although a widely acceptable alternative has not been found, a complementary initiative has gained acceptance. In 2007, the sector representative bodies Universities UK and GuildHE published Beyond the Honours Degree Classification: the Burgess Group Final Report. This recommended the introduction of a new Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), building upon the European Diploma Supplement (DS), to enable institutions to provide a fuller record of student achievement. The HEAR is an electronic document providing a record of a student’s achievement during their time in higher education as well as an overall summative judgement – whether the honours degree classification, grade point average or any other – verified by the institution. The HEAR follows the structure of the Diploma Supplement but in its purpose and timing provides a different emphasis. From 2012/13 the sector representative bodies Universities UK and GuildHE have recommended its introduction by all member organisations.


Short-Cycle Higher Education


These are first cycle qualifications below the level of a bachelor’s degree. In many respects, the same arrangements apply as for bachelor’s degrees. Refer therefore to the article ‘Bachelor’. This article focuses on the ways in which short-cycle programmes are distinctive.

Foundation Degrees

Foundation Degrees are designed with a particular area of work in mind, with the help of employers from that sector to equip students with the relevant knowledge and skills for business. They cover a wide range of subjects, from engineering and e-commerce to health and social care and veterinary nursing.

They are predominantly delivered through partnerships of further and higher education institutions. Foundation Degree awarding powers are described in the article on ‘Types of Higher Education Institutions’.

Foundation Degrees are at Level 5 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ). All Foundation Degrees are expected to meet the generic statement of outcomes set out in the qualification descriptor for Foundation Degrees within the FHEQ. The qualification descriptor sets out broad expected outcomes for a Foundation Degree in terms of what graduates should be able to demonstrate and the wider abilities that they would be expected to have developed.

A full-time course usually takes two years. Study methods can be very flexible, which means that they are available to people already in work, those wishing to embark on a career change as well as to those who have recently completed qualifications such as A levels or apprenticeships. Typically students have the opportunity to learn in the workplace as well as in the classroom.

Qualification titles include:

• Foundation Degree in Arts, abbreviated to FdA

• Foundation Degree in Science, abbreviated to FdSc.

Foundation Degree awards are normally graded as pass, merit or distinction. On successful completion, it is possible to ‘top up’ the qualification to a bachelor’s degree with honours, typically with an extra year of study.

Other Short Cycle Qualifications

Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are work-related (vocational) higher education qualifications designed to teach the skills required in a particular area of work. HNDs are at Level 5 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) and typically take two years to complete full-time.

These awards are not protected by law. The awarding body is Edexcel, an awarding body for academic and vocational qualifications across the UK. Other types of higher education award, such as Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE) are not generally protected by law and may be granted by any organisation. Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE) are at Level 5 of the FHEQ.

Most, but not all, HEIs use credit-based systems in the design and management of curricula and the standards of qualifications, and share a common understanding of credit and usage of 120 credits to denote a volume of learning that a learner will spend, on average, to achieve the specified learning outcomes in an academic year. Foundation Degrees, HNDs and DipHEs have a typical total volume of at least 240 credits, which equate to approximately 120 ECTS credits.


Second Cycle Programmes


Branches of Study

Degree-awarding institutions are responsible for the design of their own programmes and awards (see the article on ‘Types of Higher Education Institutions’) and the number of different courses offered is very high. Master's degrees are awarded after completion of taught courses or programmes of research, or a combination of both. The learning outcomes of most master's degree courses are achieved on the basis of study equivalent to at least one full-time calendar year. Master of Arts (MA) courses are normally in arts, social sciences, business or humanities subjects. A Master of Science (MSc) is awarded for science and social science courses. Other taught master’s courses include the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master of Education (MEd). There are also Master of Research (MRes) courses in science and social science subjects which combine broad training in research methods with a research project. Longer master's courses that typically involve a more substantial element of research or equivalent enquiry often lead to the degree of MPhil.

First degrees in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science comprise an integrated programme of study and professional practice spanning several levels. While the final outcomes of the qualifications themselves typically meet the expectations of the descriptor for a higher education qualification at level 7 of the FHEQ, ie master’s level, these qualifications may often retain, for historical reasons, titles of Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine or Bachelor of Veterinary Science, and are abbreviated to MBChB or BM BS, BDS, BVetMed and BVSc respectively.

Integrated master's degrees exist in science, engineering, pharmacy and mathematics. These comprise an integrated programme of study spanning several FHEQ levels where the outcomes are normally achieved through study equivalent to four full-time academic years. While the final outcomes of the qualifications themselves meet the expectations of the descriptor for a higher education qualification at FHEQ level 7 in full, such qualifications are often termed 'integrated master's' as an acknowledgement of the additional period of study at lower levels (which typically meets the expectations of the descriptor for a higher education qualification at FHEQ level 6).

Most, but not all, HEIs use credit-based systems in the design and management of curricula and the standards of qualifications, and share a common understanding of credit and usage of 120 credits to denote a volume of learning that a learner will spend, on average, to achieve the specified learning outcomes in an academic year. Typically, taught master's degrees which have a minimum total of 180 credits equate to 90 ECTS credits. Research master’s degrees (eg MPhil) are not typically credit-rated. Integrated master's degrees comprising 480 credits, of which 120 credits are at level 7, equate to 60 ECTS credits at second cycle level. For each of these master's qualifications, 120 of the UK credits (60 ECTS) must be at level 7 and the outcomes must meet the expectations of the Dublin descriptor at the second cycle level.

Second cycle programmes also include short courses and professional 'conversion' courses, usually taken by those who are already graduates in another discipline, leading to, for example, graduate certificates or graduate diplomas at Level 6 of the FHEQ. They include the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Graduate Diploma in Psychology (GDP). Short second cycle programmes can also include study at Level 7 of the FHEQ, ie at master’s level. For example, the PGCE, awarded for initial teacher training programmes, may have the full title of either the Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (if pitched at Level 6 of the FHEQ) or the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (if pitched at level 7). Students taking the second of these two routes gain credits at master’s level that may be used towards a master’s degree.

Admission Requirements

Although individual institutions set their own admission requirements for master’s programmes, many postgraduate courses require an upper second class bachelor’s degree (2:1). Some courses expect students to have a certain amount of related work experience.

Curriculum

Institutions have the autonomy to design and develop their own programmes of study. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) provides general guidance on programme design for higher education institutions in its Quality Code for Higher Education. Chapter B11 covers requirements for research degree courses and Chapter B1 covers curriculum and programmes arrangements expected for taught degree courses. The QAA also provides subject benchmark statements explaining what achievement is expected at master's level, which are intended to assist those involved in programme design, delivery and review.

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods for master’s programmes are determined by course providers. They can include practical or research projects, lectures, seminars, tutorials, supervised laboratory work and work placements.

Open and distance learning is increasingly available. The Open University, which specialises in ‘open supported learning’ offers both taught master’s and research master’s degrees.

Progression of Students

Each institution has its own regulations governing student progression within a programme. The QAA provides guidance in its ‘Quality Code for Higher Education’. See Chapter B6: Assessment of Students and Accreditation of Prior Learning.

Employability

See the parallel sub-section within the article ‘Bachelor'.

Student Assessment

Assessment procedures are decided by the individual institution. They typically involve a range of methods. QAA provides guidance on the assessment of taught modules and programmes in its Quality Code for Higher Education. See Chapter B6: Assessment of Students and Accreditation of Prior Learning.

Assessment processes for research qualifications are quite different from those for taught awards and assessment for a master’s degree by research will usually include some kind of oral examination. Guidelines on the assessment of research students are provided in Chapter B11 of the Quality Code for Higher Education.

External examining provides one of the principal means for maintaining nationally comparable standards within autonomous higher education institutions. The assessment procedures include the appointment of one or more external examiners for each subject. Their role is to give an additional opinion on the performance of candidates for degrees and thus ensure compatibility of standards between universities, and that the examination system and the award of degree classifications is fairly operated. These examiners are usually senior members of the teaching staff of a similar department in another university. QAA provides guidance in its Quality Code for Higher Education. Chapter B7 covers arrangements for external examinations.

Certification

Subject to the status of their degree awarding powers (see the article on ‘Types of Higher Education Institutions’) institutions are responsible for their own awards, the conditions on which they are awarded and qualification titles.

Guidance is provided by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), developed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). Qualification descriptors set out the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of a master’s degree.

Qualification titles for master’s degrees include:

• Master of Philosophy, abbreviated to MPhil

• Master of Letters, abbreviated to MLitt

• Master of Research, abbreviated to MRes

• Master of Arts, abbreviated to MA

• Master of Science, abbreviated to MSc.


Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure


There are also some short higher education programmes, eg Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) at Level 4 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ).

These programmes typically take one year to complete full-time. They are intended to encourage the development of flexible learning paths and in this way to facilitate lifelong learning.


Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes


Organisation of Doctoral Studies

All doctoral degrees are expected to meet the generic statement of outcomes set out in the qualification descriptor for doctoral degrees in the FHEQ. Doctoral degrees such as Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated to PhD (or DPhil in some universities), can be taken in arts, social sciences, business, humanities or science subjects. The titles PhD and DPhil are used for doctoral degrees awarded on the basis of original research.

Doctoral programmes generally take three to four years full time or five to seven years part time to complete. They are not typically credit-rated. The qualification descriptor sets out broad expected outcomes for a doctoral degree in terms of what graduates should be able to demonstrate and the wider abilities that they would be expected to have developed.

The majority of doctoral degrees are taken at universities and other higher education institutions. However, there are some opportunities for studying in partnership with a university, in government laboratories, hospital laboratories and research institutions.

Professional Doctorates that combine a research component with a substantial taught core are now available in some vocational areas for those interested in professional rather than academic careers. These lead usually to awards which include the name of the discipline in their title (eg, EdD for Doctor of Education, DClinPsy for Doctor of Clinical Psychology, EngD or DEng for engineering and DBA for business. Many are accredited by professional bodies and paid for by employers.

The New Route PhD or integrated PhD combines research with a structured programme of training in research methods and transferable professional skills. Interim awards at diploma, certificate or master’s level and professional qualifications may be offered in some programmes. It takes a minimum of four years full-time, six part-time to complete.

Admission Requirements

Universities set their own admission requirements. Guidelines on the selection, admission and induction of students are available from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)’s Quality Code for Higher Education. Chapter B11 covers postgraduate research programmes. For doctoral research, applicants would normally be expected to have at least one of the following: • an undergraduate (first cycle) degree, usually with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject • a relevant master's qualification or equivalent evidence of prior professional practice or learning that meets the higher education provider's criteria and guidelines for the APEL and/or APCL (including, for example, the required amount of prior publications or other output specified for applicants for the award of PhD by published work).

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Doctoral students have the status of students, not employees of the university.

Supervision Arrangements

Supervision arrangements are determined by the higher education institutions (HEIs) themselves. Guidelines are provided by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) in the Quality Code for Higher Education. The guidelines are based on four principles:

• opportunities for access to regular and appropriate supervisory support

• encouragement to interact with other researchers

• advice from one or more independent sources, internal or external

• arrangements that protect the research student in the event of the loss of a supervisor.

Employability

Research students are encouraged to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning, during and after their programme of study and to recognise the value of developing transferable skills. Chapter B11 of the QAA Quality Code for Higher Education provides guidance on the support that should be offered to students on research degrees to develop employability skills.

Assessment

Assessment processes for research qualifications are quite different from those for taught awards and usually include some kind of oral examination. Doctoral candidates are examined on the basis of an appropriate body of work and an oral examination (viva voce) in which they defend their thesis to a panel of academics who are experts in the field. Guidelines on the assessment of doctoral candidates are available from the QAA’s Quality Code for Higher Education. Chapter B11 covers assessment within postgraduate research programmes.

External examining provides one of the principal means for maintaining nationally comparable standards within autonomous higher education institutions. The assessment procedures include the appointment of one or more external examiners for each subject. Their role is to give an additional opinion on the performance of candidates for degrees and thus ensure compatibility of standards between universities, and that the examination system and the award of degree classifications is fairly operated. These examiners are usually senior members of the teaching staff of a similar department in another university. QAA provides guidance in its Quality Code for Higher Education. Chapter B7 covers external examining.

Certification

Subject to the status of their degree awarding powers (see the article on ‘Types of Higher Education Institutions’) institutions are responsible for their own awards, the conditions on which they are awarded and qualification titles.

Guidance is provided by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ), developed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). Qualification descriptors set out the generic outcomes and attributes expected for the award of doctoral degrees.

Qualification titles for doctoral degrees include:

• Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated to PHD or DPhil

• Doctor of Education, abbreviated to EdD

• Doctor of Clinical Psychology, abbreviated to DClinPsy

• Doctor of Engineering, abbreviated to EngD or DEng

• Doctor in Business Administration, abbreviated to DBA.

See also the subheading on the ‘Organisation of Doctoral Programmes’ above.

Honorary doctorates are not academic qualifications.

Organisational Variation

Open and distance learning is also available. The Open University, which specialises in ‘open supported learning’ offers doctoral programmes.

Higher doctorates may be awarded in recognition of a substantial body of original research undertaken over the course of many years. Typically a portfolio of work which has been previously published in a peer-refereed context is submitted for assessment. Most higher education awarding bodies restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing.


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