Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education

produced by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (27 Precepts)

(Report from the Lisbon Congress round table on supervision, September 2004. Convenor: Andrew Chesterman)

 

Institutional arrangements

 

1 Institutions will put in place effective arrangements to maintain appropriate academic standards and enhance the quality of postgraduate research programmes.

 

2 Institutional regulations for postgraduate research degree programmes will be clear and readily available to students and staff. Where appropriate, regulations will be supplemented by similarly accessible, subject-specific guidance at the level of the faculty, school or department.

 

3 Institutions will develop, implement and keep under review a code or codes of practice applicable across the institution, which include(s) the areas covered by this document. The code(s) should be readily available to all students and staff involved in postgraduate research programmes.

 

4 Institutions will monitor the success of their postgraduate research programmes against appropriate internal and/or external indicators and targets.

 

The research environment

 

5 Institutions will only accept research students into an environment that provides support for doing and learning about research and where high quality research is occurring.

 

Selection, admission and induction of students

 

6 Admissions procedures will be clear, consistently applied and will demonstrate equality of opportunity.

 

7 Only appropriately qualified and prepared students will be admitted to research programmes.

 

8 Admissions decisions will involve at least two members of the institution's staff who will have received instruction, advice and guidance in respect of selection and admissions procedures. The decision-making process will enable the institution to assure itself that balanced and independent admissions decisions have been made, that support its admissions policy.

 

9 The entitlements and responsibilities of a research student undertaking a postgraduate research programme will be defined and communicated clearly.

 

10 Institutions will provide research students with sufficient information to enable them to begin their studies with an understanding of the academic and social environment in which they will be working.

 

Supervision

 

11 Institutions will appoint supervisors who have the appropriate skills and subject knowledge to support, encourage and monitor research students effectively.

 

12 Each research student will have a minimum of one main supervisor. He or she will normally be part of a supervisory team. There must always be one clearly identified point of contact for the student.

 

13 Institutions will ensure that the responsibilities of all research student supervisors are clearly communicated to supervisors and students through written guidance.

 

14 Institutions will ensure that the quality of supervision is not put at risk as a result of an excessive volume and range of responsibilities assigned to individual supervisors.

 

Progress and review arrangements

 

15 Institutions will put in place and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff clearly defined mechanisms for monitoring and supporting student progress.

 

16 Institutions will put in place and bring to the attention of students and relevant staff clearly defined mechanisms for formal reviews of student progress, including explicit review stages.

 

17 Institutions will provide guidance to students, supervisors and others involved in progress monitoring and review processes about the importance of keeping appropriate records of the outcomes of meetings and related activities.

 

Development of research and other skills

 

18 Institutions will provide research students with appropriate opportunities for personal and professional development.

 

19 Each student's development needs will be identified and agreed jointly by the student and appropriate academic staff, initially during the student's induction period; they will be regularly reviewed during the research programme and amended as appropriate.

 

20 Institutions will provide opportunities for research students to maintain a record of personal progress, which includes reference to the development of research and other skills.

 

Feedback mechanisms

 

21 Institutions will put in place mechanisms to collect, review and, where appropriate, respond to feedback from all concerned with postgraduate research programmes. They will make arrangements for feedback to be considered openly and constructively and for the results to be communicated appropriately.

 

Assessment

 

22 Institutions will use criteria for assessing research degrees that enable them to define the academic standards of different research programmes and the achievements of their graduates. The criteria used to assess research degrees must be clear and readily available to students, staff and external examiners.

 

23 Research degree assessment procedures must be clear; they must be operated rigorously, fairly, and consistently; include input from an external examiner; and carried out to a reasonable timescale.

 

24 Institutions will communicate their assessment procedures clearly to all the parties involved, ie the students, the supervisor(s) and the examiners.

 

Student representations

 

25 Institutions will put in place and publicise procedures for dealing with student representations that are fair, clear to all concerned, robust and applied consistently. Such procedures will allow all students access to relevant information and an opportunity to present their case.

 

Complaints

 

26 Independent and formal procedures will exist to resolve effectively complaints from research students about the quality of the institution's learning and support provision.

 

Appeals

 

27 Institutions will put in place formal procedures to deal with any appeals made by research students. The acceptable grounds for appeals will be clearly defined.

 

 

 

Appendix 2

 

Skills training requirements for research students: joint statement by the research councils/AHRB

 

(A) Research skills and techniques - to be able to demonstrate:

 

1. The ability to recognise and validate problems and to formulate and test hypotheses.

 

2. Original, independent and critical thinking, and the ability to develop theoretical concepts.

 

3. A knowledge of recent advances within one's field and in related areas.

 

4. An understanding of relevant research methodologies and techniques and their appropriate application within one's research field.

 

5. The ability to analyse critically and evaluate one's findings and those of others.

 

6. An ability to summarise, document, report and reflect on progress.

 

(B) Research environment - to be able to:

 

1. Show a broad understanding of the context, at the national and international level, in which research takes place.

 

2. Demonstrate awareness of issues relating to the rights of other researchers, of research subjects, and of others who may be affected by the research, eg confidentiality, ethical issues, attribution, copyright, malpractice, ownership of data and the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

 

3. Demonstrate appreciation of standards of good research practice in their institution and/or discipline.

 

4. Understand relevant health and safety issues and demonstrate responsible working practices.

 

5. Understand the processes for funding and evaluation of research.

 

6. Justify the principles and experimental techniques used in one's own research.

 

7. Understand the process of academic or commercial exploitation of research results.

 

(C) Research management - to be able to:

 

1. Apply effective project management through the setting of research goals, intermediate milestones and prioritisation of activities.

 

2. Design and execute systems for the acquisition and collation of information through the effective use of appropriate resources and equipment.

 

3. Identify and access appropriate bibliographical resources, archives, and other sources of relevant information. Use information technology appropriately for database management, recording and resenting information.

 

(D) Personal effectiveness - to be able to:

 

1. Demonstrate a willingness and ability to learn and acquire knowledge.

 

2. Be creative, innovative and original in one's approach to research.

 

3. Demonstrate flexibility and open-mindedness.

 

4. Demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to identify own training needs.

 

5. Demonstrate self-discipline, motivation, and thoroughness.

 

6. Recognise boundaries and draw upon/use sources of support as appropriate.

 

7. Show initiative, work independently and be self-reliant.

 

(E) Communication skills - to be able to:

 

1. Write clearly and in a style appropriate to purpose, eg progress reports, published documents, thesis.

 

2. Construct coherent arguments and articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences, formally and informally through a variety of techniques.

 

3. Constructively defend research outcomes at seminars and viva examination.

 

4. Contribute to promoting the public understanding of one's research field.

 

5. Effectively support the learning of others when involved in teaching, mentoring or demonstrating activities.

 

(F) Networking and teamworking - to be able to:

 

1. Develop and maintain co-operative networks and working relationships with supervisors, colleagues and peers, within the institution and the wider research community.

 

2. Understand one's behaviours and impact on others when working in and contributing to the success of formal and informal teams.

 

3. Listen, give and receive feedback and respond perceptively to others.

 

(G) Career management - to be able to:

 

1. Appreciate the need for and show commitment to continued professional development.

 

2. Take ownership for and manage one's career progression, set realistic and achievable career goals, and identify and develop ways to improve employability.

 

3. Demonstrate an insight into the transferable nature of research skills to other work environments and the range of career opportunities within and outside academia.

 

4. Present one's skills, personal attributes and experiences through effective CVs, applications and interviews.