The university as part of its course validation process holds formal approval events that last the duration of a day to enable a detailed review of a newly proposed award. Prior to an event taking place all approval documentation (a proposal rationale, programme specification, and full module descriptors) are circulated to a panel made up of a university chair (from a different School), an internal academic (from another School), an external academic, an external learning consultant, an external industry panel member, two other internal academics, a student panel member, and an officer from our Quality Enhancement Service.

Before an approval event goes ahead it is important to note if on reviewing the documentation submission the panel are unhappy the event can be postponed if the paperwork is considered to have shortfalls (or in the case of identifying minor issues further requests can be made for additional information prior to the event taking place).

The approach to including a learning consultant on the panel is a new one added to the make-up of approval panels in 2018. The consultant is independent of the university and department being a member of a pool of five that the university calls on (and has on standby for events).

Their role on the panel is specifically to take an overall independent and holistic look at the proposed course structure with its attendant modules, reviewing these as to their academic fit in terms of gel, proposed differentiation of teaching approaches, and the diversity of assessment diet offered across the course. Where they see a lack of distinction, they will discuss this with the team in the event highlighting where the team could consider alternative approaches to delivery and assessment.

The approach is new and novel and we as a Department have found this helpful so far in gauging an independent external perspective as to our proposed course design. We also if not in agreement with suggestions can ‘push’ back on areas where we feel we have the more informed judgment (and this has been considered and accepted by the panel where we can give a clear rationale as to why we feel our thinking is correct).

In summary we feel the learning consultant addition to approval panels is a positive one as it leads to a positive debate in the approval event itself, and equally prior to designing course structures and modules encourages us to think more creatively about how we approach our teaching and assessment strategy.