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QMUL Model – The Student Experience

Friday 13 May 2016

We are currently gathering feedback from our first-year undergraduate students on a proposed new model (the 'QMUL Model') for our undergraduate education.

QMUL already offers a wealth of opportunities for students to undertake activities outside their disciplinary programme of study. The aim of the proposal is to create an integrated (credit-bearing) programme for all QMUL students (first-year undergraduates starting in 2017/18) that broadens the undergraduate educational experience with a personalised strand, involving active learning and co-creation.

The reason we are currently asking first-year undergraduate students for their feedback is that they are closest to the target group of students that these proposals would affect if they come into being for the 2017/18 academic year.

We will update you on the plans and proposals as they progress. If you would like to share your feedback, please do so to qmul-student@qmul.ac.uk.

QMUL Model – The Student Experience

The idea behind the QMUL Model

The idea is to create a new type of undergraduate degree – one that prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century. We aim to create a degree that enhances the opportunities of our graduates, making sure they make the most of their time at QMUL and be successful in whatever they seek to pursue. We want our graduates to not just get a job, but get the right job for their talents, or go on to further study or other activities for all the right reasons. We want them to have the skills, the experience and the connections that will help them excel.

QMUL is proud of the diverse nature of its student population and its track record as a selective university that gives opportunities to students from social groups and backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in higher education. We are keen to ensure not only that we recruit students from all parts of society, but that the education we provide sets all of our students up for life.

Research has shown that students from disadvantaged groups do not do as well as those who are from more well-off backgrounds, even if they attend the same university and do the same degree.*  It appears that there are other factors at play – social connections, confidence, in-built aspirations – that affect the choices individuals make and the success they have.

The QMUL Model endeavours to level the playing field, remove barriers to success and ensure that students from whatever background are equipped to flourish in and beyond their time at university.

With this in mind, while the QMUL Model involves all of the same academic rigour one should expect in a university degree, it will also provide opportunities to develop a wider range of skills, experience and knowledge. Universities have for a long time tried to give students the opportunity to develop skills for the work place, or get work experience, but the QMUL Model is different because it really embeds them in the degree programme and makes sure the student not only gets the benefit of the experience or activity, but then is given the opportunity to reflect on those skills, have those skills and experience tested and confirmed, and recognised in the degree the student graduates with.

What will a QMUL Model degree programme involve?

The Model is still evolving as we continue to consult, but the aim is to dedicate a proportion of the degree to activities that develop those additional skills and experience. We anticipate that about 10% of the degree programme will be given over to this personalised strand. This equates to about one module per year.

For this personalised strand, students will discuss their options with their academic advisor to select a pathway that suits them.

Typically, a degree programme is made up of core modules and optional modules. The personalised strand will be a core part of the degree, but the student will be able to choose from a range of activities on offer. These activities will be offered by both the student’s own academic department and also by other departments across the university. We expect a student to take some activities from outside of their home department. We also intend to give greater recognition to relevant activities that are already embedded in our programmes.

The menu of activities in the personalised strand is likely to include:

  • The opportunity to take modules from other subjects (multi- and inter-disciplinary study)
  • Research activities – working with other students on specific projects. The research activity is likely to be linked to the research of a member of academic staff.
  • Community engagement via advice centres (we have student-led centres offering legal advice and financial advice)
  • Voluntary work with local charities
  • Consultancy work with local businesses or organisations
  • Placements and work experience opportunities
  • Mentoring

How will the QMUL Model be assessed?

We are keen to ensure that the activities in the personalised strand are as academically robust as every element of a degree programme, so students will be assessed on the work they have done and the skills they have acquired. A key part of the learning process (and of what is likely to be assessed), will be a student’s personal portfolio. This portfolio, which will include reflections on and evaluations of the activities they have undertaken, will be portable, so students can take it with them as a record of their achievement when they graduate. As with all modules, results will be quality assured via exam board and external examiners.

Some examples of what the QMUL Model degree might look like

Sally is studying History. She is keen to become an academic, but knows that getting a job as a lecturer is very challenging. It’s not just about a love of History as a subject. At some point, she will need to get a masters degree and a PhD. She will also need to have a strong research record and be able to teach her chosen subject, but also be good at building networks with fellow academics, developing ideas and pitching them as bids for research grants, and be able to show that the research she does has impact, and benefit to society. She talks to her tutor about activities that will help her achieve her goals and agrees a set of activities. In the first year, to build her confidence and get a sense of what she knows and how to help others learn, she volunteers at a local school offering teaching support and mentoring to children. She knows that while this builds her skills, it also helps future generations of children, raising their aspirations. Later, she takes part in a research project as part of a multi-disciplinary student team for one of her history lecturers. She also builds her team and organisation skills by working on the student academic journal in the department of History, learning about editing, lay-up and production and publication timelines, as well as submitting her own articles for publication in the journal. She also takes a short entrepreneurship course that helps her understand how to draft a costed business case, as it will help with future research grants.

Amir is taking an Economics degree. He knows he’d like to earn a good salary when he graduates, but he’s not sure about the specific area he’ll move into. He is not sure if he’ll look to work for a big city company, or maybe start up on his own. The choices he makes in his personalised strand keep his options open in that they help develop a range of transferable skills. He signs up to the departmental financial advice centre, offering advice to local start-ups and businesses. This hones his communication skills and helps him feel more confident about his subject, as providing support to others strengthens his knowledge of his subject. He takes a short entrepreneurship course, working with students from other departments to develop and market a smartphone app. He is responsible for ensuring that it is appropriately costed. He is a keen sportsman, and makes good use of his love of football by working towards a coaching qualification and building his leadership qualities. He also takes a course in Chinese, knowing that it will be an important language for business.

*See the reports from the Institute of Fiscal Studies “What and where you study matter for graduate earnings – but so does parents’ income” (http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8235)
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