Programme Periodic Review -The Foundation Degree (Fd) in Biological Sciences in collaboration with Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC)

Abdel Meguid, E. (Reviewer), Davis, J. (Reviewer), Robertson, J. (Reviewer), Jenny Woof (Reviewer), Allister Irvine (Member)

Activity: Other activity typesOther


Assist the Collaborative Provision Group (myself being a member of this collaborative provision group) with the Foundation Degree (Fd) in Biological Sciences; Programme Periodic Review
Periodic Review Meeting held on 25 January 2021 (via Microsoft Teams)

Collaboration between School of Biological Sciences and Belfast Metropolitan College for the delivery of Foundation Degree (FD) in Biological Sciences


Dr J Davis, representative from Collaborative Provision Group (Chair)
Dr E Meguid, representative from Collaborative Provision Group
Professor J Woof, University of Dundee and External Adviser to Panel
Mr A Irvine, Student Reviewer
Dr J Robertson, Reviewer not involved in the programme

Foundation Degree (FD) in Biological Sciences

IN ATTENDANCE: Ms A Douglas, Academic Affairs, Queen’s University Belfast


Dr A Mousley, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University، Dr D Corbett, Dr P McPherson, Mrs K McCann, Mr I McMenamin, Dr G Power, Belfast Metropolitan College

Belfast Metropolitan College:

Ms E Connolly, Organisational Quality Assurance
Representative: Manager, Ms G McCune, Organisational Quality، Assurance Coordinator, Ms N Boyle, Head of StudentSupport, Ms R Roberts, Head of Centre for Excellence، Ms A Patterson, Organisational Excellence Manager

IN ATTENDANCE:Ms A Douglas, Academic Affairs, Queen’s University Belfast

The Panel received periodic review documentation which included the programme handbook, external examiners reports and programme specification. Additional information on statistical analysis of student recruitment and performance, student satisfaction, progression and awards and programme quality assurance and enhancement mechanisms was provided for the Panel.

The Panel met privately to consider the documentation provided and had the opportunity to meet separately with a group of students and the Programme Team to discuss the operation of the programme and the collaboration going forward.
The Panel noted the Programme Team assertion that while Foundation Degrees had been designed to provide a pathway to employment, in Northern Ireland successful students would be competing with BSc graduates and therefore the

majority of the Foundation Degree students chose progress to year two of a University degree programme.

Students who complete the Foundation Degree with an overall weighted mark of 55% and, in addition, at least 55% in each module assessed in final year will be eligible to progress to degree programmes in the School of Biological Sciences.
The Panel noted that currently the two year full-time programme had a diet of six core modules in each year offering progression routes, upon meeting the necessary entry criteria, to BSc (Hons) degree programmes in Biological Science, Zoology, Marine Biology and Microbiology at Queen’s. The Panel was satisfied with the academic content of the modules and the broad range of assessment which prepared students for transition to University assessment. Students highlighted the term paper activity and the opportunity it provided to explore a biological topic of their own choosing.

The Panel noted that the programme did not facilitate articulation to stage two of the BSc (Hons) Biochemistry at Queen’s due to the lack of appropriate levels of chemistry content. In recognition of students’ aspirations to progress to this pathway and student feedback received on the module portfolio available, the Panel endorsed the following proposals from the Programme Team, supported by the External Examiner, for 2021-22 admissions:

(i)reorganisation of compulsory and optional module portfolio: to enhance breadth in knowledge of discipline through introduction of new modules, and enhance contribution of Work-based Learning contribution to programme

(ii)inclusion of an optional module in Chemistry: to allow for progression to the BSc Biochemistry pathway within the School of Biological sciences at QUB

The Panel was satisfied that the Programme Team worked with students from the point of entry to provide guidance and advice in relation to the pre-requisites required for the various University degree programme routes available to them. Plans to enhance a one day induction event at Queen’s for stage one and stage two students also provided further opportunity to highlight pre-requisite criteria further.

The Panel commended the Programme Team for the transition to online learning, as a consequence of COVID-19 lock down restrictions in March 2020. The Programme Team worked closely with the External Examiner and with the University Co-coordinator to follow University guidance to ensure a smooth transition to on-line learning and assessment under the supplementary regulations. The Panel was satisfied that students had been supported through this process and continue to receive appropriate levels of support for continued online learning until such times as restrictions end.
The Panel accepted that there had been extraordinary challenges in the last year and noted that the Programme Team aimed to provide feedback as soon as possible and informal feedback was provided constantly during tutorials. The Panel acknowledged that students do not always realise they are receiving feedback and encouraged the Programme Team to clearly identify for students how and when they will receive feedback.

The Panel was impressed with the excellent opportunities provided through the Work-based Learning module, in particular the possibility of international placement. The Panel was satisfied that students were made aware of the level of commitment the placement required particularly as it takes place over the summer months. The benefit of this experience embedded a confident approach to progressing to a University degree programme and to independently securing any further work placement requirements. Cognisant of the continuing concerns regarding lockdown restrictions the Panel recommended that consideration should be given to on-line work placement provision and alternative assessment methods should be planned for instances where placement has not been possible. The Panel noted that the membership of the Work-based Learning Coordinator on the School of Biological Sciences Employer Forum provided additional opportunity for forging connections with new providers and potentially sourcing additional placements.

The Panel noted the ‘wrap around’ student support service offered by the College to help students overcome any barriers to learning and build resilience for their future. The Panel was also satisfied that support mechanisms were in place for students at programme level however it was concerned with the arrangement of the Course Director acting as Personal Tutor to all students. The Panel was assured that the entire Programme Team was made aware of any concerns or additional support requirements, for any of the students, at regular team meetings. However the Panel agreed that a deputy/assistant Personal Tutor should be identified to offer students a choice and to provide assistance in this area.

The Panel was generally satisfied with the content and level of the programme and commended the Programme Team for the positive and engaged students that the Panel met. The Panel agreed to recommend to the Collaborative Provision Group that the programme be approved, with the proposals for reorganisation of the core and optional module portfolio, an enhanced Work-based Learning module and the introduction of the opportunity to progress to the BSc (Hons) Biochemistry programme, for a further five-year period, subject to the specified recommendations being addressed. A response to the Panel’s report should be submitted to the Academic Affairs at Queen’s by 26 April 2021.

The specific recommendations are as follows:

(i)Provide full and comprehensive planning on how, if current restrictions continue during Summer 2021, the work-based learning module will be assessed. The programme team are encouraged to consider establishing on-line placements for students.

(ii)Continue communications with the University Admissions and Access Service in relation to the ongoing review of entry criteria with a view to revising the BTEC entry tariff to facilitate enhancement in quality of students.

(iii)Provide increased and consistent opportunities for students to attend Queen’s University campus In particular to gain exposure to laboratories within the School of Biological Sciences and also access advice and guidance before choosing second year modules which may be detrimental to their progression to Queen’s

(iv)Ensure that feedback processes are clearly defined as such and students understand what constitutes feedback. Feedback should be timely, consistent and provide constructive commentary that will be helpful to students.

(v)In recognition of the importance of the role of the Personal Tutor, introduce the role of deputy tutor or an alternative position to provide appropriate levels of assistance and support.

(vi)Ensure that the reading lists are updated with current material.

(vii)Ensure that teaching recognition applications are submitted for approval for any members of staff delivering on the programme.

In conclusion the Panel would like to acknowledge and thank the Programme Team for their assistance and cooperation with the Periodic Review Meeting and also thanks to the students for taking the time to meet with the Panel.
Period25 Jan 2021
Degree of RecognitionLocal