Education news

Single honours degrees ‘at risk' at Queen's University, Belfast

The Queen's University senate will meet later this month to discuss a proposed shake-up of entry grades and courses

DEGREE programmes with fewer than 20 students are at risk of being wound up as part of plans by Queen's University to change its shape and size.

The university's ruling senate is to meet this month to discuss a document that proposes increasing A-level entry grades to at least an A and two Bs and cutting its number of schools.

About four in every 10 undergraduate courses currently have target grades lower than 'ABB'.

The University and College Union (UCU) is concerned and plans to lobby the senate.

In its 'Institutional Size and Shape Review' document, the university admits that raising entry requirements will mean hundreds of young people failing to make the grade.

The ABB standard, the document says, will apply to Northern Ireland students. UCU members say they are still waiting to be told whether entry tariffs for students coming from England will be lower than those for locals.

However, the union has said it is also concerned about a proposal for minimum enrolment numbers on undergraduate and postgrad courses, which it warned could lead to the end of some single honours degrees.

For undergraduate degrees, there will need to be at least 20 students enrolled on level one and two modules, and 12 at level three. The figure for postgrad taught courses will also be 12.

"The cancellation of modules not satisfying these conditions will restrict the options open to students and lead to the end of some single honours degrees," a union spokesman warned.

"There is no consideration of the impact of these conditions on the ability of NI students to study their preferred subject in Northern Ireland, of the employability of the graduates, of the views of employers or of the wishes of NI politicians.

"The closure of modules has obvious implications for the employment of teaching staff, but the document is silent on possible redundancies.

"The exception to this is the mention of the loss of seven posts in sociology and anthropology due to the ending of single honours in both subjects, and UCU has already expressed our concerns about this. Some research areas such as ecology, evolution and biochemistry will be curtailed."

Queen's said it had established a strategic planning group, to determine the future size and shape of the institution, in the context of its Vision 2020 campaign, which is based on "world class leadership in the pursuit of excellence, impacting society".

"This work is ongoing and it is expected that recommendations will be presented to senate, the governing body, at its meeting on April 12," a spokeswoman said.

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