Programme specification for geography 1 Awarding Institution/Body



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PROGRAMME SPECIFICATION FOR GEOGRAPHY
1 Awarding Institution/Body University of Lancaster

2 Teaching Institution University of Lancaster

3 Programme Accredited by: University of Lancaster

4 Final Award BSc (Honours)

5 Programme Title Geography

6 UCAS Code F800 BSc

7 QAA Benchmarking Group Geography

8 Date of PS Production/Revision 15 June 2001 (codifies a longstanding scheme)
9 Main educational aims of the scheme or field
The Geography degree at Lancaster University, based on our Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy, aims to:

  1. cover key aspects of human, physical and environmental geography and of the intellectual development of the subject;

  2. support all students' learning and their ability to learn in the future;

  3. provide research-informed teaching particularly in Year 3, and show the real-world uses of geography as a subject;

  4. provide opportunities and support for all students to develop many intellectual, geographical and key skills at various levels;

  5. review and improve our teaching.


10a Intended Learning Outcomes
The outcome from the Geography degree scheme will be graduates who:

  1. have a wide geographical knowledge and can think geographically;

  2. have shown that they can master a broad and progressively more demanding course;

  3. understand geography as a science and social science;

  4. have developed abilities (see Section 10b) which they can use in their careers.

The outcomes for each year and module are given in the Part 1 Handbook, the Part 2 Handbook, module handouts for students and the Map of Learning Outcomes. The ways in which modules become increasingly demanding from Years 1 to 3 are described in Levels, Years and the National Qualifications Framework. The paper The Geography Benchmarking Statement and the Lancaster Geography Degrees reviews that link.
10b Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy
The Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy in the Department of Geography aims to produce students who have achieved the intellectual, geographical and key-skill outcomes described below. It does this in a way that progressively demands more from the students from Years 1 to 3, and supports them towards achieving this. The strategy seeks to use in each year of the degree scheme appropriate methods of teaching the subject and skills, and of assessing the students' progress in achieving the intended learning outcomes. Our strategy is consistent with and informed by the University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy, in particular with Aim 1 (well-designed curricula), Aim 2 (skills for careers), Aim 3 (using our research expertise in our teaching), Aim 4 (using a variety of teaching and assessment methods) and Aim 5 (maintaining high standards).
In this section we describe the intellectual, geographical and key-skill learning outcomes for this degree scheme. We explain how our teaching leads to these outcomes, and we describe our assessment methods which tell us how well our students have progressed towards attaining these learning outcomes.
The intellectual outcomes include the following abilities:

  1. assessing the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and policies in geography;

  2. analysing, problem-solving and decision making;

  3. abstracting, synthesising and critically evaluating evidence;

  4. developing a reasoned argument and intellectual integrity.

These intellectual skills are fostered through:



  1. the ways research-active staff structure their teaching;

  2. our assessment criteria and processes (especially analytical, critical and evaluative skills);

  3. the dissertation (which promotes independence, self-management and research skills);

  4. coursework feedback and tutorial discussions.

The assessment of our students' intellectual skills is inherent in all our summative and formative assessment and feedback. The range of intellectual skills is assessed through examinations, essays, field reports, practicals, critiques, oral presentations, small research projects and the dissertation. Their published assessment criteria list the intellectual skills by which work is judged, and the grade descriptors reflect these priorities at the various levels of attainment.


The geographical outcomes from this degree scheme are:

  1. a broad knowledge of human, physical and environmental aspects of geography especially at the human-physical interface, in environmental and development studies, and in GIS and remote sensing;

  2. an ability to plan, execute and report on fieldwork and geographical research in the human and physical realms, and an ability to use the technical skills needed for this;

  3. spatial awareness and observation;

  4. an ability to interpret geographical evidence and recognise others' viewpoints;

  5. an appreciation of the ethical issues in geographical debates, as a citizen and researcher.

Key geographical themes running through the degree scheme are: environments and landscapes; places and spaces; spatial and historical variation; differences and inequalities; processes and outcomes. In Year 2 six core modules in human, physical and environmental geography survey major areas of the subject. In Year 3 between 5 and 11 modules in human, physical and environmental geography explore specialist aspects of the subject (see the Part 2 Handbook for details). The Lancaster geography degrees are distinctive because of the three-subject Part 1 (see Section 11 for details), the integration of advanced fieldwork into final-year modules, and the close links between staff research and Year 3 options.


Our students learn geographical skills throughout the degree scheme and particularly in fieldwork, practicals and the philosophy-of-geography elements, and in specialist modules and the dissertation. Depending on their choice of Year 3 options every student will develop some of these skills to the highest undergraduate level.
The assessment methods and criteria have been chosen to allow students to demonstrate their ability to perform the relevant geographical skills. Feedback on assessed work via the coursework marking sheets shows students how to improve their performance. The ability to do research is assessed by the dissertation; fieldwork skills through the fieldwork reports; laboratory and computing skills through practical-class assignments.
The key skill outcomes from this degree scheme include the following:

  1. an ability to learn new, diverse and complex material;

  2. written communication and verbal presentation;

  3. numeracy, information technology and information handling;

  4. working independently and with groups, and recognising the viewpoints of others;

  5. taking responsibility for, and reflecting on one's learning, at university and later in life.

These key skills are developed throughout nearly all aspects of the degree scheme and are integrated into the learning of geography. This is helped by the wide range of teaching methods (in the lecture theatre, laboratory or in the field; individual and teamwork; theoretical and practical; Library or IT based). This parallels the wide range of assessment methods, and the feedback from them. The development of key skills is largely carried out in the context of geography-focused modules so as to show how these skills can be used and how the study of geography is illuminated by their use. Specifically skills-focused teaching is used in Part 1 tutorials, Year 2 practicals, the Geography Research Skills week, the optional overseas field modules in Year 3 and the training in how to produce a dissertation. The Profiling and Career Guidance exercises promote reflection and career management.


The assessment of these key skills is either implicit in all forms of assessment (e.g. learning and study) or is an explicit criterion in specific types of assessment (e.g. writing for essays; oral skills for assessed presentations; IT in practical classes). The dissertation is the best way of assessing a student's all-round ability.
10c Reference points used to inform the programme outcomes

  1. Annual teaching review, student evaluation and Alumni Review Panel surveys.

  2. External examiners' reports and our experience as external examiners elsewhere.

  3. Staff research and expertise.

  4. Publications of the Geography Discipline Network and the Journal of Geography in Higher Education.

  5. Geography Benchmark Statement and the National Qualifications Framework.

  6. Lancaster University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy 1999-2004.

  7. Participation as learners and tutors in the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Lancaster University) and in the workshop for new staff in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (the National Subject Centre for GEES).


11 Programme structures and features, modules, credit and award requirements
BSc Geography is a three-year degree scheme; Year 1 is qualificatory, Years 2 and 3 classify the degree.
Part 1 (Year 1)

Under the distinctive Lancaster system students take three subjects of equal weight, one of which is Geography 100. This three-subject Part 1 introduces students to other subjects, at least one being from a list of more cognate subjects to which intellectual links can be made from Geography. These subjects may be continued in Years 2 and 3 as minor subjects. At the end of Part 1 there is considerable choice of which subject(s) to major in, another distinctive feature of the Lancaster system. To major in Geography, students must obtain at least 45% in Geog 100 and 35% in the other two subjects.


Geography 100

This comprises lectures, tutorials and fieldwork, and is described in detail in the Part 1 Handbook. The lectures introduce students (with diverse backgrounds in geography) to basic elements of the subject from the global to the local, in human and physical geography, and with one module on the philosophical development of the subject. This gives everyone a common foundation for subsequent geography courses. The tutorial programme has a guideline syllabus which requires tutors to:



  1. discuss aspects of geography with their students;

  2. actively involve the students in the tutorials through projects;

  3. develop the students' study and communication skills;

  4. deal with academic and pastoral problems and act on student non-attendance.

The fieldwork programme develops research and observational skills, gives real-world examples of general processes and fosters independence (see Fieldwork Strategy for details).
The course is assessed by examinations (to test breadth of knowledge and quickness of mind), essays (to test analytical and information skills and ability to sustain an argument at length), field reports (to test interpretation and concise writing), and tests (to reinforce the need for subject knowledge and for training and feedback purposes).

Part 2 (Year 2)
Part 2 of the BSc Geography degree scheme comprises eight units of assessment (three in Year 2 and five in Year 3). The current range of courses is described in the Part 2 Handbook. In Year 2 students normally complete five compulsory modules, a tutorial and one optional module. The compulsory elements cover research/fieldwork skills, geographical techniques, the philosophy of geography, economic and population geography, physical geography and environmental geography. The optional module is either in human, physical or environmental geography, or a module in a minor subject; guidance is given on module choices. Modules focus on core and theoretical issues as a foundation for Year 3 options. Progression to Year 3 is subject to satisfactory performance in Year 2. The balance of assessment methods in Year 2 depends on options but is close to 50% examinations and 50% coursework of various types.
Part 2 (Year 3)
In Year 3 students complete five units of assessment - the one-unit dissertation (started in Year 2) and the equivalent of eight half-unit optional modules - these are described in the Part 2 Handbook and reflect the department's research strengths in social, economic and historical geography, environment and development, several key areas of geomorphology, GIS and remote sensing. More assessment comes from Year 3 than Year 2 to reflect the growing intellectual maturity of the students. Students can balance their degree in terms of human, physical and environmental geography, and in teaching styles (e.g. practicals or fieldwork) including one optional fieldwork module. Students should now have the experience to make informed choices of modules, perhaps in relation to further training or careers. Excluding the dissertation, the normal overall assessment balance in Year 3 is 67% examinations and 33% coursework of various types. This reflects our emphasis on the analytical and synthesis skills across whole courses, quickness of mind and ability to write under pressure, which the examination tests.
Progression
Year 1 provides students with a broad foundation for the whole subject and basic study and key skills. Year 2 gives a full intermediate-level training in subject knowledge and research skills, and in the main branches of geography, with a limited element of specialisation. Year 3 modules develop from those in Year 2. They are distinguished by higher intellectual demands; the need to be more autonomous learners and effective communicators; and engaging with primary sources, advanced techniques and the research frontier in specialised areas using the outputs of current research, including that from the lecturer (see Research Strengths and Teaching Geography for details). Further details on progression are given in Levels, Years and the National Qualifications Framework.

Awards
The only award available is BSc in Geography - Honours or Pass. Degrees are classified according to the university's standard regulations for eight-unit degree schemes. The balance of assessment is more on Year 3 work than Year 2, and hence more on examinations than coursework.
12 Support for students and their learning
There are three broad areas of student support in the Department and University.
Pastoral support

  1. In Year 1 students have a college tutor (whose role is pastoral) and a departmental tutor (academic and pastoral). In Part 2 each student has a Year 2 tutor (whom they meet fortnightly) and a dissertation supervisor who fulfil similar functions. The Directors of Study for Parts 1 and 2 deal with academic progress and general academic and pastoral advice. All students meet the Part 2 Director of Study or Head of Department at the start of Year 3 to review their progress in Year 2 and plan for improvement. Staff have 'office hours' and can see students whenever they are available.

  2. The Counselling Service provides in-depth and if necessary continuing support for students with serious personal problems.

  3. Specialist academic advice for those with more serious learning problems is available through study consultants in the Higher Education Development Centre.


General academic support

  1. E-mail is an increasingly important way of allowing staff and full-time and part-time students to keep in contact, whether in Lancaster, overseas or doing a dissertation.

  2. The departmental website is a growing resource for information provision.

  3. The learning guidebook for new geography students, Geography@University, was co-authored in the Department and multicopies are available in the Library.

  4. We liaise with the Library over buying materials, and they automatically adjust the loan status of items or buy more copies when demand for an item exceeds a threshold.

  5. The university provides good access across campus to IT facilities including a suite of 48 high-specification machines in the Department.

  6. The Effective Learning Programme is a widely advertised series of drop-in workshops on study issues.


Specialist support for students and staff

  1. The departmental careers officer and Careers Service organise the Profiling exercise and provide careers guidance.

  2. We follow the University's guidelines for disabled students (Access at Lancaster: Disability Statement 2000) and the Geography Discipline Network's guides on fieldwork for those with disabilities. We liaise closely with the University's Disabilities Service during admissions and the degree scheme.

  3. The Institute for English Language Education supports non-native English speakers.

  4. All new inexperienced teaching staff are enrolled on Lancaster University's Certificate for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, and more experienced staff attend individual sessions and act as tutors on this programme and in the work of the National Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. There are workshops for staff on teaching matters.

13 Criteria for admission
F800 BSc Geography (up to entry in October 2001)

  1. A level grades BBC (including Geography) plus GCSE in English Language and Mathematics (C passes or better). Or two A levels (including Geography) and two AS levels at equivalent grades.

  2. Scottish Higher grades ABBBB (including Geography).

  3. International Baccalaureate 32 pts (including 5 for Geography).

  4. European Baccalaureate 73%.

Mature and overseas students and students offering BTEC or GNVQ qualifications are considered individually on their merits and in relation to the university's guidance on equivalence to A levels.
F800 BSc Geography (for entry in October 2002)

  1. A level grades BBC including Geography; or A level grades BBC and AS level in Geography grade B; or A level grades BB including Geography and AS level grades BC; or A level grades BB and AS level grades B (in Geography) and C. Also GCSE passes (grade C) or better in English Language and Mathematics.

  2. Scottish Higher grades ABBBB (including Geography).

  3. International Baccalaureate 32 pts (including 5 for Geography).

  4. European Baccalaureate 73%.

Mature and overseas students and students offering BTEC or GNVQ qualifications are considered individually on their merits and in relation to the university's guidance on equivalence to A levels.
14 Methods for evaluating and improving the quality and standards of teaching and learning
The annual review of teaching is the primary mechanism for quality assurance and improvement. Reviews are carried out anonymously for all modules to a standardised format and there is an end-of-degree review of the whole degree scheme. The module reports contain a review of last year's changes and plans for next year. All reports are reviewed by the Geography Teaching Committee which deals with particular problems and distils key issues for its report to a Staff Meeting in July when wider action is needed. Teaching Committee also considers the external examiners' reports and replies to them on our plans to deal with their recommendations. We also report on our Teaching Review to the Faculty Undergraduate Studies Committee which in turn reports to the university's Undergraduate Studies Committee and Senate. At these levels general teaching issues are brought out for university action. This Programme Specification will become a guide to standards.
Teaching Committee meets four to six times a year and is chaired by the Part 2 Director of Studies. The Staff-Student Committee deals with teaching issues (including course approval), and Staff Meetings respond to students' concerns raised in this way. The document Levels, Years and the National Qualifications Framework provides guidance to ensure that each module (or proposed module) is at the appropriate standard for the year in which it is taught. The biennial staff appraisals include an element of teaching review, and the criteria for promotion from probationary to professorial levels include explicit promotions criteria based on competent, very good or excellent teaching. All staff new to higher education teaching now undertake the university's Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, which gives them a clear and rapid insight into teaching and how students learn. They can also attend the workshop for new staff run by the National Subject Centre for GEES. New staff have a mentor from among the existing experienced staff who helps them with their development as teachers.

15 Regulation of assessment
The regulation of assessment follows the university's rules, which are available to students. In the Department, assessment criteria and grade descriptors for all types of assessed work are available to students and used by staff for all assignments. All assessed work in Part 2 is either blind double marked (the dissertation) or moderated (see Moderation of Second and Final Year Exam and Course Work for details). There are departmental rules (available through the Part 1 Handbook and Part 2 Handbook) on coursework which is late or over-length. The department follows the university's procedures on disciplinary matters (e.g. plagiarism) and appeals. We have agreements with the external examiners on the principles by which the work they review is selected.
16 Indicators of quality and standards
We use the following indicators to judge the quality of our educational provision:

  1. the Geography Benchmarking Statement and National Qualifications Framework;

  2. the TQA exercise in 1995 and our response (see Quinquennial Review of the Quality Assessment Report for details);

  3. the reports of our external examiners who are leading geographers from major universities; and our experiences as external examiners ourselves at other universities;

  4. the annual course-evaluation questionnaires for each course, the End-of-Degree Review and the staff's self- and peer-assessment of our teaching for the annual teaching review;

  5. our low drop-out rate and the net inflow to geography degrees at the end of Part 1;

  6. feedback from alumni generally and the Alumni Review Panel which show the career value of Lancaster geography degrees;

  7. the large number of applicants and the good average A level score of entrants both indicate that we are well regarded;

  8. the ideas from newly appointed staff;

  9. the profile of degree classes we award.




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