by Jeremy Hoad

Transcripts

1. Do you agree that the policy objective should be..?
'To improve the quality and consistency of information on learning and achievement in higher education and to promote good practice in the provision of such information'

  • Agree

Transcripts are currently underused, undervalued, inconsistent and incomplete as a resource. It is important that they are developed as an effective means of communicating information on learning and achievement in higher education.

2. Which of these should be core principles?

Awarding institutions might reasonably be expected to provide each student with a transcript showing what they have studied and achieved:

  • (A) on completion of their programme
    • Agree
  • (B) when they interrupt their programme
    • Agree
  • (C) on completion of each stage of their programme of study
    • Agree
  • (D) at any point during study
    • Disagree
  • (E) other times (please specify)
    • It is important that transcripts are provided to students at relevant stages in their programme of study. However, it is also important that institutions are not required to provide information in such a way that it places an unnecessary or unduly resource intensive burden upon them.

      It seems reasonable to expect transcripts to be provided on completion. It is also important that transcripts are provided when students interrupt their programme to ensure that they have an up to date record of their learning and achievement.

      We also believe that transcripts should be provided on completion of each stage of a programme. Although it may be felt that this is unnecessary institutions must recognise the changing experience of students. The majority of students work while studying now to help them meet the increasing personal financial liabilities which have been imposed upon them. Many students work throughout their terms or semesters in addition to having more prolonged or intensive periods of work in vacations. Most research students will do some undergraduate teaching during their study or other paid research work. In order for transcripts to be effective and useful to students they must therefore be available at various stages throughout their programmes.

      Institutions must clearly identify the relevant stages when transcripts will be available and ensure that these are practical. We envisage that the minimum requirement should be once a year and more frequently for some programmes than others. For example a student on a Masters programme which combined a taught and assessed element with a period of research could reasonably expect to be provided with a transcript upon completion of their examinations and again upon successful completion of the course after submission of a dissertation. Alternatively an undergraduate student could normally expect to be provided with a transcript at the end of each year of study. For those who have work placements or periods of study abroad more regular or differently timed provision may be required.

      We do not believe that students could reasonably expect to be provided with transcripts on demand at any point during their study. Even if this were to be done it would be likely that the transcript would only reflect the most recent stage of their programme as any institution will need reasonable time to complete the relevant administrative tasks entailed for generation of the transcript.

3. Please indicate to which parts of higher education this policy should apply

All taught undergraduate programmes leading to a certificate, diploma or degree

  • Agree

All undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes leading to an HE award

  • Agree

All HE provision for which academic credit is awarded

  • Agree

This policy should apply to all stages and parts of higher education. The three options above do not currently cover all postgraduate level study. The recent position statement of the QAAHE on postgraduate qualifications says that: 'The PhD/DPhil will neither be credit rated nor achievable by credit accumulation' (statement vii, p8, QAAHE consultative paper on Higher Education Qualifications Frameworks). Therefore the policy would not apply to a whole category of postgraduate students. Moreover, the second statement above only specifies 'postgraduate taught programmes'. This is an unnecessary limitation on the policy and one which could do serious damage to the implementation of the policy throughout the entire system of higher education. If the policy is to have respect and be consistent it must be applied to all levels of study and all types of student.

4. How should the transcript be conceived?

(A) Award transcript a record of learning and achievement that reflects only the requirements for a specific HE award
(B) Programme transcript (record of learning and achievement)
(C) Programme transcript (record of learning, achievement and failure)

  • (B)

Transcripts should be useful to students and other interested groups and not just basic records of achievement for internal consumption by higher education institutions. They must include relevant information on the programme of study and a record of learning and achievement. We do not believe that it is necessary to include a record of failure as this would seem to serve no purpose and reflect negatively on the student and their competences. If a student wishes to draw attention to the benefit they gained from a course or module even if they failed it then there is ample opportunity for this to be done elsewhere.

5. What type of transcript? Please rank (1st, 2nd 3rd choice)

2(A)a transcript with a standard content and format
1(B)a two-part transcript: part 1 with a standard content and format, part 2 additional information determined by the institution or, where relevant, a professional body
3(C)a specification for a minimum information content that permits institutions to present the information in the format that they consider to be most appropriate and include additional information if they wish to do so.

It is essential that transcripts adopt a standard format and, to a certain extent have a standard content. This is the only way that they will gain credibility and currency outside higher education. If institutions produce transcripts which vary dramatically this will cripple the concepts of comparability and consistency at the outset.

Institutions should, however, have the flexibility to tailor the format and content of transcripts to both the programmes they provide and the audiences who may find them useful. Clearly there will be issues to resolve regarding data protection and confidentiality but this is not the place to discuss them. Another area which is of concern is the power given to institutions to generate different transcripts depending on their use. We are concerned that any such alternatives are transparent to the student and clear guidelines are established for the different options and when and how they might be used.

6. Please indicate which information you believe is essential or should be optional in a transcript.

  • Student
    • Name
      • Essential
    • Date of Birth
      • Optional
    • Student reference number (institutional)
      • Essential
    • Student reference number (national e.g. HESA number)
      • Optional
  • Qualification and Programme
    • Name of qualification
      • Essential
    • Name of awarding institution
      • Essential
    • Name of institution responsible for delivery of programme
      • Essential
    • Name of programme of study
      • Essential
    • Language(s) of instruction
      • Optional
    • Language(s) of assessment
      • Optional
    • Professional or Statutory Body accreditation
      • Optional
  • Record of Learning and Achievement
    • Module or study unit code
      • Essential
    • Module or study unit title
      • Essential
    • Level of study (could be contained within module/unit code)
      • Essential
    • Number credits awarded for each module or study unit
      • Essential
    • Date (year) in which credit awarded
      • Essential
    • Mark or grade for each module or study unit passed
      • Optional
    • Information on failed units
      • Optional
    • Indication where credit is awarded even though a unit has not been passed
      • Essential
    • Total credits awarded for experiential learning as part of award
      • Essential
    • Work placement or experience that is part of a programme
      • Essential
    • Overseas study that is part of a programme
      • Essential
    • Overall mark/grade in the award
      • Essential
    • Overall classification in the award
      • Essential
  • Authentication
    • Date of award
      • Essential
    • Date of transcript issue
      • Essential
    • Signature of appropriate institutional officer
      • Essential
    • Stamp/seal of awarding institution
      • Essential
  • Explanatory information
    • Guidance on how to read the transcript
      • Essential
    • Grading scheme
      • Optional
    • Overview of UK education system (for non-UK users)
      • Essential
    • Overview of UK awards
      • Essential

7. Over what time scale would it be feasible for your institution to produce a transcript similar to the example given?

  • Question not relevant to our organisation.

Personal Development Planning

8. Should the policy objective for PDP be...
'to help students become more effective and independent learners?'

  • Agree

This is a sensible policy objective which puts the focus on students. However, it is crucial that institutions work hard to embed PDP throughout their programmes and support students fully. We would like to see this as an opportunity for students to be empowered. It should not be seen as an opportunity for institutions to pass responsibility for this process entirely over to the student and therefore avoid their own responsibilities as educators and facilitators of individual personal development.

9. Is this an appropriate definition for Personal Development Planning (PDP)?
'a structured process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and / or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development.'

  • Yes

We agree absolutely with the definition given above. However, we are concerned that the whole process could easily be hijacked by those who conceive of education in a strongly vocational way. It is important that career development is part of the process but not its prime function. If institutions focus too strongly on the needs of employers the whole process could, at worst, become a way of helping students to write better CVs. The strength of this definition is the combination of personal, educational and career development. We hope that this is interpreted positively so that students can identify a process of development throughout their lives which can be continued in a personal, educational or work context.

10. To which parts of higher education should policy apply? (yes or no)

(A) Undergraduate programmes;

  • Yes

(B) Taught postgraduate programmes;

  • Yes

(C) Postgraduate research training programmes;

  • Yes

(D) Other types of provision (please specify).

  • Postgraduate research programmes

We believe it is essential for PDP to apply to all students. Therefore we strongly suggest that all postgraduate programmes be covered by the policy.

The implication behind the parts identified above is that PDP is only relevant to programmes which are provided either by teaching or which offer specific (possibly vocational) training. There are a very wide range of skills which are developed through all kinds of learning processes and not only those which are in some way pedagogic. For PDP to be truly effective it must be embedded in the learning processes throughout the education system at all levels. This is particularly important for postgraduate research students who often suffer from an acute sense of isolation and can easily use their time inefficiently when poor supervision or insufficient institutional support is provided. Helping these students to identify and learn from the experiences of their research projects would contribute a great deal to successful and timely completion.

The policy objective identified above ('to help students become more effective and independent learners?', question 8) should be applied to all students and be flexible enough to be used in a variety of situations on different programmes. It is the responsibility of institutions to ensure that all students are helped to identify their learning requirements and take control of their learning processes. By doing this students will be empowered and be able to situate their study at any level in a broader framework of continuing professional development which will continue throughout their working lives. This will be ever more important as the principles and practices of lifelong learning become an inherent part of the educational experiences of individuals.

11. What form should policy take?

(A) Standard framework within which Personal Development Planning is undertaken (all institutions use the same tools to support PDP)

(B) Institutionally determined framework within which Personal Development Planning is undertaken (institutions determine the tools to support PDP but show how and where PDP is used)

(C) Alternative

  • (C)

There should be a common understanding of how PDP is to be implemented and the tools used to support it. However, institutions should also have the opportunity to interpret these core principles and practices and adapt them to their individual circumstances. Therefore we believe that a combination of both options would be most effective.

All institutions should be required to use the same basic tools for implementing PDP. This could take the form of support staff, training and guidance sessions for students and interactive information technology tools such as web sites. A common set of tools and practices would ensure that no student was disadvantaged because they attended one institution rather than another. Beyond this basic set of principles and tools institutions should then have the opportunity to develop other systems which were appropriate to their circumstances and resources. This would ensure that institutions were not limited in what they could do while at the same time implementing PDP in the most effective way they could, drawing on their existing strengths.

12. Do you feel that options A or B above should be underpinned or supported by web-based Personal Development Planning tools?

  • Agree

Information technology has had a huge impact on people's lives. The rapid expansion of internet use and its acceptance into our culture will undoubtedly have a fundamental impact on how people work, communicate and spend their leisure time. Web-based PDP tools will be able to play an important role in embedding this concept within higher education. These tools will be particularly effective in reaching out to part time and distance learning students who are too often woefully neglected by many institutions.

Although higher education uses the internet more extensively than many other parts of society there are issues of concern here. Opportunity, access and support are all crucial to the effective use of IT. However, many institutions and departments do not have the resources or structures to facilitate these things comprehensively.

PDP and the tools to support it should not be dependent upon IT or web-based systems. They should be seen as one part of a coordinated support system provided by institutions which must also use more traditional forms of communication and information dissemination.

We therefore believe that web-based PDP tools can, and will, be effective in supporting the implementation of PDP in higher education. We do not believe that they should underpin this process disproportionately.

13. Are these the key responsibilities to make policy work?

(A) Universities and colleges should be responsible for providing opportunities for PDP and for guidance to support the process.

  • Agree

(B) The nature, scope and extent of opportunities and support for PDP should be determined by each institution (influenced by professional and regulatory bodies where appropriate).

  • Agree

(C) The ultimate responsibility for deriving benefit from PDP should rest with each student: although institutions will influence this.

  • Agree

(D) The QAA should be responsible for providing public assurance that policy is being implemented effectively.

  • Agree

In order for PDP policies to work effectively there has to be a partnership between the student, the institution and relevant regulatory bodies such as the QAA. We agree that it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to derive benefit from the process. It is equally the responsibility of the institution to ensure that good support mechanisms are in place to allow the student to do so effectively.

We envisage that the QAA (and/or other relevant regulatory bodies) will normally have a 'light touch' in terms of policy implementation. It is important that institutions do not feel that processes are being imposed upon them or that their flexibility or freedom to develop mechanisms appropriate to their own circumstances is being restricted. It is, nevertheless, important that sufficient monitoring takes place to ensure that institutions are not just paying lip service to the ideals of Progress Files and PDP for students.

We cannot stress enough that it is essential that students are consulted throughout this process and continually involved in the ongoing development of support systems and materials which meet their needs. It must not be forgotten that the main beneficiaries of this whole process must be the students themselves. Not institutions, not employers and not some vague principle for which pompous politicians can claim credit.

It is also important that staff are not marginalised in this process. Without their agreement and goodwill the development of Progress Files will not succeed. For this to be a truly successful process it must be recognised that Progress Files are not a superficial add-on to a student's educational experience. They should form an integral part of this experience and become embedded in all aspects of student and institutional life. This again depends on the staff since different elements of the process will impact on everyone working in higher education from academic and administrative staff to those providing support in student residences, careers centres and students' unions.

14. Please indicate whether you think that these are the right minimum expectations for policy?

(A) At the start of an HE programme, students will be introduced to the opportunities for PDP within their programme

  • Yes

(B) Students will be provided with opportunities for PDP at each stage of their programme

  • Yes

(C) The rationale for PDP at different stages of a programme will be explained for the benefit of students in curriculum documentation.

  • Yes

(D) The nature and scope of opportunities for PDP, the recording and support strategies will be determined by each institution

  • Yes

(E) Independent assurance of the quality of opportunities and support for PDP will, in due course, be provided through QAA Academic Review

  • Yes

These expectations are a good starting point as a minimum. Although we agree with the fourth statement in general we would like to see some guidance and minimum requirements set out in relation to the PDP tools and support mechanisms that institutions will use (see our responses to questions 11 and 12 above).

We would also like to see a clear statement that institutions will consult regularly with those affected by the implementation of transcripts and PDP. Primarily we would expect meaningful consultation with students as the consumers and beneficiaries of this process but also an acknowledgement of the participation of staff.

15. Assuming that policy is inaugurated in academic session 2000/2001 what would be a reasonable time scale for implementation across the range of institutional programmes and levels?

We would like to see implementation as soon as possible but defer to institutional participants and regulatory bodies to set a reasonable period. We acknowledge that for this process to succeed it will have to be implemented effectively and extensively throughout higher education. A coherent and comprehensive approach is preferred to a swift implementation which may be initially superficial. This would disadvantage students and frustrate staff. The ideas contained within this consultation offer what is one of the most exciting changes to students' educational experience in many years. The opportunity for developing independent, empowered learning in a supportive and serious manner will benefit individuals, the sector and society immeasurably.