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External Examiner Prof. Jack Spence's report for 2011/2012

Summary of Comments

• As the first external examiner for the degree I was inducted into the structure and process of the programme at an early stage and this was most helpful.   I had discussions with several of the teachers and was able to equip myself for the task.

• I was impressed by the maturity of students and their overall competence.   I was not surprised as several are high fliers in their professions.   This was clearly demonstrated in their performance in both exams and course work.   Indeed, the best performers compared favourably with the senior military I teach on an MA programme at the Royal College of Defence Studies.

• I was interested in the decision to abolish the exam component of the degree and yet several candidates did very well;  perhaps they underestimated their capacity in this context and I have suggested that an examination paper as an option might at least be considered.

• I was impressed by the constructive way in which the assessment was conducted by Professor Cox, his colleagues and Ms Juliette Dryden.   The IDEAS programme clearly benefits from her role – as I did – and from her cheerful and efficient demeanour.

• This year’s intake were clearly ‘guinea pigs’ and the programme has clearly learnt much from the experience.   Student feed back is crucial and the staff have done well to encourage it.    The programme is a novel and demanding innovation in the school’s postgraduate programme and deserves every encouragement.

• Finally – in this context I would be happy to talk informally to the next cohort about my impressions of the degree and my role in it.

I hope I have said enough both in this section and earlier ones to cover the requirements of the school in this context.   My overall impression is that the degree is well taught, fairly assessed and responsive to student needs.   The benign influence of Professor Cox and his colleagues is apparent throughout.   Those who teach on the programme are scholars with international reputations and students can only benefit from exposure to their teaching.   My guess is that the teachers all interact very well with an intellectually demanding student body.   All good degree structures are in transition and this is all to the good.   I look forward to contributing to such positive change as may occur during my tenure as external examiner.