External Examiners' Reports

Each year our MSc programmes are assessed by independent external examiners from leading academic institutions, to enable us to maintain a high quality of teaching and student experience, and highlight areas for improvement. The latest comments from the external examiners, for the 2012/13 academic year, are available below:

Environment and Development

The three courses examined provide students with a broad range of perspectives on environment and development. Students are also exposed to a range of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches that are relevant to careers in research and applied policy. The main disadvantage of the degree is that some of the hypotheses explored in dissertations require quantitative skills that may not always be part of the degree modules. This may place considerable onus on students to identify methods outside the formal teaching component.

A further potential weakness of the course is that students and supervisors need to be vigilant of student contact needs during the dissertation writing period.

I have no specific comments to add on the subjects of teaching quality (obviously high), assessment methods (appropriate) or standards of student performance (in line with similar course offered at Edinburgh).

Environmental Economics and Climate Change

I think the MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change is an excellent degree programme. Students who do well in the course will have a valuable and prestigious qualification and should be well prepared either to continue with further postgraduate study or begin a career as an environmental economist.

The content of the courses I reviewed looked very good to me. The faculty on the degree programme seem genuinely concerned that the courses are of high quality and that students master the material. I feel confident that the faculty will fairly consider any special circumstances or problems that an individual student might have. The overall performance of the 2012-2013 cohort of students was very good.

Environmental Policy and Regulation

This is a high quality course that clearly attracts a wide range of capable students who are challenged and stretched by the course content, teaching and assessment process. The mixed international profile of the students adds to its vitality. The material addressed across the course is up-to-date, very relevant to potential private and public sector career pathways and based on a thorough understanding of different disciplinary perspectives. There is an impressive level of overall performance by the students and evidence of care and attention being given by the teaching team in assessing work and providing comments and feedback to students. The marking standards are rigorously applied.

Human Geography and Urban Studies

Local Economic Development

The MSc in Local Economic Development is a world-leading and outstanding programme in its field. The teaching staff is amongst the foremost and highest quality scholars in local and regional development and policy internationally. The content is contemporary and state-of-the-art, connecting critically with current theoretical and policy issues and debates. The programme is challenging and pushes the students to produce work of the very highest quality. It is distinctive in its combination of quantitative and qualitative material. The programme is well run and organised. The employment and post-course outcomes for participants are very positive with students finding jobs with a range of organisations internationally or going on to further courses.

Real Estate Economics and Finance

This is a demanding programme requiring students to demonstrate a wide range of different skills. I was impressed by the quality of analysis shown by the best students and the quality of some of the dissertations was outstandingly good. Students are clearly given appropriate guidance and although there is a tendency to use a fairly narrow range of methods (difference in difference methods dominate), these are usually the most appropriate for the sort of topics typically undertaken. Students replicating methods used in earlier papers need to take care to show their ability to be critical and to build on the earlier work; the best dissertations did this and also chose topics where there had been relatively few replications previously. The exam in Urban and Regional Economics is demanding and requires the ability to apply some quite advanced methods in fairly detailed problems, again the good students were able to demonstrate high levels of skill, suggesting a high standard of teaching and good preparation.

Regional and Urban Planning Studies

Urbanisation and Development