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External examiners comments

on programmes in the Department of International Relations

I can confirm that this is an excellent programme that is respected nationally and internationally. The practices and procedures for examining are clear and robust, and the students are supported in multiple ways as they move through the degree.

Comments from BSc IR External Examiners on the 2018-2019 session

External examiner A

This year, like last, I found the marking to be fair and consistent and, in some cases, the feedback was exemplary (e.g. IR321). I also found the quality of the work to be very good.

The main innovation undertaken this year was the programme change for 2nd year students which now allow them to choose 3 out of 5 core courses. I think this is a good decision and will offer a more varied and interesting programme. Having said this, I do think that the assessment across year 1 and 2 modules could be made more diverse, engaging and challenging. At the moment they seem to consist of either 100% Essay or Exam or a combination of both.

External examiner B

From my experience as external examiner for the BSc in International Relations at the LSE, I can confirm that this is an excellent programme that is respected nationally and internationally. The practices and procedures for examining are clear and robust, and the students are supported in multiple ways as they move through the degree. The curriculum is wide-ranging and provides both traditional modules on International Relations as well as more interdisciplinary, innovative and challenging modules.

What most struck me from the work I looked at was the truly outstanding student performance at the very top end of the scale, especially on Level III and Dissertation modules: this shows how the curriculum encourages students to push themselves. The feedback given by the staff was constructive, encouraging and fair in a way that enhanced the students’ experience. I was particularly impressed with the high level of student engagement with some of the more innovative forms of assessment (e.g. film-making), and how students were encouraged to engage with material in their own way to develop independent and critical thinking. At the exam board, I was pleased to see staff advocate for their students where needed, and celebrate their success.

External examiner C

Undergraduate students at LSE should be reassured that teaching staff at LSE take their responsibilities very seriously, which is evident in the quantity and quality of the feedback provided and robustness and transparency of the internal moderation process.

I have made the observation in my report about the ‘bunching’ of grades around the upper second/first class boundary, which isn’t always helpful at a time when employers are increasingly requesting module transcripts as well as overall degree results. It would be interesting to gauge student opinion on LSE’s assessment regime - which I comment on in my report – and whether they would like to see greater use of individual and group presentations and reports, learning logs, blogs and other possible alternative/complementary assessment methods.

External Examiner D

1. Overall, I was impressed by the quality and volume of the feedback, in particular on the essays and dissertations. For the most part, the feedback was quite detailed, avoided stock phrases and gave students clear advice on how to improve their work in future assessments. This is excellent practice.

Having said that, I’ve experienced a certain asymmetry in the quality of the feedback from different markers on the same module (IR205). My recommendation going forward is that markers agree on a similar standard of how they give feedback to ensure that every student benefits from equally meaningful feedback. My impression also was that first class work received less detailed and useful feedback, on average, than second class work. While this is to a certain extent appropriate and unsurprising, I would still like to encourage markers to include suggestions for further improvement even in the feedback on first class work, in particular on essays/scripts in the low- to mid-70s range.

2. While my judgment is that marking was consistent and appropriate, I was a bit concerned that marks, in some cases, tended to bunch quite heavily in the upper second category. This was the case, in particular for IR205 and IR373. While I do not necessarily disagree with individual marks, my impression was that the marks in the upper second category were at times quite generous and could arguably have been scaled down. Going forward, I wonder if it is worth revisiting and clarifying the boundary between the upper and lower second categories. In any case, my recommendation is that markers keep an eye on the spread of marks and ensure that the marks represent a meaningful differentiation between essays and scripts.

3. I’ve seen some good evidence that meaningful moderation has taken place. However, moderation seems to be approached quite differently by different moderators. In some cases, moderation was very ‘hands-on’ and led to quite significant upward and downward adjustments of marks. In other cases, moderation seemed much lighter touch. While this might just be a reflection of what was required for different modules, my recommendation is to ensure that moderation follows a similar standard across the full range of modules. Also, the moderation process, at times, looked a bit ad-hoc from the outside, for example when first markers asked moderators for advice in the marking process or when moderators adjusted marks but did not seem to have read all scripts in the respective classification bands. Perhaps it is useful to clarify the structure of the moderation process (or to make the structure clearer to external observers).

Comments from MSc IR and MSc IR Theory External Examiners on the 2018-2019 session

External examiner A

The LSE is renowned for the quality of its staff and students, and the work I saw was further evidence of the truth of this reputation. Many of the papers and dissertations I read were of a quality that compares favourably with any I have seen at my own institution or others where I have acted as an examiner. I particularly liked the level of feedback provided.

External examiner B

The seven modules I examined were all very high quality, challenging and interesting, and provided evidence of the kind of excellent research-led teaching that takes place in the Department. There was evidence of high quality student work.

External examiner C

Though supported by staff in their academic endeavours, students should be congratulated on their performance in the work that I had the privilege to scrutinize. It was clear from some of the (outstanding) work I saw, that students were both passionate and enthusiastic about the units – not least in their ability to address assessments using highly topical material.

Comments from MSc International Political Economy (IPE) External Examiners on the 2018-2019 session

External examiner

The programme benefits from a strong curriculum that features a solid range of courses in International Political Economy. The academic staff are internationally renowned in these areas, which is reflected in the strong general performance of the student cohort. The methods of assessment are what I would expect at the taught postgraduate level and the standards of student performance exceed what I have examined at comparable British universities.