BSc IR External Examiners' comments

Comments from BSc IR External Examiners on the 2013-2014 session:

External Examiner A:

I attended the Examination Committee meeting and I was satisfied that students were treated fairly and equitably. I was also happy with the discussions within the Committee overall. The abilities of the students are truly impressive and the academic maturity they demonstrate in exam scripts and dissertations suggest that they are benefiting from high quality teaching in the School.

I did have a question about what students receive in the way of feedback on the dissertation. Upon learning that there is no requirement to provide written feedback, I suggested at the meeting that the Department might think about reviewing the matter. Of course, feedback is widely identified as one of the most important factors in effective learning. The dissertation is a significant piece of work on the part of the students and for the department it is important in assisting the delivery of certain aims of the degree program. The same logic that says assessed coursework should receive feedback needs to be extended to dissertations. There are obvious workload issues to be considered, but perhaps they are not too onerous given that the dissertation is not a requirement for all students and detailed comments on dissertations are already being exchanged between internal markers. Such assessment would also complement an initiative suggested by another external examiner, which I support, that the institution of a dissertation prize be considered. Both suggestions are important pieces to communicating to the students and the world outside the LSE, especially those who might be considering the School’s students for graduate fellowships, the high quality of their work. This is important especially given the surprisingly low number of firsts among the final degree candidates (4 this year) – and I say ‘surpisingly’ because of the outstanding standard of work I reviewed. Relatedly, more thought and discussion about a fuller range of marks and how this might be operationalized, perhaps revising the established rubric, should be encouraged.

External Examiner B:

1. I commended the Department’s efficiency in running the process with me.
2. I commended the Department for the high quality and rigorous nature of the marking process for the scripts I have examined.
3. I highlighted to the Department that it is not using the full range of grades, which in some cases ends up in not accurately reflecting the student’s performance. This is particularly the case in the high-end of the grade spectrum, where the Department should be making more use of the grades falling in the range of 75+.
4. I recommended the Department to consider the increasing bureaucratic toll on academics whilst making the decision on whether or not to provide written feedback on dissertations, which so far students have not requested.

External Examiner C:

Report on
• IR202 Foreign Policy Analysis
• IR203 International Organisations
• IR311 Europe’s Institutional Order
• IR315 The Middle East and International Relations Theory

As usual, the standard of student performance on each of these courses was high. This is in keeping with my experience of previous years, having acted as external examiner to this department consecutively for four years’ now. Answers were lengthy, intelligent, fluent, and well substantiated with reference to the literature and empirical examples. I believe the standard of student performance reflects well on the quality and appropriateness of teaching received. Judging by the reading lists that I received and the quality of the examination questions, the programmes and courses taught continue to be of exceptionally high-quality.

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