Comments from External Examiners on the 2015-2016 session:
External Examiner A
The standard of student work was generally high, especially on the dissertation module, where methodological sophistication was evident, in relation to MA level work in other parts of the UK. This was also suggestive of good supervision practices.
The programme as a whole covers a range of the key areas in International Political Economy. The programme is particularly good in providing students with the foundational and core conceptual elements of the field. It also usefully covers a number of important policy areas: trade, money/ finance FDI, environment and national macroeconomic and social policies.
The general theme of international economic diplomacy is strong throughout the programme and this is something LSE is known for and has a particular strength in.
It is possible that there are less opportunities to develop work in a more critical vein that imagines and discusses the potential for alternative futures in the international political economy, or alternative forms of global governance, but that is based only on a general impression following examination of the IPE MAs for under twelve months, and is by no means a definitive verdict.
The methods of assessment are fairly standard, although the use of exams is quite unusual at MA level, as many other places have moved over to entire continuous assessment and submitted coursework. I saw little evidence of experimental, or bold innovative assessment methods, but there were a variety of quite standard assessment methods used. Generally I thought grading was fair and consistent, and was a function of robust assessment methods and processes. A reasonable number of students achieved distinctions – six across the 2016 cohort, while the majority of students attained merit gradings, and there were very few fails. Overall the student performance was commendable.
External Examiner B
The samples of assessed work demonstrate that IR454 and IR468 provide students with a well-structured, rigorous and challenging programme of study. It is clear that the courses allow for a comprehensive understanding to be gained of issues and debates around IPE and the politics of trade respectively.
Moreover, from the dissertations reviewed, it is clear that through the MSc/IPE programme as a whole students are developing the skills needed to originally apply and assess existing knowledge across the field of IPE. A number of the dissertations produced were of an exceptionally high standard, suggesting that students have been effectively supported through the programme to reach their full academic potential.
External Examiner C
Strengths: MSc IPE takes advantage of a wide range of staff expertise in the IR department but also on other units of the LSE. The diversity of modules and their themes make the programme topical and interesting.
Strength: the combination of quantitative and qualitative skills taught to students via different modules. This is clearly reflected in final dissertations, many of them demonstrate confidence with case-driven research and quantitative methods.
Strength: the IPE curriculum is very well organised with a clear remain in terms of modules and combination of field and disciplinary expertise.
Weaknesses: Some of the modules are taught by visiting staff, and it shows. In one case, the reading list and lectures were passed through different generations of replacements teachers, making the final structure less coherent. I believe though that this is being addressed by the Department and teaching staff.
Weaknesses. Exam-only assessment for modules. I see the efficiency argument rebind this, but I wonder if it accommodates the diversity of student skills and talents?
Strength: dissertations reflect many research areas, and students are clearly encouraged to develop their critical skills.
Weakness: I found that in an exam-mode the answers of the students are very formalised. They are quite homogeneous following a pre-set formal of key authors and usually, an example or a case study. While this enables the monitoring of average performances, it is too restrictive to accommodate the diverse group of students special interests.
Strengths. May of the dissertation are of high quality, with one in particular being of publishable standard. I believe this shows very good practice of supervisions by staff, and facilities provided by the LSE (databases, resources, library).