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An assessor’s view on accreditation of ecology degrees

Posted by on November 9, 2012
Rachel conducting freshwater biomonitoring work in the Peak District

Rachel conducting freshwater biomonitoring work in the Peak District

Rachel Stubbington, Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, writes about her experience as an assessor for the Society of Biology Degree Accreditation Programme

As a lecturer in biosciences, I see my undergraduate students getting more and more career-savvy by the year. I want as many of them as possible to achieve their goal of gaining relevant and rewarding employment in the life sciences after graduation. So it’s great to see the Society of Biology’s Degree Accreditation Programme expanding to include many sub-disciplines within our broad subject. And it’s a pleasure to have been involved in the accreditation programme over the summer.

Accreditation aims to highlight degrees that combine academic excellence with significant research experience. To ensure that we can consistently spot these top-notch degrees, a set of criteria needed to be written. I was involved in drafting such criteria for the ‘Ecological and Environmental Sciences’ theme.  Ecology is in itself a hugely diverse subject and so our working group included experts from a range of sub-disciplines – between us, there was an evolutionary biologist, an environmental consultant, a plant geneticist, an invertebrate physiologist and me, a freshwater ecologist.

After much debate, we agreed on a list of essentials that an accredited degree should have. These criteria related to theoretical knowledge, practical skills and, very importantly, the ability to work independently to conduct scientific research. As we worked, down the corridor, other teams were busy drafting similarly robust criteria for two other themes: ‘Molecular Aspects of Biology’ and ‘Whole Organism Biology’.

Now that the accreditation programme has been launched, institutions up and down the UK will be busily compiling the evidence they need to apply for accredited status. The next step, then, is to get panel members and chairs ready to assess these applications. I’ve been trained and I’m looking forward to visiting applicant institutions and learning more about how they’re getting students ready for future careers as leaders in the biosciences. If we can do this, we’ll be well on the way to ensuring today’s students become the highly skilled graduates needed to face current challenges in the life sciences.

If you’d like more information on accreditation, our Handbook provides a great overview of the project, its background, aims and how to apply.

 The Society is still seeking applications for assessors across the life sciences, find out more information and download an application form today.

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