1. EVENT DETAILS
Name of MSc Corporate Social Responsibility
course(s)/programme(s) and Energy
Date of event 10 May 2011
Proposed date of
Name of University event
Dr Roger McDermott
Name of University internal Panel
Dr Roddy Smith
Name of external Panel Mr Geoff Fisher
Dr David Whyte
Name of external Panel
member(s) attending for a
Professional, Statutory or
Name of administrative support
Ms Lucy Jack
staff from Academic Affairs
Name of observers attending the
2. SCOPE OF EVENT
New course(s)/programme(s) √
Major change to existing course(s)/programme(s) √
Other (specify) √
3. CONFIRMATION OF MEETINGS HELD
Yes No N/A
Senior management staff with responsibility for √
resources for the course(s)/programme(s) (Dean
and Head of School)
Course/Programme Development Team √
Placements providers and educators √
Current students √
Others (Please specify) √
4. CONFIRMATION OF FACILITIES/RESOURCES AND MATERIALS INSPECTED
Computing and Information Technology facilities √
Specialist teaching accommodation √
Campus Moodle √
Other (Please specify) √
5. SUMMARY OF AREAS DISCUSSED IN MEETINGS
Using the Documentation Evaluation Form as a guide, the Panel explored the
following areas with the Course Development Team (the Team):
Rationale and Demand
Demand for the course and the anticipated profile of candidates.
Whether the course would be contextualised to the different needs of the
students and, if so, how would that be undertaken.
Whether the Team foresaw a potential market beyond the energy sector, for
example public sector and local government, and whether any market research
had been undertaken in relation to those areas.
Exploration of whether there were other HE providers of similar corporate social
responsibility course provision.
Rationale for developing the course within the School of Applied Social Studies
as opposed to Aberdeen Business School.
Whether there had been any challenges in establishing an interdisciplinary
Team, what they were and how the Team would operate once the course was
up and running. [Refer Commendation 6.3.1]
Admission and Intake
Applicability of the course to graduates from disciplines other than engineering.
Course Aims and Outcomes
Corporate social responsibility was a new area and, that being the case, what
employment opportunities did the Team envisage for graduates of the course.
Clarification regarding whether there was a relevant accrediting body for the
MSc Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy course provision and whether
accreditation would provide any particular benefits, or indeed constraints, to
the course content.
Unique selling point (USP) of this particular MSc provision over other corporate
social responsibility courses, i.e. what made this course different from others in
the market? [Refer Commendation 6.3.1]
How would the Team ‘ground’ the course within the School of Applied Social
Studies given the cross-University input.
Aim of the course, which was to provide graduates with the skills to provide
companies with a greater awareness of corporate social responsibility, and how
that would work in practice. [Refer Condition 6.1.2]
Core Learning Outcomes and whether all students would be able to achieve
these irrespective of which elective modules they selected.
Structure and Content
Proportion of new modules versus existing modules.
Volume of electives available within the course and, in light of that, whether
students would gain an understanding of the integrity and cohesiveness of the
corporate social responsibility concepts across the course. [Refer Condition
Practicalities associated with offering so many modules to what could be a
relatively small cohort.
Process undertaken by the Team in identifying which modules would be
compulsory and which electives and the rationale for identifying so few modules
as compulsory and so many electives. [Refer Condition 6.1.1]
Rationale for not including a fieldwork placement module within the course
structure. Also, given the lack of a placement on the course, how would the
Team imbibe work skills within the graduates. [Refer Recommendation
The good breadth and relevance of subject matter across the course but
concerns regarding the balance between the compulsory and elective modules
in light of the Sociology QAA benchmark statements and the capacity to extend
the number of compulsory modules. [Refer Condition 6.1.1]
The importance of managing the delivery of the corporate social responsibility
message within an organisation and how this needed to be embedded within
the course, possibly through the inclusion of an Aberdeen Business School
module. [Refer Condition 6.1.2]
Also, whether there was the potential to increase the ‘energy’ contextualisation
within the course by including an energy focused module. [Refer
Concerns of the Panel that students would be expected to make an informed
decision at the commencement of the course regarding which elective modules
were most appropriate to their learning needs. Also, the appropriateness of a
student completing the course without undertaking a business module. [Refer
Recommendation 6.2.2 and 6.2.3]
The complexity of the course model, which drew on a significant number of
modules, and how the Team would manage the student learning experience to
ensure a cohesive, course perspective.
Given the number of electives, how would the course convey to employers that
students were being provided with specific corporate social responsibility and
Teaching and Learning Strategies
Interdisciplinary approach of the course and how that would be managed given
that students would not be undertaking the same modules.
How would the Team ensure consistency and comparability of the student
learning experience across the different elective modules and modes of
Support of small student cohorts within large cohorts, for example a number of
the Aberdeen Business School modules would be delivered to large cohorts of
students and the corporate social responsibility students would very much be in
How would the on-campus teaching, learning and assessment strategies
transfer to the distance learning mode and would different approaches be
Availability of virtual learning space for students within the University’s Virtual
Learning Environment, CampusMoodle.
Whether the Team would use the full functionality of CampusMoodle to bring
the students together to generate cohesiveness of the cohorts.
Clarification regarding the diversity of assessment being employed within the
course and the details of the assessments, for example wordage.
Support for the Course
Exploration of the School’s experience in supporting international students
given that the primary market for the course was likely to be West Africa.
Library provision to support the course.
Mechanisms for engaging staff and students with CampusMoodle.
Capacity to blend the full-time and distance learners in joint sessions, for
example via discussion fora.
Research interests within the School and whether corporate social responsibility
was an existing research area, how easy it would be to develop research within
the area and whether the course would require a strong corporate social
responsibility and energy research underpinning. [Refer Commendation
Whether corporate social responsibility would become a research priority within
the School given the course development.
Management of research activity within the School and the volume of time
allocated to staff to undertake research.
6. EVENT OUTCOMES
The Panel agreed to recommend approval of the course, subject to normal
quality assurance arrangements and the following conditions:-
6.1.1 Incorporate module SSM207 Risk, Responsibility and Accountability into
Stage One, Semester One, as a core module thereby strengthening the
sociology focus and providing students with a more focused foundation to
The proposed course comprised three compulsory modules, SSM206 Corporate
Social Responsibility in the Energy Sector, SSM214 Research Methods for
Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy and SSM302 Dissertation. Students
accumulated the remaining credit from a range of elective modules. The Panel
expressed a number of reservations regarding the proposed structure.
The QAA subject benchmark for the course was Sociology and the Panel
questioned whether the course would meet the requirements of the Subject
Benchmark Statements with so few core modules and the Team was, therefore,
asked to incorporate a further core module to address this issue.
Furthermore, the expectation of the Panel had been that the course would be
more prescribed and that students would have a clearly defined route through the
course. Instead, students would only be required to undertake one compulsory
module in Semester One and then select three modules from a defined list of
elective modules. The Panel appreciated the Team’s reasons for incorporating
elective modules, i.e. to provide students with a broad perspective of corporate
social responsibility whilst also allowing them to gain specialist knowledge to meet
the individual’s requirements. However, the Panel considered it important that
students gained an understanding, and underpinning, of, not only sociology, but
also the integrity and cohesiveness of the corporate social responsibility concepts
from the commencement of the course. The Panel also felt that it was a ‘big ask’
to expect students to come directly into a course and select modules which would
meet their specific learning requirements (also refer Recommendation 6.2.3). In
liaison with the Team module SSM207 Risk, Responsibility and Accountability was
identified as the most appropriate module for inclusion as an additional
compulsory module. This module was considered to be the most applicable to all
students, irrespective of their profession, and it would enable the Course Learning
Outcomes to comfortably meet the Sociology Benchmark. Furthermore, the Panel
believed that the increase in compulsory modules would ensure that employers
would receive graduates from the course with a set of core corporate social
6.1.2 Revise the Course Learning Outcomes to incorporate an outcome about
understanding the application of corporate social responsibility principles
and the management of the corporate social responsibility message
within an organisation.
The implicit expectation was that graduates of the course would be in a position to
enter an organisation, apply corporate social responsibility principles within that
organisation and be able to manage the delivery of the corporate social
responsibility message. The expertise of these graduates would be instrumental in
informing companies’ decision making and risk assessment processes. These were
not insignificant tasks and it was important that students were able to make
corporate social responsibility a compelling story and that they were equipped
with the requisite skills to undertake this key role. The Panel was not minded to
incorporate a core module to address this but, instead, suggested that the Team
incorporate it as a Learning Outcome of the course thereby ensuring that any
graduate from the course was in possession of the requisite skills. The School had
experience of delivering leadership and change management and would be vigilant
to this requirement and expressed a willingness to incorporate an additional
learning outcome to this effect.
The mechanism for meeting these conditions was through the submission of
documentary evidence to the Panel by 17 June 2011.
6.2 The Validation Panel also wished to make the following recommendations:-
6.2.1 The Course Team was strongly recommended to give consideration to
incorporating module SSM212 Economic Contexts and Impacts as a core
module within Stage One, Semester Two, in order to provide the ‘energy’
contextualisation to the course.
The title of the course was MSc Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy and,
although two of the compulsory modules, SSM206 Corporate Social Responsibility
in the Energy Sector and SSM214 Research Methods for Corporate Social
Responsibility and Energy, included reference to ‘energy’ within the title, the
Panel was concerned that ‘energy’ was still not as prominent within the course as
it might be. The Panel, therefore, suggested that the Team give serious
consideration to incorporating SSM212 Economic Contexts and Impacts within
Semester Two of the course to address these concerns. An additional benefit of
such an approach would be that it would further strengthen the core elements
within the course.
6.2.2 All students be advised to, normally, undertake at least one Aberdeen
Business School module as one of their elective choices.
Students would enter the course from various disciplines, for example
Engineering, Business Development, Communications, Law, and each student
would have a different set of skills. The Panel considered business skills to be key
to corporate social responsibility and currently a student could enter the course
without those key skills and, potentially, leave without attaining those skills. The
Panel appreciated that it would not be appropriate to make an Aberdeen Business
School module core for all students as some students would already be in
possession of the relevant skills. However, where students did not possess those
skills then the Panel recommended that the Team advised students to choose at
least one of the Aberdeen Business School modules as an elective. The Panel
believed that this would help strengthen the student’s employability and career
prospects on completion of the course.
6.2.3 It be a requirement that, prior to the commencement of the course, all
students be given the opportunity to discuss their individual expectations
of the course with a member of the Course Team in order to allow
him/her to make an informed decision regarding their choice of electives.
In light of the large number of electives available on the course it was important
that members of the Course Team had a pre-entry discussion with each student
to explain the different elective modules available and to discuss the student’s
individual expectations of the course and their learning requirements in relation to
their careers. The discussion would, thereby, allow students to make an informed
decision about which electives would be most appropriate to their needs.
6.2.4 The Course Team to consider the future introduction of a placement
element into the course, which would help increase the employability of
graduates and assist employers’ understanding of the place of corporate
social responsibility within the organisation.
Corporate social responsibility was a new area and it was important that
employers understood where graduates from the course would fit into an
organisation and the incorporation of a fieldwork placement could be one
mechanism of engaging employers. Furthermore, a fieldwork placement would
help embed work related skills within the course by providing students with
practical work experience within the field of corporate social responsibility which
would help increase their employability on completion of the course.
The School, which had a strong history of placement provision, was not entirely
adverse to incorporating a fieldwork placement and this had been considered as
part of the course development discussions. However, the majority of the part-
time student cohort would be in employment and, as the market research had
indicated, many of them would have experience of the energy sector and they
would bring that experience to the course discussion fora. In addition, live client
briefs would be used within the course and students would also be given the
opportunity to undertake site visits to ‘energy’ organisations. Furthermore, as
corporate social responsibility was such a new area the School did not currently
have ready access to fieldwork placements. The School would be working with
companies to provide them with an understanding of the benefits which a
graduate from this course could bring to their organisation. The potential
incorporation of a fieldwork placement would be kept under review.
6.2.5 Revisit the Course Learning Outcomes in a way which recognised
corporate social responsibility as a contested concept.
The Panel believed that there was an element of contradiction between the aims
and outcomes of the course, i.e. at some points there was a clear indication that
the concept of corporate social responsibility was not taken for granted and
subject to detailed scrutiny and at other points the concept seemed to be taken
for granted as something that was to be encouraged or promoted. More
specifically, the Learning Outcomes for Autonomy, Accountability and Working
with Others emphasised ‘corporate citizenship’, however, the ability of
corporations and their officials to develop corporate socially responsible ways of
thinking or the extent to which this was likely to reduce corporate risk was a
process that was highly contested in the literature. It was understood that the
Team’s intention was to deliver a balanced approach but the Learning Outcomes
in the Detailed Course Descriptor perhaps required some minor amendment to
reflect the balanced, analytical approach that would be taken. It was suggested
that the recommendation could be addressed by changing the wording in these
sections as follows:
The statement ‘Forecast the positive and negative impact of policies and actions
in a manner that reduces risk.’ could be changed to: ‘Forecast the positive and
negative impact of policies and actions’. The statement ‘Demonstrate the value of
corporate socially responsible ways of thinking in order to better inform decision
making’ could be changed to: ‘Demonstrate how corporate socially responsible
ways of thinking informs decision making’. It was also recommended deleting the
outcome: “Emphasise corporate citizenship.”
6.3 The Validation Panel wished to commend the following:-
6.3.1 The interdisciplinary approach and cross-University collaboration in
developing the course; the Team was encouraged to sustain and continue
this approach throughout the implementation and delivery of the course.
In developing the course, the School had collaborated with the Aberdeen Business
School, Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and the Built Environment and the
Centre for Understanding Sustainable Practice. The interdisciplinary collaboration
in developing the course was reflected within the course, which would equip
graduates with the breadth of knowledge and skills to consider corporate social
responsibility in the wider context. This approach was unique within a corporate
social responsibility masters and the Panel considered it commendable and,
furthermore, encouraged the Team to sustain and continue this approach.
6.3.2 The School in identifying an important, innovative area of study which
was ‘ahead of the curve’ in the business world and cutting edge in terms
Corporate social responsibility was gaining increasing prominence within
companies but there was currently limited course provision which provided
individuals with the requisite skills. The Panel applauded the School’s initiative in
developing the course at such a key time.
6.3.3 The willingness of the Course Team to move into new areas which built
upon their existing teaching and research base.
It was evident from the documentation and the discussions at the event that staff
had research expertise in corporate social responsibility related areas, such as
globalisation, political conflict etc, and during the discussions staff demonstrated
both willingness and enthusiasm to extend that research and move into
contextualised energy related corporate social responsibility research.
6.3.4 The work and effort which the School had put into the development of
this innovative course.
It was evident from both the documentation and the discussions that considerable
work and effort had been invested in the development of the course, for example:
an external market research agency had been employed and a survey had been
issued world-wide; further research had been undertaken in relation to the
preferred modes of delivery and course content; discussions/interviews with
approximately 25 world-wide organisations had taken place to help shape the
course. In addition, the School had liaised internally with staff from across the