THE ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY RESEARCH DEGREES COMMITTEE

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					                                                                                    RDC/09/4


THE ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY

RESEARCH DEGREES COMMITTEE

Minute of Meeting held on 13 May 2009 (2pm to 4.30 pm).

Present: Professor K Russell (Presiding), Dr I Agouris, Dr I Arana, Dr S Christie, Dr S
Copeland, Professor S Craw, Professor W Donaldson, Dr A Douglas, Professor J Greenwood,
Dr R Halsall, Dr T King, Dr M Kishk, Dr A Lamb, Professor L Lawton, Dr S McDonald, Dr C
MacLeod, Professor P Pollard, Dr P Strachan, Dr S Wilcock and Professor D Williams.
Apologies: Dr G Bermano, Mrs C Buchanan, Professor J Harper, Dr C Juwah, Dr J Love, Dr D
Miller, Professor M Pittilo, Professor P Robertson and Professor C Weir.
In Attendance: Professor E Gammie (for Item 4.6), Mr M Simpson (Secretary) and Mrs F
McLean Whyte.

1.      MINUTE                                                                        Action



        Members approved the Minute of the Research Degrees Committee
        Meeting held on 18 February 2009, reference RDC/09/3. The following
        matters were arising:

         AUA Response to Registration Fee for Writing Up Students
          Status (Refer Item 1) – At the last meeting of Executive Group and
          Deans, a proposal from Professor P Robertson to increase the writing
          up fee for students outwith the maximum period of registration from
          £105 to £340 was approved, effective from Session 2009/10. The
          Secretary would email the research student community to inform            Mr M Simpson

          those affected.      Subsequent to the meeting, it was noted the
          maximum period of registration for part-time students would require
          revision to ensure compatibility with full-time students in relation to
          the proposed increase in writing up fees for students outwith the
          maximum period of registration.
                                                                                     Professor P
         Ms J McGlashan (Refer Item 2.1) – The Minute of this item is               Robertson

          Private/Reserved Business.
         Mr S Banks (Refer Item 2.1) – The Minute of this item is
          Private/Reserved Business.
         Ms A Bukayeva (Refer Item 2.1) – The Minute of this item is
          Private/Reserved Business.
         Ms B Bommareddy (nee Sudha) (Refer Item 2.2) – The Minute                  Professor P
          of this item is Private/Reserved Business.                                 Robertson


         Mr B Belaiz (Refer Item 2.2) – The Minute of this item is
          Private/Reserved Business.
         Mr S Lee (Refer Item 2.3) – The Minute of this item is                     Professor P
          Private/Reserved Business.                                                 Robertson




2.      MINUTES FROM RESEARCH DEGREES SUB-COMMITTEES

2.1     Aberdeen Business School

        The Committee considered the Minute of the Research Degrees Sub-
        Committee (Aberdeen Business School) meeting held on 15 April 2009,
        reference RDSC(ABS)/09/4. The following matters were considered:

         Mr G Feyita (Refer Item 1) – The Minute of this item is                    Professor P
          Private/Reserved Business.                                                 Robertson
RDC/09/4                                        2


            Kazakhstan Research Student Community (Report tabled) –
             Since the last report, some students had made significant progress.
             Five of the eight students had successfully completed transfer
             applications making progress at a pace which would be expected of
             part-time students, whilst the remainder were either entering or
             returning from a temporary period of suspension. In addition, the
             majority of students were adjusting more effectively to the UK PhD
             process.

             Aberdeen Business School had reviewed and strengthened
             supervisory teams to take account of the evolving nature of the
             research projects. As the Tempus project was drawing to a close, the
             doctoral students were operating on a much more individual basis,
             demonstrating different rates of progress. In addition to providing a
             study visit for the students in August/September 2008, ABS had          Academic Council
                                                                                          Report
             provided letters of support to encourage employers to agree                (17.06.09)

             additional periods of study leave. This allowed students to attend a
             research student event at “The Burn” as well as an international
             research conference in Spain.

2.2        Design and Technology

           The Committee considered the Minute of the Research Degrees Sub-
           Committee (Design and Technology) meeting held on 23 April 2009,
           reference RDSC(FDT)/09/4. The following matters was considered:

            Other Issues (Refer Item 10) – Whilst welcoming the recent
             meetings to discuss the implementation of the Research Institutes,
             further clarification was sought by members on the future role of
             Research Degree Coordinators. The Acting Convener reported that
                                                                                       Professor P
             Professor Robertson had been made aware of this issue and indicated       Robertson

             it would form part of ongoing discussions between Research Institutes
             and Schools.

2.3        Health and Social Care

           The Committee considered the Minute of the Research Degrees Sub-
           Committee (Health and Social Care) meeting held on 21 April 2009,
           reference RDSC(FHSC)/09/4. No matters were referred.


3.         APPROVAL OF EXAMINATION ARRANGEMENTS

           Operating with delegated authority from Academic Council, the
           Committee considered and approved the following applications which
           were recommended for approval at the recent Research Degree Sub-
           Committee meetings. No applications were rejected.

           The Minute of this item is Private/Reserved Business.


4.         QUALITY ASSURANCE

4.1        Points Based System
                                             3                                     RDC/09/4


      The Secretary provided an oral report on recent developments:

       A new style international student offer letter was now being used,
        which was compliant with the Points Based System. The letter
        extended over 6 pages and included a Visa Letter for use at British
        Council offices.
       The visa letter had to provide specific details on which qualifications
        were considered by a proposed Principal Supervisor in assessing
        applicants academic as well as English language ability.
       The 10 attendance instances would be incorporated into A6: Research
        Degrees and would be applicable to all students and not just those
        subject to the requirements of the Points Based System.                   Mr M Simpson

       Additional guidance would be provided to both supervisors and
        students in the summer months.

4.2   Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

      Members noted the following four prioritised studentship proposals
      considered by a sub-group of the main Committee were submitted to JeS
      on 29 April 2009 after the applications were updated by both the student
      and proposed supervisors:

         Ms   L Shaw, Gray’s School of Art
         Ms   K Connor, Gray’s School of Art
         Ms   G Barney, Gray’s School of Art
         Ms   M Miguel, Scott Sutherland School.

4.3   Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme (ORSAS) – 2009/10

      The Secretary informed the Committee that the Scottish Funding Council
      (SFC) had not yet been able to confirm the allocation for the following
      Session. This meant that no actual awards could be made at today’s
      meeting. However, the applications could be prioritised to allow actual
      awards to be made when SFC confirmed the University’s allocation.

      Additional awards funded from other sources could not be associated
      with the ORSAS name. If institutions were left with a balance of funding
      which was insufficient to support a further full award, the balance of
      funding would be carried forward for use the following year.

      The Minute of this item is Private/Reserved Business.

4.4   Internal Review of Research Degree Provision

      Members considered a paper from Ms F McLean Whyte on the above.
      For several years the University had operated a process of Internal
      Review to formally review, on a six-yearly cycle, its major subject
      provision and covering both taught and research degree provision. In
      the current session, however, this had been replaced with an Institution-
      Led Subject Review (ILSR) process, which focused only on taught
      provision.
RDC/09/4                                        4




           It had been decided research degree provision should be reviewed under
           a new process to be developed which would reflect the new Faculty-
           based Research Institutes. Initial discussions of a likely model for the
           Internal Review of Research Degree provision had taken place, taking
           into account transitional arrangements whilst the Research Institutes
           were fully implemented. For Session 2009/10, members agreed the
           following:

            The Research Degree Internal Review process would operate on a
             Faculty basis, ultimately incorporating research students based within
             the respective Research Institutes and Schools, into Faculty
             groupings.
            As a transitional measure, the Research Degree Appraisal Overviews
             would be completed as normal in late summer 2009 for reporting to
             the Faculty Research Degrees Sub-Committees in September 2009.
             This would serve as a stock-taking exercise.
            In spring 2010 (April), Research Degree Co-ordinators would be
             asked to complete a summative appraisal exercise, involving a desk
             review of Research Degree Appraisal Overviews from the past six
             sessions. The outcomes would be submitted to the relevant Research
             Institutes to assist with setting agendas.
            Work would progress in the current session to develop the detail of       Academic Council
                                                                                            Report
             the new Research Degree Internal Review process, including                   (17.06.09)

             agreement on the appropriate timescales and cycle.

4.5        Changes to Research Degrees Code of Practice: Regulation A6
           and Section 7 of the Academic Quality Handbook

           The Committee considered and approved a summary paper prepared by
           Ms F McLean Whyte on the above. During the session, the Committee
           had agreed a number of changes which had impacted on Regulation A6:
           Research Degrees, Section 7 of the Academic Quality Handbook and
           research degree forms. The main amendments were:

            Insertion of references throughout to Research Institutes, Professional
             Doctorates and Unit of Assessment/FTE equivalent where appropriate.
            Tightened procedure to prevent a student registered for MSc/PhD
             submitting for MPhil unless they have completed the PgCert Research
             Methods.
            Application - Clarification of IELTS score of 6.5 added to all four
             aspects of the test.

            Enrolment/Registration – Introduction of Schedule 6.2: 10 instances
             of Expected Contacts for all students. Clarified differences between
             withdrawal and termination processes. Replacement of RSPER Form
             with the Research Ethics: Student and Supervisor Assessment
             (RESSA) Form.
            Monitoring and Evaluation – Replacement of Research Student/Staff
             Liaison with an annual informal lunch.
            Withdrawal of Registration – Addition of HESA codes and advice for
             international students.
            Termination of Registration - Introduction of Termination of
             Registration/Enrolment (RDTerm) Form.        Redevelopment of the
             Termination procedure with added reference to UK Border Agency and
             Points Based System requirements.
                                            5                                        RDC/09/4


       Transfer to PhD – Clarification on role of Independent Assessor and
        purpose of oral assessment. Making explicit the right of appeal
        against a Committee decision to refuse a transfer application.
       Examination – Reference to the role of Turnitin Originality Checking
        System. Clarification on the role and responsibilities of an Internal
        Convener at viva examinations.           Explicit reference to potential
        examination outcomes for Professional Doctorates.
       Appeals - Explicit clarification on three potential types of appeal.

      The Committee endorsed the proposed amendments to Regulation A6:             Academic Council
      Research Degrees, Section 7 of the Academic Quality Handbook and                  Report
                                                                                      (17.06.09)
      associated forms and recommended approval to Academic Council.

4.6   Alternative Form of Submission for Doctoral Awards

      Members considered a paper prepared by Professor P Robertson on the
      above. Currently the University offered two routes for doctoral awards;
      traditional tome based and PhDs by Public Output.

      A third route had been proposed, which a number of “Russell Group”
      institutions referred to as “paper-based doctoral awards”. This type
      would not be retrospective, distinguishing it from public output.
      Candidates would prepare and submit for publication to peer reviewed
      journals, articles on a common project or theme. These articles would
      be bound in a volume similar to a traditional thesis with introductory and
      concluding chapters which would explain the rationale, their cumulative
      original contribution to knowledge and, for professional doctorates, to
      professional practice.

      In principal, few amendments would be necessary to existing regulatory
      frameworks as most aspects of the research student journey were
      similar to traditional routes, although the key variation was the form of
      thesis which would be defined and agreed at transfer stage. This stage
      would also specify and agree the number of articles required.

      A paper based thesis would consist of:

         an abstract;
         an introductory chapter;
         an article or series of articles;
         a concluding chapter;
         supporting data contained in an appendix.

      There was not a unanimous view that the proposed route was an
      appropriate development for the University. A number of concerns were
      raised:

       Potential student appeals if the proposed articles were accepted for
        publication, but the thesis was turned down after viva examination.
       This route might not be suitable for some subject areas such as
        humanities.
       Confusion over the number of articles to be submitted as this could
        vary from one discipline to another.
RDC/09/4                                         6




           However, this practice had been evidenced in other areas of the world
           such as Scandinavia. In view of the fact that members could not agree a
           way forward, Professor Gammie was invited to arrange a visit by an
                                                                                        Professor E
           appropriate academic to the University who already had experience of          Gammie
           this type of award and could allay some members’ concerns on this
           proposed development.      This meeting should take place during the
           summer months, to allow a recommendation on a way forward to be
           submitted to the December 2009 meeting of Academic Council.


5.         RESEARCH STUDENT EXPERIENCE

5.1        Postgraduate Certificate in Research Methods

5.1.1      Course Management Team

           Members considered the minute of the Course Management Team
           Meeting held on 13 March 2009. The following issues were discussed:

            Both recent deliveries of Module 1 and 2 had received favourable
             evaluations.
            It was felt that students would benefit from contextualising the
             research question early in the Module 1 delivery.
            Discussions were ongoing in terms of incorporating the above course
             into the University CID system.
            Editing of the viva DVD was near completion. It was hoped to issue
             copies to supervisors and students during summer 2009.
            Members expressed their appreciation of the work undertaken by Mrs
             D McDonald in supporting the work of the PgCert Research Methods
             team.

5.1.2      Student Course Evaluation Questionnaires

           The Committee considered the evaluation questionnaire of Module 2
           delivered on 19/23 January 2009. In most aspects of the evaluation, the
           majority of participants considered the event very valuable/valuable with
           all participants rating the course as excellent or good. Students felt the
           course was extremely helpful and provided a well rounded syllabus.
           Some suggestions were made to the delivery and timing of some
           individual components as well as the opportunity to provide longer group
           presentations thus offering a deeper depth of analysis.

           The Committee considered the evaluation questionnaire of Module 1
           delivered 23/27 February 2009. In most aspects of the evaluation, the
           majority of participants considered the event relevant to their studies
           with a number of helpful and thought provoking sessions although a
           small number of participants acknowledged the delivery was intensive.

5.2        Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)

           The Committee considered a paper on the above and possible
           implementation of the survey across the University research degree
           community.
                                            7                                        RDC/09/4


      The survey was currently running for the third successive year by the
      Higher Education Academy but following feedback from participating
      institutions, it had been decided to run the survey bi-annually in future
      years. The two main reasons for this was possible survey fatigue by
      students as well as providing institutions time to act on survey results.

      PRES took the form of an online questionnaire taking around 20 minutes
      to complete. It offered the opportunity to include free text boxes as well
      as specific institutional questions where that was felt appropriate.

      Members noted that the survey was not designed to produce league             Academic Council
      tables from the results. Members endorsed the participation of the                Report
                                                                                      (17.06.09)
      University in the next survey to be held in 2011 and recommended
      approval to Academic Council.

5.3   PhD Study – Trends and Profiles 1996/97 – 2004/05

      Members considered the above survey published by the Higher Education
      Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The analysis covered the most
      recent available data and described the characteristics of starters to
      doctoral degree courses in UK Higher Education institutions. The
      following issues were discussed:

       During the time period of the survey, full-time students grew by 22%,
        whilst part-time fell by 6%. The main reason for the increase was the
        growth of student recruitment outwith the UK.
       Although UK part-time recruitment fell, both EU and International
        part-time numbers increased.
       There were significant differences between subject areas.
       In terms of student attributes for full-time growth, the main reasons
        were the increase in woman studying PhD, the decline of students
        under 21 years of age, increases in Chinese ethnicity as well as those
        who secured a Masters qualification prior to commencing a PhD.
       In terms of accounting for the part-time students, the survey
        witnessed less male candidates, fewer students under 28 years of age
        and an increase in Asian or Asian British entrants.

5.4   Research Student Lunch

      The Committee noted a minute of a meeting held on 2 April 2009. The
      lunch had replaced the Research Student/Staff Liaison Sub-Committee
      which had suffered from poor attendance as most research student fed
      their queries through the formal Student/Staff Liaison meetings
      organised within each School/Centre.

      In general, attendees expressed satisfaction with their student
      experience over the session and it was noted no substantive issues had
      been raised by students based at a distance.

      Some students had requested more guidance on accessing funds for
      consumables or purchases of equipment/software. The Secretary agreed
      to circulate a generic guidance note to members for consideration prior       Mr M Simpson

      to submitting it on the research degree pages for students.
RDC/09/4                                         8


           Students discussed the possibility of securing industrial mentors to help
           support their studies. The Secretary had met with representatives from
           the Development Office to discuss the feasibility of industrial links         Mr M Simpson

           helping to sponsor or support elements of student research projects.

           Although the benefits of the Research Student Association was
           recognised, some attendees expressed the wish to hold informal
           meetings from time to time to catch up with other students across each
           Faculty. The Secretary agreed to pilot a meeting once per term to help        Mr M Simpson

           facilitate this interaction and allow the research degree community to
           discuss issues related to the student experience.


6.         RESEARCH SUPERVISION

6.1        Supervisors and their Students Report – April 2009

           The Minute of this item is Private/Reserved Business.

           Members requested the Secretary issue a reminder to all supervisors
           who were at or just below the threshold that they could not take on any       Mr M Simpson
           more new students until some existing ones had submitted a thesis for
           viva examination.

6.2        Supervisory Training

           Members noted summary evaluations of a Research Supervisor CPD
           Roadshow held on 8 January 2009 and a Research Supervisor Training
           event held on 12 March 2009. The Committee congratulated Professor
           Lawton on a very positive evaluation for both events.      Almost all
           participants felt expectations prior to the event had been met
           significantly or fully. Participants cited the sharing of experience,
           discussion of case studies as well as the operation of the PgCert
           Research Methods as the most useful themes of the event.

           Members considered a database report of supervisor attendance at Initial
           CPD and Refresher CPD events as at 13 March 2009. It was noted that
           95% of all supervisors had undertaken the initial training, whilst 18%
           had undertaken refresher CPD since the events commenced in January
           2009. The Secretary was asked to liaise with the Supervisory Training        Mr M Simpson

           Office to confirm the accuracy of supervision figures in the data provided
           in comparison to similar data provided in Item 6.1.

           Members noted that some staff members had continued to decline                 Professor P
                                                                                         Robertson to
           attendance at the training courses. Where this had become a protracted       Heads of School
           issue, the Convener recommended Schools deal with this under the
           OSCR processes.


7.         EXTENSION TO RESUBMISSION OF THESIS DATE

           The Minute of this item is Private/Reserved Business.                         Mrs R Mearns



           The Minute of this item is Private/Reserved Business.                         Mrs R Mearns
                                           9                                        RDC/09/4


8.    COMMITTEE EVALUATION

      Members considered the narrative and statistical analysis of Committee
      Evaluation Questionnaire feedback for Session 2008/09 and its impact
      on the operation of the Sub-Committees for Session 2009/10. With
      regard to all Committees, the overall evaluation was very favourable
      with the general running and functioning of each Committee being
      positively evaluated.

      In terms of suggestions, the Committee approved the organising of an
      additional meeting in July each year, specifically for the approval of
                                                                                  Academic Council
      Examination Arrangements (RDE) Forms. In addition, whilst recognising            Report

      that each meeting considered a large volume of business, efforts would         (17.06.09)


      be made to see if additional streamlining could take place in the
      forthcoming session.


9.    RECOMMENDATIONS BY EXAMINERS FOR AWARD OF RESEARCH
      DEGREES

9.1   Ms S Asiimwe, School of Computing – PhD

      The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the
      above research student under the principal supervision of Professor S
      Craw. The examiners recommended the research student be awarded
      the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to the             Academic Council
                                                                                       Report
      thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner. The hardbound thesis      (17.06.09)

      had now been submitted.

9.2   Ms N Aubry, Aberdeen Business School – PhD Resubmission

      The Committee noted Re-Examination documentation in respect of the          Academic Council
      above research student under the principal supervision of Professor J            Report
                                                                                     (17.06.09)
      Greenwood. The examiners had now recommended that the research
      student be awarded the degree of PhD.

9.3   Mr C Dospinescu, School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences - PhD

      The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the             Academic Council
      above research student under the principal supervision of Dr S                   Report
                                                                                     (17.06.09)
      Cruickshank. The examiners recommended the research student be
      awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to
      the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.4   Ms R Enwere, School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences - PhD

      The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the             Academic Council
      above research student under the principal supervision of Professor P            Report
                                                                                     (17.06.09)
      Pollard. The examiners recommended the research student be awarded
      the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to the
      thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.5   Ms M Hession, Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology -
      PhD
RDC/09/4                                      10


           The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the          Academic Council
           above research student under the principal supervision of Professor I         Report
                                                                                       (17.06.09)
           Broom. The examiners had now recommended that the research student
           be awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being
           made to the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.6        Ms A Mayrhofer, School of Applied Social Studies - PhD

           The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the          Academic Council
           above research student under the principal supervision of Dr P Sutton.        Report
                                                                                       (17.06.09)
           The examiners had now recommended the research student be awarded
           the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to the
           thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.7        Ms R Taylor, School of Nursing and Midwifery - PhD

           The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the          Academic Council
           above research student under the principal supervision of Professor D         Report
                                                                                       (17.06.09)
           Lines. The examiners had recommended that the research student be
           awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to
           the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.8        Ms F Wood, School of Engineering - PhD

           The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the          Academic Council
           above research student under the principal supervision Professor P            Report
                                                                                       (17.06.09)
           Robertson. The examiners had recommended that the research student
           be awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being
           made to the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.9        Ms A Laing, Aberdeen Business School – PhD Resubmission

           The Committee noted Re-Examination documentation in respect of the       Academic Council
           above research student under the principal supervision of Professor J         Report
                                                                                       (17.06.09)
           Greenwood. The examiners had now recommended that the research
           student be awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments
           being made to the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.

9.10       Mr D McClean, Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and the
           Built Environment - PhD

           The Committee noted Examination documentation in respect of the
           above research student under the principal supervision Professor D       Academic Council
                                                                                         Report
           Lines. The examiners had recommended that the research student be           (17.06.09)

           awarded the degree of PhD subject to minor amendments being made to
           the thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner.


10.        ANY OTHER COMPETENT BUSINESS

           Members approved a request from the School of Pharmacy and Life
           Sciences to allow a student viva examination to take place in Ireland.
                                                                                      Dr A Lamb
           This was due to the fact that both the examiners and student currently
           resided in Ireland and provided suitable accommodation could be found
           by the School, an Internal Convener would travel to the venue for the
           examination.
                                           11                                    RDC/09/4




11.     DATE OF NEXT MEETING

        An additional meeting of the Research Degrees Committee would be held
        around the end of July 2009 to allow for consideration of Approval of   Mr M Simpson
        Examination Arrangement (RDE) Forms during the summer months.
        Venue to be confirmed.



Professor K Russell, P
02 July 2009

				
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