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When a programme leading to an award is validated it has a set of modules, some of which are compulsory, some of which are acceptable. In addition, there may be other subject rules that may be more complicated. All these rules are input into the student record system, which in turn checks the students’ programmes against the specific subject rules. Simple rules are easier to understand and to use. If the rules which are proposed are too complicated, then you may find that human checking does not quickly reveal any problems, whereas computer checking reveals problems that no one had expected would exist. When this occurs it is completely unsatisfactory for the SEC chair simply to say that it doesn’t matter even with the support of their external examiner. Steps should be taken immediately to correct any rules which are leading to incorrect warnings or error statements on student records and every effort should be made to ensure that all students realise the importance of satisfying the requirements of their validated programmes. Discuss problems of this sort with the Course and Student Administration Team in Student Central in the first instance. SEC Chairs must take action if warnings or errors on student programmes were not an expected result of validated changes.
One problem, which arises, concerns the particular set of rules that apply to any given student if the subject rules are changed. The normal convention is:
This means that if a student enters and during their first year the rules are changed, then the student will be allowed to progress to Stage II under the old Stage I rules but will proceed through Stage II under the ‘new’ Stage II rules. When a student is admitted with credit into Stage II, then he or she is bound by the rules in operation at the time of joining. These are not, necessarily, the same rules as the other students in their year e.g. If rules are changed during a student’s second year that student remains under the rules which were in force at the beginning of his or her second year. But if a student admitted with credit joins him or her in his or her third year then he or she would be under the new rules. If the faculty wishes other rules to apply in these cases then it should ensure that when the changes are agreed, formal transition regulations are approved so that it is clear to everyone what regulations different students are under.
When proposing rule changes ensure that transition rules are considered and, if necessary, approved. Similarly, it is important when phasing in or out modules, which are compulsory that transition regulations are in place for any students who had not completed a previously compulsory module. It is not sufficient to specify that a new module may not be counted together with a similar old module; the new module must be specified as an alternative compulsory to the former module.
One consequence of this concept of validated programmes is that SECs should not believe that they are at liberty to change the rules governing the awards to be given to individual students merely because of problems the student has completing an award. Where the problems have arisen because the University has changed the rules, then formal decisions need to be made about all students in a given category. Guidelines for decisions in these cases are expected to be agreed during the academic year leading up to graduation. Where the problem has simply arisen because a student has failed a module without realising it was compulsory or taken a module that is not acceptable, the SEC should be wary of making arbitrary decisions.