Assessment in higher education

Universities and other third-level educational institutions have a great degree of freedom in how they organise their examinations and assessment. This can sometimes lead to undesirable situations. Take, for example, a situation where a lecturer responsible for mentoring a student is also the only assessor of that student's work. The Education Council believes that now is the time for more objectivity and transparency in the assessment process. 

2 July 2004
Change the composition of examination committees
At many universities, the examination and assessment process is purely an internal affair. The examination requirements are often unclear, potentially leading to a subjective assessment. It is also the case that managers sometimes have a seat in the examination committee. This is something the Education Council does not support. Universities and other third-level institutions receive funding from the government in proportion to the number of graduates they produce. To prevent any conflict of interests and to ensure the quality of examinations, the Education Council calls for university examination committees to include external examiners. 

Change the way examination committees work
The way examination committees work should also be changed. They should do more than just assess. They could establish the qualification criteria, for example, and be involved in the procedures for the recognition of prior learning (PLAR). The final award should not just be based on examined modules. A thesis or dissertation project gives interested parties more insight into a graduate's capabilities.

Finally, the Education Council also believes that a good examination process should carry more weight when the quality of the teaching is being assessed. A poor score for examinations policy could mean that the programme does not deserve a quality mark, and would therefore not be allowed to award nationally recognised diplomas or qualify for government funding. The Education Council calls for the recommendations to be put into practice in a new Higher Education Act.