2.1 The programme structure

Undergraduate courses can take a variety of forms that can make the process of designing a new degree less prescriptive than it used to be. Universities are becoming increasingly committed to the development of joint honours programmes in response to employer and student demands. As these joint degrees have become more popular, so further institutions have looked at the opportunity of introducing such courses in order to compete effectively with other institutions. It is anticipated that within eight years, 10–20 per cent of full-time undergraduate students will be enrolled on joint honours programmes. Such programmes may be either within the same faculty/school or across different schools, and may involve many different subject areas. When designing a joint degree, consideration needs to be given to study skills, career units/modules, research methods, fieldwork and/or placements so as not to disadvantage the student in either of the joint areas studied.

Single honours degrees are easier to construct, in terms of both collecting suitable units/modules together and introducing new units/modules to fill necessary gaps in the curriculum. These fit neatly into a previously designed structure of syllabus flow, key skill and curriculum skill development, research agendas and assessment patterns. The task becomes more complicated when embarking on the design process for an intra-faculty/school programme or a cross-faculty/school programme where no formal structure exists that can be referred to for the purposes of learning outcomes, the flow of skills and the fair distribution of assessment throughout the programme. More difficult still is designing those programmes that also fall outside of the conventional 3–4-year undergraduate programme – for example, courses that offer direct entry to a given level or those courses that have a mid-year start.