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LSA SUCCESS WITH QAA REVIEW

The London School of Architecture is delighted to have completed a successful review from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which is a required step in securing access to the state package of support for student finance. We received a number of commendations and two recommendations, which below we explain how we have addressed.

On 16-18 October 2017, the QAA conducted a Higher Education Review (Alternative Providers) with Professor Timothy Woods and Francine Norris. The purpose of the review was to investigate our provision and to make judgements as to whether or not our academic standards and quality meet UK expectations.

The QAA review team judged the LSA to meet the UK expectations in the four areas of the code:

  • The maintenance of the academic standards of awards offered on behalf of degree-awarding bodies
  • The quality of student learning opportunities
  • The quality of the information about learning opportunities
  • The enhancement of student learning opportunities

The QAA review team identified the following features of good practice:

  • The level of engagement with the profession in the design of a sustainable and innovative programme that supports employability
  • The ‘dispersed campus’ model that encourages student independence and engagement in their learning
  • The engagement of the Practice Network as a vehicle for the enhancement of students’ learning and professional opportunities

The QAA review team recommended that by February 2018 the LSA:

  • formalise the process for resolving any disagreements arising from panel marking of assessments
  • further develop module assessment criteria to ensure transparency for all those involved in the assessment process

Finally, the QAA team affirmed the following actions already being taken by the LSA to make academic standards secure and/or improve the educational provision offered to students:

  • the steps being taken to ensure the alignment of progression points between the LSA and the awarding body
  • the consolidation of admissions and recruitment information including the addition of a Complaints and Appeals policy
  • the steps being taken to improve the quality and timeliness of written assessment feedback given to students
  • the steps being taken to ensure that academic staff and external examiners are fully aware of the nature and purpose of the role of external examiners

A full copy of the QAA report can be found on their website here.

The LSA response

The LSA welcomes the QAA’s identified areas of good practice, which focus on our core principles: uniting academia and practice; using the city as the campus; and collaboration as a working method. The school is pleased to have these pillars recognised and endorsed as strengthening the value of our unique educational offer.

The LSA further welcomes the affirmations of actions we are already undertaking to improve the quality of our provision, which have been or will be implemented in this academic year and reviewed for effectiveness through our annual monitoring process. The new Admissions Handbook can be found here.

The LSA also appreciates the panel’s two sensible recommendations. As part of the timelines for a QAA review, the school was asked to provide an action plan by 21 March for how we will address the recommendations. However, as the two recommendations were to be completed by February, we have already actioned our responses as outlined below and in the Assessment of Design Modules section below.

Assessment Criteria

  • Actions – In consultation with the Executive Committee and London Met, further develop module assessment criteria to ensure transparency for all those involved in the assessment process assessments
  • Date for completion – Completed – January 2018
  • Action by – Director, Deputy Director
  • Success indicators – Greater clarity on how the overall aims of the programme feed into the primary assessment criteria and attainment bandings, to assist students to understand expectations, which in turn could drive up the quality of their output; and to assist markers in their assessment by providing clarity.
  • Progress – Complete

Panel Assessment Process  

  • Actions – In consultation with the Executive Committee and London Met, and in response to External Examiner feedback, formalise a fair and transparent process for resolving any disagreements arising from panel marking of assessments
  • Date for completion – Panel Assessment Process completed – January 2018
  • Action by – Director, Deputy Director
  • Success indicators – Effective processes are in place for resolving any disagreements, and clear and comprehensive assessments are undertaken that align with the module assessment criteria
  • Progress – Complete

The LSA response action plan can be found here.

Assessment of design modules

Programme aims 

The LSA’s ultimate vision is that people living in cities experience more fulfilled and more sustainable lives. Our school equips future leaders to design innovations in architecture and cities that contribute to this change.

We live in an increasingly urban age, with half the world’s population now living in cities. As the only profession with spatial intelligence, architects have a crucial role to play in designing how we occupy cities, and how humanity increasingly lives on the planet. Our Professional Diploma in Designing Architecture asks students three questions: What change do you want to see in the world? How does your architecture contribute to that change? And who do you want to be as a designer?

The design modules provide a framework for you to explore your own answers to those questions, and seek to critically equip you with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to deliver this higher-level vision in your future professional life. When we assess your design work, we are looking for an exploration of those three questions, and this should reach a greater level of attainment as you progress through the programme.

Programme structure

Each set of design modules has a key goal, and achieving each goal sets you up for success in the next module culminating in the graduating design project:

  • Urban Studies – To develop urban-scale thinking into a proposition that gives something back to the city
  • Design Think Tanks – To combine research into historic precedents and future trends to propose new social, spatial and resource models for inhabiting the city
  • Architectural Design (Direction & Speculation) – To stake out a personal area of enquiry and to test through design its spatial and cultural opportunity and your own critical position
  • Comprehensive Design Project (Direction, Speculation & Resolution) – To reconcile complex requirements into a sophisticated spatial proposal, expressing a personal design approach that convinces at multiple scales, from urban to detail

Assessment rationale and criteria

We want you – as LSA graduates – to be the change-makers of the future. The way we assess your work therefore makes a judgment on your potential to effect and deliver change in your subsequent activities after graduation, evaluated through three main criteria:

  • Intentionality – How relevant and ambitious is the issue you are addressing? How clearly articulated and worthwhile are the goals?
  • Synthesis – How well have the issues and goals been realised as a spatial proposal? To what degree has complexity been resolved into an integrated whole?
  • Impact – What potential level of change would your realised proposal make? To what extent does your proposal break new ground in architectural culture?

Assessment grade bandings

These brief descriptors offer a guide to how we rate a completed design project against these criteria in relation to academic norms and against each other. They are applied to the individual module learning outcomes of the module being assessed.

  • 90–100 – Exceptional – A++ – A spectacularly resolved proposal with ground-breaking ambition, an extraordinary level of synthesis, and a rare potential to have a disruptively innovative impact in the city or effect on architectural culture.
  • 80–89 – Outstanding – A+ – A fully resolved proposal with extremely high ambition, an extraordinary level of synthesis, and the potential to have an incrementally innovative impact in the city or effect on architectural culture.
  • 70-79 – Excellent – A – A fully resolved proposal with high ambition, very high level of synthesis, and the potential to make a worthwhile contribution to the city or effect on architectural culture; or close to Outstanding but with a notable weakness.
  • 63-69 – Very good – B – A well resolved proposal with strong ambition, high level of synthesis, and the potential to make a worthwhile contribution to a neighbourhood; or close to Excellent but with some notable weaknesses or errors.
  • 58-62 – Good – C – A generally sound proposal evidencing some ambition, a fair degree of synthesis, but little contribution to the city and a number of notable errors.
  • 53-57 – Satisfactory – D – An adequate proposal with a sound level of ambition and synthesis but with significant shortcomings.
  • 50-52 – Sufficient – E – Proposal meets the minimum criteria.
  • 25-49 – Fail – FR – More work required before credit can be awarded, but the student may plausibly proceed and resubmit for this module
  • 0-24 – Fail – F – Submission falls severely short of standard required

Assessment strategies and process

  • The specific assessment strategy for each module is set out in its module descriptor in the Programme Specification.
  • A number of the modules employ panel assessments to mark a portfolio of design work. The panel will comprise design tutors and be chaired by a senior member of LSA faculty, usually a Director. The panel will mark and moderate a portfolio in relation to the above criteria and against the Learning Outcomes for that module.
  • In the event of a disagreement that cannot be resolved by the panel’s chair, the school Director (or a nominated deputy who is an independent, senior LSA faculty member) will make a final internal judgment prior to the marks being submitted to London Met.
  • At the end of First Year and Second Year students are given the opportunity to present their own work at a viva voce, when the panel will also assess a student’s ability to verbally explain and answer questions about their work. The panels for the viva voces also include LSA External Examiners and London Met representatives.
  • External Examiners act as independent and impartial advisers, providing informed comment on the standards set and student achievement in relation to those standards. It is the role of the EEs to ensure that the marks awarded to students are consistent with the school’s academic framework and marking criteria and that the treatment of students is unbiased and fair.
  • London Met and the External Examiners review First Year and Second Year portfolio submissions and all design module marks. Following the viva voces in Second Year, a panel chaired by a senior London Met academic is convened with the LSA panel and the External Examiners to agree the marks for the portfolio submission and viva voce presentation.
  • Subject Standards Examiners are not authorised to request alteration to the marks of individual students.
  • Internal examiners shall normally resolve disagreements on marks by discussion and reach a consensus. Where consensus is not reached, the Chair of the London Met Subject Standards Board shall advise upon an appropriate course of action to remedy the disagreement. For example, by the identification of a further internal examiner.