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Course Design Blueprint: Structure

What are the University expectations for course structure? 

Course and module structure requirements for University of Suffolk awards are set out within Our policies and procedures for delivering our services and responsibilities

Creating a course visualisation linking modules, learning outcomes and assessment can be a helpful way for reflecting upon how the structure works, exploring possible options available to students, and how these might support their development and future aspiration. 

 

The Course Storyboard

Creating a course storyboard linking modules, learning outcomes and assessment can be a helpful way for reflecting upon how the structure works, exploring possible options available to students, and how these might support their development and future aspirations.


Module specifications allow the explicit recording of prerequisites, modules which students must have studied or passed prior to being allowed to embark on the module.
  • A standard Honours degree consists of 360 credits of undergraduate study equally divided between three levels (four to six). 
  • Foundation Degrees and Diplomas of Higher Education comprises 240 credits with 120 credits at each of levels four and five. 
  • A Masters Degree requires 180 credits of postgraduate study at level seven.  Also at postgraduate level, a Postgraduate Certificate comprises 60 credits of study at level seven, and a Postgraduate Diploma comprises 120 credits of study.
  • At the University of Suffolk all modules must be situated at a single level of study and so each student will be required to pass 120 credits at each relevant level of study.  In general, the expectation is that all modules are either of 20 credits or multiples thereof (40 credits or 60 credits).
Course content often has implicit relationships such that students will not be able to meaningfully study one topic until another has already been covered. Module specifications allow the explicit recording of prerequisites, modules which students must have studied or passed prior to being allowed to embark on the module.
  • All Foundation Degree courses should include a personal development skills module at Level 4 (as a requisite module) and a research skills module at Level 5 (as a mandatory module). They should also include a minimum of 40 credits of work-related learning across Levels 4 and 5 (ideally 20 credits per level) as mandatory modules.
  • All Honours Degree programmes should include, as mandatory modules, a 20 credit subject-specific research methods module at Level 5 and a 40 credit dissertation or research project module at Level 6.
  • All Postgraduate Diploma and Masters programmes will contain a mandatory 20 credit Research Methods module specific to the subject area.
  • All Masters programmes will contain a mandatory 60 credit dissertation or research project module.

Exceptionally, where the coherence of the curriculum necessitates, a mandatory 40 credit dissertation or research project may be permitted and approved at validation.

The frameworks require course teams to designate modules as one of 'Mandatory', 'Requisite' or 'Optional.'
  • All students are required to achieve a pass mark in all modules designated as mandatory in order to gain an award.  If a module provides the only opportunity for students to demonstrate one of a course's learning outcomes, or if it provides fundamental knowledge or understanding that underpins the course's discipline or practice, it would normally be designated as mandatory.
  • While all students must take any requisite modules on their course, it is possible for them to fail these modules and still pass the overall award.  This can be achieved either through module condonement (at level four only) or through the student taking an alternative module at the same or higher level in order to make up the credit.
  • Modules designated optional do not have to be taken by all students, with the course structure providing an alternative to choose instead. Some courses, particularly those with significant numbers of students, are able to offer many different options for students to choose from, whilst the degree of choice of other courses is very limited.

 

A note on Level 4 modules

Recognising that level four studies within undergraduate programmes are designed to enable a wide variety of students to adapt to Higher Education, and that marks at this level do not count towards final classification calculations, the University allows module condonement at level four, allowing students who achieve marks near to but not at pass standard on requisite modules to have these condoned to a pass mark. In line with this, most courses only designate level four modules as mandatory if there is a very strong reason to do so.

Level 4 module condonement

Level four studies within undergraduate programmes are designed to enable a wide variety of students to adapt to Higher Education, and that marks at this level do not count towards final classification calculations. The University allows module condonement at level four, allowing students who achieve marks near to but not at pass standard on requisite modules to have these condoned to a pass mark.  In line with this, most courses only designate level four modules as mandatory if there is a very strong reason to do so.

Mandatory modules

Where courses have only mandatory and requisite modules, students who fail a single module have no means by which they could gain an overall award regardless of their performance through the rest of the course. Some courses include an additional final year optional independent study module in which students explore an area of the subject not covered in detail within the rest of the curriculum. Thus, should a student fail a requisite module they could complete this optional module as replacement credits and gain an overall award. Another alternative would be the inclusion of an optional placement or work-based learning module in the final year. A further possibility for a few courses is the inclusion of a cognates courses' final year module as an optional module.

Sandwich year honours degrees

A number of course teams have opted to validate four year versions of their courses where the third year consists of either a year in placement, a year studying abroad, or half a year of each. Students engaging in a Sandwich year have to achieve the associated 120 credits at level five which does not count towards their final degree classification but is included on their final transcript. There are a number of specific regulations associated with this type of course (as set out in Appendix A of the Framework and Regulations for Undergraduate Awards) and course team will need to provide clear student guidance and supporting documentation onn how these opportunities will be managed. Course teams considering the inclusion of a sandwich year option within their programme should, in the first instance, consult with teams who are operating similar arrangements to gain insight on the opportunities, costs and constraints of such provision.