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Would you accredit it?

The Accreditation Committee has produced an information document that outlines the compulsory requirements for an accredited degree, say Bill Gaskarth and Colin Scrutton*

Geoscientist Online 18 April 2008

The Society has now been accrediting undergraduate degree programmes for more than 10 years through the Accreditation Committee of the Professional Committee. As a result, the Committee has built up a substantial database on the structure and content of the wide variety of geoscience programmes offered in the UK. It now proposes to provide details to applicants of the essential skills and minimum requirements that must be included for a programme in to be eligible for accreditation. This proposal has come about because of two things - a perceived need for more guidance for universities in developing their programmes and from external requests, and comments both on the Committee’s procedures, and what accreditation means.

The Society considers that detailed degree curricula are the business of the universities and has no intention of becoming overly prescriptive. A major strength of UK degree programmes is their diversity and any attempt to produce a national curriculum would weaken this. Another major strength of UK programmes is the emphasis placed on individual work, both in projects and, in particular, fieldwork. It is the intent of the GSL, through accreditation, to support and (we hope) protect these aspects.

The Accreditation Committee has produced an information document that outlines the compulsory requirements for an accredited degree. This lists both a number of themes that must be embedded in a programme of study, and the minimum essential skills to be addressed. A table showing the minimum requirement for to each essential skill is also provided. Future applicants will need to demonstrate how their programmes fulfil these requirements.

The full document has been circulated to university schools and departments in the UK offering Geoscience programmes, and is available here.

The value of accreditation to students is that they can be assured of having the opportunity to gain the essential skills necessary for entry into the profession, and that they will be exposed to methods and ideas across the spectrum of the geosciences. A graduate with an accredited degree is not guaranteed to have all these essential skills; but they will have had the opportunity to acquire them. A graduate from an accredited degree will be able to apply for CGeol status one year earlier than a graduate without one. This does not, however, guarantee acceptance unless they have gained the necessary experience post-graduation.

The document is live, and changes to requirements will be made as and when necessary. Comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome and the document will be "reissued" whenever significant changes to it are made.

*Chair Accreditation Committee, and Accreditation Officer, respectively