Subject benchmarks for quality assurance and course enhancement

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Introduction Benchmarks are an important tool in higher education to safeguard quality and to guarantee the delivered materials are appropriate for a given discipline. There are many forms of benchmarks ranging from key subject statements, suggested learning outcomes, benchmark statements and more detailed core curricula, such as the UG pharmacology core curriculum recently published by the British Pharmacological Society. These guides often originate from individual institutions, but may also arise from learned societies or other educational bodies with appropriate expertise in relevant areas. The aim of the project was to compare the pharmacology curriculum at the University of Aberdeen with the British Pharmacological Society core curriculum, and use this as a catalyst for developing the programme thus demonstrating practical use of subject benchmarks. Process Here, the core curriculum for undergraduate pharmacology programmes, published by the British Pharmacology Society, was used as a comparator for the pharmacology syllabus at the University of Aberdeen. The core curriculum was aligned with the content of the Aberdeen programme and a mapping exercise analysed the extent to which the curriculum was covered across the various pharmacology modules run at the University of Aberdeen. Any shortfalls were then used to help frame development of new teaching blocks and modules to ensure currency and completeness of the programme. Results Of the 50 statements that make up the core curriculum: - 52% were covered across < 3 programme modules - 60% were covered across < 2 programme modules - 76% were covered across at least 1 programme module Particular areas of strength were identified as drug metabolism, toxicology, systems pharmacology and practical approaches to pharmacology. The areas that were covered in several modules were carefully checked to avoid repetition and to ensure progressive development of the subject complexity. Of the remaining 24% of statements: - 13% of were covered briefly - 13% were not covered These areas related to molecular modelling, use of big data, public engagement, societal responsibility and drug development. These were used to inform course and programme redesign and redevelopment, with a new integrated project designed in the Honours year to deliver details of these areas in the context of public engagement and wider society. The module was very well received with 92% of students surveyed (n = 32) evaluating it with a 4/5 or 5/5. Following reassessment of the core curriculum coverage following the changes implemented in 2018: - 96% of statements are now covered by at least one programme module Discussion This study demonstrates the importance of reflective practice in considering teaching coverage and approaches in comparison to established standards, outside the context of the institution. This permits not only quality assurance, but also drives innovation, change and improvement to the benefit of the programme and the student experience associated with it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
EventPhysiology 2019 - Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 201910 Jul 2019


ConferencePhysiology 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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