New RSS accreditation scheme for degree programmes explained

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in Features

The RSS has developed a new set of standards that will underpin a new accreditation scheme for university statistics courses at honours degree and masters level, that will launch in 2017.

The new standards aim to ensure that statistics and stats-related degree programmes reflect current best practice in the discipline in terms of both content and delivery, which we hope will in turn provide a mark of assurance to potential employers. 

The new system

The Society has been accrediting undergraduate and masters degrees for some time. However, following a comprehensive review - coupled with the Society's decision in March 2015 to cease setting and marking its own examinations (for reasons set out here) - the decision was taken to develop an extended accreditation scheme with leading universities and other education providers.

This has led to the RSS developing new standards at Levels 6 and 7 of the qualifications framework (ie honours degree and masters respectively). These standards will replace the RSS Graduate Diploma as the academic benchmark for the Society's requirements for GradStat (and, after five years' professional experience, CStat) status.

The Society's new Level 7 standards will also enable us to accredit a wider range of masters courses than before (previously, the Graduate Diploma syllabus was used as the benchmark to assess masters degrees). 

The RSS will also be offering kite marks to awarding bodies of A levels and other level 2/3 qualifications with significant statistical content, such as Core Maths, focusing on delivery and assessment. The details of this scheme are still being finalised and we will be consulting with the relevant awarding bodies, with a view to launching in early 2017.

The following table shows how the new RSS standards will replace the RSS exams under the old system:

New RSS Standards developed at Qualifications Framework level

Outgoing RSS exam equivalent

Levels 2/3 (GCSE - A level)

Ordinary Certificate

Levels 4/5 (1st/2nd year degree) Higher Certificate
Level 6 (BSc Hons) Graduate Diploma (Gradstat,
and after five years' professional experience, CStat)
Level 7 (MSc)  

The main difference between the old and new accreditation schemes - from the point of view of universities at least - is that there will be a charge for accreditation and new criteria for assessment of programmes (of which the new standards form a part). Universities will be able to provide input to the accreditation scheme and standards via a newly formed Accreditation Committee. The RSS will also give universities taking part a more prominent listing in the accreditation section of the RSS website.

The Society hopes the new accreditation scheme will allow us to develop stronger partnerships with statistical education providers and awarding bodies. Through these partnerships we hope to enhance the quality of programmes and increase their relevance to students.

For students enbarking on RSS accredited courses, the changes won’t be as obvious, at least at first sight. Students on accredited courses will still be able to enrol with the RSS as an e-student and will receive a subscription to Significance for the final year of their course. Graduates from accredited degrees will still be automatically eligible for GradStat on application (for some degrees this is on a conditional basis and a transcript will be needed showing that certain modules have been passed). However, the Society hopes that the new standards and kite marks will provide extra assurance and value for students choosing a degree programme.

Added quality assurance

'Accreditation by the RSS provides reassurance that a programme produces graduates with the technical skills and subject knowledge required of a statistician,' says Sarah Barker, RSS professional affairs and examinations manager. 'We also seek to ensure that the teaching, learning and assessment within a programme is of a high quality and meets the needs of students and their potential employers.'

The subject standards that underpin the accreditation process are built on the foundations of the relevant QAA Benchmark Statements and detail the skills and knowledge that we believe graduates need to go embark on a career as a statistician.

The application process for universities under the new scheme opens in January 2017. More about the criteria for degree accreditation can be found on our website, along with an accreditation scheme guide. Accreditation of degrees under the old scheme will continue to be honoured up to and including the 2017 intake. A list of degrees accredited up until September 2017 under the existing scheme is available to download.

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