For more than 20 years, since the merger of the RSS with the Institute of Statisticians in 1993, the Society has set and marked its own professional examinations. These provide a pathway to achieve recognition for statistical competence at the Ordinary Certificate, Higher Certificate and Graduate Diploma levels. The Graduate Diploma has also been used as the benchmark to accredit both our own professional awards (Chartered and Graduate Statistician), and a number of university courses offered by other providers of statistical qualifications.
After an in-depth benchmarking study of how the RSS compares to other providers of statistical qualifications, it was found that although our qualifications are appreciated by a number of candidates as a way to further their professional development, their uptake has been relatively low, and the paper-based assessment method is out of step with current best practice. Informed by a survey of examination candidates, the review also found there is serious demand for structured learning support for our examinations, which we currently do not provide.
At its meeting on 25 March 2015, the Society’s Council considered the benefits of setting and marking examinations ourselves against the investment needed to bring them up to modern standards (including the provision of learning support). After a careful discussion, it decided that on balance it would be preferable to move to a different model to implement our educational standards and benchmarks. It therefore decided to withdraw from offering our professional examinations after the May 2017 session, ensuring solid transition arrangements are in place for existing candidates, and for our existing partners who work with us in the current system.
In their place, Council recommended the Society should develop extended accreditation mechanisms with a range of educational partners including leading universities as well as other providers of high quality statistical qualifications, both in the UK and internationally.
Commenting on the decision, Stephen Pyke, RSS vice-president for professional affairs, said 'Clearly this is a major decision for the organisation, which has been taken after long and careful consideration. The current examinations have served the Society well, but we are confident that the new mechanisms we expect to have in place from 2017 will create an opportunity to reach a much greater number of students, and to offer a service in keeping with modern standards. What will not change is the level of rigour and high standards we will demand of students in order to receive recognition from the Society.'
Further information on the background to the decision and transition arrangements are available on a FAQ section on our Examinations section of the RSS website at www.rss.org.uk/exams-faq.