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Subject benchmark revisions

Sian Davies-Vollum reports on the revised Subject Benchmark Statement for Earth science degrees

1 March 2022

Accessibility and inclusion in field and practical work are incorporated into the statement

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) oversees standards for higher education in the UK. Part of their remit is to support and facilitate the development of Subject Benchmark Statements. These statements describe the content and academic standards expected in specific subject areas. They are used to inform the design of degrees and define what can be expected of a graduate in terms of what they might know, do and understand at the end of their studies.

Subject Benchmark Statements undergo periodic review to ensure that they are current and relevant to the subject area and sector. Degrees that are accredited by the Geological Society sit within the Earth Science, Environmental Science and Environmental Studies (ES3) Subject Benchmark Statement. The ES3 statement is one of a group of 13 subjects currently undergoing review as part of the first tranche of revisions that sees a significant shift to reflect a stronger focus on sustainability, employability and equality, diversity and inclusivity.

A greater emphasis is placed on the role of Earth science in sustainability

The revised ES3 statement is significantly different to previous iterations. A greater emphasis is placed on the role of Earth science in sustainability, including alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Reference is made to climate change and sustainable resource management, as well as to alternative energy and the energy transition.

Descriptions of employability incorporate skills and behaviours, business awareness and professional development, as well as content knowledge. Accessibility and the inclusion of diverse groups, particularly in relation to field and practical work, are now incorporated into the statement, as well as an acknowledgement of the decolonisation of Earth science.

The modification of the ES3 Subject Benchmark Statement is informing the ongoing revision of the Geological Society’s Accreditation Scheme. The two will align to provide a cohesive and consistent approach for the design of Earth science degrees. The new benchmark statement is expected to be published in March 2022.

Dr Sian Davies-Vollum, University of Derby, UK

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