Programme Specification








Name  of programme:

Professional Practice



Award title:




Programme linkage:


Is this part of group of linked programmes between which students can transfer at agreed points? (e.g. a group of programmes with a common set of taught modules)





Is the programme a top-up only?



Level of award:

Level 7



Awarding body:

University of Sunderland




School of Engineering



Programme Studies Board:

Engineering Postgraduate



Programme Leader:

Dr Mike Knowles


  1. How and where can I study the programme?

Tick all boxes that apply


At Sunderland:


Full-time on campus


Part-time on campus


As work-based learning full-time

As work-based learning part-time

As a full-time sandwich course


As a part-time sandwich course


By distance learning


At the University of Sunderland London campus: 


Full-time on campus


Part-time on campus


As work-based learning full-time


As work-based learning part-time


As a full-time sandwich course


As a part-time sandwich course


By distance learning



At a partner college:


Full-time in the UK 


Part-time in the UK


Full-time overseas


Part-time overseas


By distance learning


As a full-time sandwich course in the UK


As a part-time sandwich course in the UK


As a full-time sandwich course overseas


As a part-time sandwich course overseas


As work-based learning full-time in the UK 


As work-based learning part-time overseas


Other (please specify)




  1. How long does the programme take?



Min number of years / months

Max number of years / months







Distance learning



Work-based learning




For start-dates please see the current edition of the Prospectus or contact the relevant department at the University. For start-dates for programmes delivered in a partner college, please contact the college.




Use Outline Programme Proposal Form for ADC, for questions 12 to 23


  1. Learning and teaching strategy


Teaching and Learning strategies reflect those in the current University WBL Framework document.  The focus for teaching and learning on the programme is work-based action learning.  Work-based learning relies heavily on independent study underpinned by meaningful and continuous reflective practice. The student-tutor-employing organisation support system and the teaching and learning strategy have been designed to support this.  Specific programme opportunities for learning are clarified in the programme work plan (Appendix 1).



  1. Retention strategy


The nature of this programme means that the relationship between the supervisor and the student are the main mechanism for ensuring retention.


  1. Any other information




  1. What is the programme about?


The overall aims can be summarised as:


  1. To offer MSc/MA programmes of study that are flexible in terms of delivery and which can be designed and delivered to meet the needs of individual employers.


  1. To provide an academic framework for study and reflection at a postgraduate level, in which knowledge generated in the workplace can be analysed in an academic context and used to improve practice.


  1. To offer postgraduate level programmes through which learners develop an ethos of self-managed learning, personal reflection and the ability to continually update their knowledge and skills in the context of lifelong learning and continuing professional development.


  1. To deliver programmes that offer a learning experience that is customised, relevant, enjoyable and challenging.


  1. To support development of the local, regional and national economy by providing the opportunity for employees to develop higher level skills within the context of their employment.


  1. To improve graduate employability and retention.


  1. To develop skills of the workforce in order to maximise economic prosperity and productivity, thereby contributing to the Government agenda for Higher Education




  1. What will I know or be able to do at the end of the programme? These should be brief bullet points for each sub-heading.


Learning Outcomes Postgraduate Certificate – Skills

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • S1  Evaluate methodologies appropriate in their area of study


  • S2 Demonstrate self-direction in tackling and solving problems


Learning Outcomes Postgraduate Certificate – Knowledge

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • K1 Demonstrate an understanding of knowledge in their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice


  • K2  Evaluate current research in the discipline or area of professional practice

Learning Outcomes Postgraduate Diploma – Skills

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • S3 Evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them within their field of study


  • S4 Make informed judgements in the absence of complete data.


  • S5 Demonstrate self-direction and originality in solving problems at a professional or equivalent level.


Learning Outcomes Postgraduate Diploma – Knowledge

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • K3 Demonstrate an understanding of knowledge and an awareness of current insights in their academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice.


Learning Outcomes Masters – Skills

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • S6 Illustrate originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.


  • S7 Evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.


  • S8 Evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.


  • S9 Deal with complex issue both systematically and creatively, make informed judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.


  • S10 Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.



Learning Outcomes Masters – Knowledge

By the end of this part of the programme successful students should know, understand or be able to do the following:

  • K4 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and /or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.


  • K5 Apply a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.


  1. What will the programme consist of?


Taught postgraduate programmes generally consist of a number of taught modules leading to the award of a Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits) or Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits). A Masters qualification (180 credits) usually culminates in a major piece of independent work such as a project or dissertation. All modules are at postgraduate level (level 7 in the UK’s national scheme). The summary below describes briefly what is contained in the programme. The programme structure, including a detailed list of modules, can be found in the programme regulations.


This is not a “modular” course in terms of its structure. Success in the programme relates to work-based-learning and assessment is via (i) Portfolio of Evidence amassed during the tenure of study and (ii) Summary Dissertation, submitted alongside the Portfolio of Evidence as an integrating document. For administrative purposes a single module exists (ENGM45), covering the full 180 credits.


The programme is offered on a full-time or part-time basis.  The rationale for this is that the working hours directly attributable to the programme learning outcomes will vary from student to student and from employer to employer.  Where the student is able to devote 21 hours or more per week to the programme, it may be considered full-time.  Otherwise, the programme will be deemed part-time.  Essentially, the student experience will be similar whether conducting the study through full-time or part-time mode.  All students will experience the discipline of work-based learning and have to manage the academic and business demands on their time.  All that will differ is the proportion of time devoted to the programme of study within their working environments.  There are no differences in respect of the ultimate outcome between full-time and part-time modes.  Entry is typically via cohorts of students, though access by individual students (e.g. as part of a KTP programme) is permitted. 


  1. How will I be taught? Modes of teaching and learning aligned with KIS – choose one or more


Scheduled teaching activities


Independent study





Programme structure, delivery and the process by which the degree is awarded are described below. 


The proposed process for the MSc/MA by Professional Practice programme will be as follows. The work plan for the Master’s degree will total at least 1,800 hours and will usually be scheduled over a one-year to three-year period, depending on the delivery mode (full-time v part-time).  A work programme / work plan for each individual project will be produced.  This work plan is a composite document which covers aspects such as project specification, programme objectives, work/project outcomes (deliverables), learning outcomes (mapped to tasks), assessment methods and Gantt Chart.  Each work plan must be ratified by the Academic and Professional Supervisors (referred to as “Tutor” and “Mentor” respectively).

The work plan will be submitted to the Programme Board for approval.  Feedback from the Board will be given via the Board Minutes to individual Academic Supervisors.

The seven key learning outcomes for the award of a Master’s degree are listed in above.  These learning outcomes are derived from the QAA framework for Higher Education.  They are also included within the University WBL Framework document.  The learning outcomes for the interim awards of Postgraduate Diploma and Postgraduate Certificate are given above.


Assessment will be via a combination of (i) Portfolio of Evidence and (ii) Summary Dissertation.  The agreed make-up of the assessed material in the portfolio of evidence will be specified and must also be cross-referenced to the programme workplan and to the associated learning outcomes.   Ordinarily, each learning outcome would be expected to map to a minimum of two to three items of assessment.


The Academic Supervisor (Tutor) will work with the student and Professional Supervisor (Mentor) to ensure that the student is working towards the achievement of the learning outcomes in accordance with the work plan, and that the methods of assessment are properly applied.  Where the work plan is amended in such a way that the assessment items and their mapping to the learning outcomes must also be changed, the Academic Supervisor will normally discuss and amend this with the Student and report these changes to the Programme Board.


A Mid-Term Review will take place, the timing of which will depend on the programme schedule.  This will normally be attended by the Student, the Academic Supervisor, the Professional Supervisor, and an additional academic member of staff (normally a Board representative).  The Review recommendations will then be reported to the Programme Assessment Board, and will usually be one of the following:


a)       The student has made satisfactory progress and may proceed.

b)       The student has made satisfactory progress and may proceed subject to some minor amendments. 

c)       The student has not made satisfactory progress.  Where remedial action is considered viable, written feedback will be provided to the student to indicate how this can be remedied. 

d)      Where written feedback has been provided and the student has not responded accordingly, the student will be required to withdraw.  Under these circumstances the possibility of an interim award of Postgraduate Certificate will be considered and the student will be advised of the outcome of this investigation.


For a variety of reasons, students may need to withdraw from the programme (e.g. because of change of personal or professional circumstances).  Under such conditions the progress towards achieving the learning outcomes of the interim awards (PG Cert and PG Dip) would be assessed and the student advised of the necessary actions to secure such an interim award.

The student will maintain a sensibly-structured and evolving Portfolio of Evidence. This will contain all significant deliverables – reports, documentation, and other outcomes of work done.  These will be reviewed continually, but particularly at the mid-term Review and at completion.  For each portfolio item, a pro-forma cover sheet and subsequent feedback sheet will be required. Throughout the term of the work plan, the Academic Supervisor would normally provide formative feedback on individual elements of the Portfolio – this feedback indicating whether the element of work submitted is below, at or above the standard required.  This Portfolio of Evidence will also be available for scrutiny by the External Examiner/s.


A list of the modules in the programme can be found in the Programme Regulations.


A summary of the types of teaching, learning and assessment in each module of the programme can be found in the Matrix of Modes of Teaching.


  1. How will I be assessed and given feedback? Modes of assessment aligned with KIS: choose one or more.


Written examinations




Practical assessments



A summary of the types of teaching, learning and assessment in each module of the programme can be found in the Matrix of Modes of Teaching.


The generic assessment criteria which we use can be found here. Some programmes use subject-specific assessment criteria which are based on the generic ones.


This programme uses the Generic University Assessment Criteria



This programme uses the Subject Specific Assessment Criteria




The University regulations can be found here.


It is important to recognise that QAA regulations require the University to ensure that where a Masters Degree is to be awarded, the work is placed in its proper academic context, and that the student has demonstrated sufficient analysis and critical evaluation appropriate for Masters level. This will be achieved in two ways:


  • by ensuring that academic research is undertaken as well as research required for the professional elements of the project, and that this academic research is conducted with the normal rigour required for a post-graduate degree.  Students will have the opportunity to attend Research Methods sessions run by the University to provide the necessary training in academic research.


  • by ensuring that the learning outcomes which are assessed throughout the Work Programme include sufficient evidence of critical evaluation and analysis


Responsibility for ensuring that these elements are properly considered will rest in the first instance with the Academic Supervisor, but will also be considered by the Programme Board. 


At the end of the project the student will submit a summary dissertation with the Portfolio of Evidence.  This dissertation will summarise and evaluate the project:


a)       with appropriate referencing to the Portfolio of Evidence

b)       by placing the work in its overall academic context, and highlighting how the academic research informed the project.


The Summary Dissertation for the Masters award will be of a minimum of 3000 words and a maximum of 5,000 words.  For interim awards the summary dissertation should be between 2000 words and 4000 words in length.  Four bound copies will be submitted at the same time as the four bound copies of the Portfolio of Evidence.  Submission of this work will normally be within six months of the approved completion date of the work plan.


The Summary Dissertation and the Portfolio of Evidence will be assessed by the Academic Supervisor and one other academic with appropriate subject expertise.  This will normally be the same representative as at the Mid-Term Review. Each item in the portfolio of evidence must be accompanied by the associated cover sheet and feedback sheet to allow for efficient assessment.  A copy of the Summary Dissertation, along with the Portfolio of Evidence, will be sent to the appropriate External Examiner at least two weeks before the Viva Voce Examination, to allow the External Examiner the opportunity to offer comments for the consideration of the Viva Panel.  A copy of the dissertation and portfolio will also be available for the Professional Supervisor.

A Viva Voce Examination will be held where the student will be able to make a short presentation and will be asked to discuss and defend their work.  The Viva Panel will normally be the Academic Supervisor, the additional academic (moderator) and one further academic member (chair).  The Professional Supervisor may attend the viva, but would not normally be expected to formally assess the student.


Assessment results and viva recommendations will be collated by the Programme Leader and presented to the Board, who will consider and ratify results in the normal way.  The assessment results will include assessment of the Portfolio of Evidence, the Summary Dissertation, the Viva, and may take into consideration the Mid-Term Review. The student must achieve a satisfactory level of performance in all of these areas to be awarded the MSc / MA by Professional Practice:

a)       The student is awarded the degree.

b)       The student is awarded the degree, subject to some minor amendments.

c)       The student is not awarded the degree.  Re-submission of the element(s) of work still to be passed will normally be within six months.  However the Assessment Board will take into account individual circumstances when confirming this re-submission time period.  The PAB will provide written feedback for the candidate to address for re-submission.  Students will normally only be allowed to re-submit work once.

d)      The student is not awarded the degree and will not be permitted to re-submit.


The University aims to return marked assessments and feedback within 4 working weeks of the assignment submission date after internal moderation process have been completed. If this is not possible, students will be notified by the Module Leaders when the feedback is available and how it can be obtained.


The Academic Misconduct Regulations and associated guidance can be found here. It is the responsibility of students to ensure they are familiar with their responsibilities in regards to assessment and the implications of an allegation of academic misconduct.


Students should refer to the University Regulations for information on degree classifications.



  1. Teaching, learning and assessment matrix


Matrix of modes of teaching, learning and assessment




Core / optional

Modes of T&L

Modes of Assessment


Project Portfolio 





Taught Developed Assessed












  1. How does research influence the programme? 

The nature of the programme means that the influence that resarch has is subject to the nature of the work the student is undertaking. Many of the projects are conducted as part of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships so research is a key element of the work plan.




  1. How will the programme prepare me for employment?


The programme gives you the opportunity to develop advanced skills and knowledge which you can use in the future. Some postgraduate programmes are associated with a particular career path but most skills can be applied to a range of employment situations. The skills which this programme is designed to develop are listed below.


  • Self mangement
  • Research skills
  • Critical Appraisal



  1. Particular features of the qualification. (optional)



  1. Professional statutory or regulatory body (PSRB) accreditation.


PSRB accreditation is not relevant to this programme 

PSRB accreditation is currently being sought for this programme


This programme currently has PSRB accreditation




Please complete and insert Part B of the Programme Regulations Form, for questions 37 and 39




  1. What are the admissions requirements?


The standard entry qualification for University of Sunderland Masters courses is a minimum of a second class honours degree or equivalent.  Though many learners applying to join a WBL programme will not have traditional entry qualifications, it is likely that for this Maters programme, applicants will indeed be graduates.  Similarly, a minimum of a second class honours degree (or equivalent) will be expected, though normal APEL procedures will also apply.


Recruitment will be done in collaboration with the employer organisation.  The organisation will normally select a suitable cohort of potential learners according to their organisation policies and strategies. These individuals will then submit through the normal University admission procedures: applicants will submit a University application form, accompanied by, as appropriate, supporting evidence for APEL negotiated for the cohort at the time of programme design.  Some candidates may be required to attend for interview prior to admission.


For each applicant, a formal assessment of skills on entry will be conducted by a panel comprising the programme team plus any necessary subject specialists.  This assessment will not only inform the admissions decision, but will also identify where additional support (e.g. through the provision of in-house modules) will be required.


The University’s standard admissions requirements can be found in the university regulations.

Programme-specific requirements which are in addition to those regulations are given below. 

(Maximum 100 words)


Can students enter with advanced standing?





  1. What kind of support and help will there be?
  1. in the department:


The overall strategy for support and guidance is three-pronged: accessibility to staff and resources; provision of relevant and reliable information and operation of a responsive system for managing problems as they arise.


Support and guidance is offered to students through a comprehensive set of mechanisms.  All new students are given a comprehensive induction programme during which time they are exposed to various aspects of student academic life and much information on the University and its Services, the Department and their chosen programme of study. 


All students have access to their Programme Leaders as appointments can be made with staff. Students have representation on Programme Boards of Studies.  From time to time staff may meet with their tutees as a whole group to take soundings and obtain feedback on various issues.  Additionally staff will take care to talk to students individually to provide important academic guidance. In addition, students will also be able to receive support and information through the comprehensive university VLE facility.


  1. in the university as a whole:

The University provides a range of professional support services including wellbeing, counselling, disability support, and a Chaplaincy. Click on the links for further information.


  1. in a partner college:

Please see the relevant college prospectus or website for details of student support if you are planning to study in one of our partner colleges.


  1. What resources will I have access to?


On campus

In a partner college


By distance learning


On campus

Tick all that apply

General Teaching and Learning Space








Performance space


Other specialist


Technical resources 




Information about the University’s facilities can be found here.


Please see the relevant college prospectus or website for details of college learning resources if you are planning to study in one of our partner colleges.


  1. Are there any additional costs on top of the fees?


No, but all students buy some study materials such as books and provide their own basic study materials.

Yes (optional) All students buy some study materials such as books and provide their own basic study materials. In addition there are some are additional costs for optional activities associated with the programme (see below)


Yes (essential) All students buy some study materials such as books and provide their own basic study materials. In addition there are some are essential additional costs associated with the programme (see below)




  1. How are student views represented?


All taught programmes in the University have student representatives for each programme who meet in a Student-Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) where they can raise students’ views and concerns. The Students’ Union and the faculties together provide training for student representatives. SSLCs and focus groups are also used to obtain student feedback on plans for developing existing programmes and designing new ones. Feedback on your programme is obtained every year through module questionnaires and informs the annual review of your programme. Student representatives are also invited to attend Programme and Module Studies Boards which manage the delivery and development of programmes and modules.  Faculty Academic Committee, also has student representation. This allows students to be involved in higher-level plans for teaching and learning. At university level on Students are represented on University level Committed by sabbatical officers who are the elected leaders of the Students’ Union.


The University’s student representation and feedback policy can be found here.


Every two years we participate in the national Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) which is run by the Higher Education Academy.


Programmes offered in partner colleges: If you are studying in one of our partner colleges the college will have its own mechanisms for obtaining student feedback. Some of these may be the same as those on-campus at the University but others may be different. You should ask your college for further information.


For distance learning operated from Sunderland: if you are studying by distance learning you will have slightly different arrangements from those used on campus. In particular you are likely to have virtual rather than physical meetings and discussions. However these arrangements should provide comparable opportunities for you to give feedback. Details are given below.  




  1. National subject benchmarks


The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education publishes benchmark statements which give guidance as to the skills and knowledge which graduates in various subjects and in certain types of degree are expected to have. They do not cover all subjects at postgraduate level but those which exist can be found at here.


Are there any benchmark statements for this programme?




The subject benchmark(s) for this programme is/are:


The QAA also publishes a Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) which defines the generic skills and abilities expected of students who have achieved awards at a given level and with which our programmes align. The FHEQ can be found here.


  1. How are the quality and standards of the programme assured?


The programme is managed and quality assured through the University’s standard processes. Programmes are overseen by Module and Programme Studies Boards which include student representatives. Each year each module leader provides a brief report on the delivery of the module, identifying strengths and areas for development, and the programme team reviews the programme as a whole. The purpose of this is to ensure that the programme is coherent and up-to-date, with suitable progression through the programme, and a good fit (alignment)  between what is taught and how students learn and are assessed - the learning outcomes, content and types of teaching, learning and assessment. Student achievement, including progress through the programme and the way in which the final award is made, is kept under review. The programme review report is sent to the Programme Studies Board and the Faculty in turn reports issues to the University’s Quality Management Sub-Committee (QMSC).


External examiners are appointed to oversee and advise on the assessment of the programme. They ensure that the standards of the programme are comparable with those of similar programmes elsewhere in the UK and are also involved in the assessment process to make sure that it is fair. They are invited to comment on proposed developments to the programme. Their reports are sent to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) as well as to the Faculty so that issues of concern can be addressed.


All programmes are reviewed by the University on a six-yearly cycle to identify good practice and areas for enhancement. Programmes are revalidated through this review process. These reviews include at least one academic specialist in the subject area concerned from another UK university. Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) review reports for Sunderland can be found here.


Further information about our quality processes can be found here.


Please also complete and insert the SITS form.