Dual and Interdisciplinary Programmes
These pages provide advice and guidance on the development and ongoing management of dual and interdisciplinary programmes delivered by more than one department.
This guidance should be read in conjunction with the University’s Policy on Duals and Interdisciplinary programmes.
Different types of programmes will require different approaches but it is essential that from the student perspective
- The programme feels like a coherent course of study.
- Students feel that they belong to a department(s) and/or a programme cohort.
- Students have clear information about how they can access support from the departments contributing to the programme.
Designing and managing a programme which spans two or more departments means that additional effort needs to go into
- liaison and communications with staff in contributing departments
- communications and support for students to ensure that they know how to navigate their programme and the support available to them
The design of your programme is likely to be influenced to some extent by the contributing departments. At the same time it is important that the design enables students to feel that they are on a coherent course of study.
|The Programme team||
As a minimum, this is made up of an academic member of staff to lead from each department plus a member of professional services - usually an administrator from each department. The team is responsible for the planning, delivery and review of the programme. The team needs to meet regularly (the frequency and duration of meetings is likely to vary depending on the cohort size) during the year to discuss:
The programme team need to agree on who is responsible for all key areas of the administration of the programme.
|Liaison between departments||
Key areas for communications between departments
The following areas are essential to ensure the smooth organisation of dual and interdisciplinary programmes:
Communications to staff who teach on modules contributing to a dual or interdisciplinary programme
Tell staff when they can expect dual / interdisciplinary students in their modules and give them access to the dual/ interdisciplinary programme outlines. They will then have a better idea of what assumptions to make about what students have already learned. This will help with planning teaching and communications with students on the module. There may be opportunities for staff to encourage students to reflect on connections with other modules during the module.
This is an area that requires careful and regular attention, particularly when there are changes in staff, cohort size and departmental culture.
|Student support and Communications||
Communicating to students
Consider what is the best approach to communicating to the cohort to ensure that students receive all the communications they need, while avoiding duplication.
MEng Structural Engineering and Architecture programme co-ordinator has regular meetings with dual student representatives and the whole cohort, as well as regular liaison with partner department tutors to ensure consistent messages are delivered.
Course information, induction and transitionsDual / interdisciplinary students find it very helpful to have some induction activities as a programme cohort. (If you have a number of small cohorts of dual students, you might group students together for the purposes of induction). This is a good opportunity to familiarize students with
You might consider:
Similar activities are also helpful at the start of subsequent years to support students in making the transition from one year of study to the next.
Consider what works best for the programme cohort to support a sense of belonging, as well as the academic and pastoral support students need. For instance, some departments allocate all dual students on a programme to a single tutor, or cluster students from a particular programme together with a small number of tutors with knowledge of the dual programme. Others choose to distribute students across tutors in the department for a more inclusive approach. In some departments the programme co-ordinator has a pastoral overview of all dual students.
As a minimum, it is good practice for students to have a named personal tutor in one department and a designated member of staff in (each of) the other department (s) from whom they can seek academic and personal support.
MEng Structural Engineering and Architecture students have established their own “Architeers” student society and collaborate effectively with other student societies in their two departments. As well as providing a voice for students on this programme the society also provides a sense of cohort identity.
Cohort identity/sense of belonging
One of the risks of dual and interdisciplinary degrees is that students don’t feel they “belong” anywhere. Staff involved with dual and interdisciplinary programmes have found the following work well to build a sense of cohort identity and belonging:
Integrating the different parts of the programme
The amount of integration will vary depending on the nature of the programme.
It is important to consider the balance of the two (or more) subjects across the programme. It may vary at programme level, but it is important that there is continuity of each area over the programme.
Where possible, consider creating opportunities for students to bring their learning from the different disciplines together. This is most often done in a dissertation or Final Year Project. Assessment types such as projects, dissertations, placements, portfolios all facilitate student choice and provide opportunities for them to bring together learning from different aspects of their course.
Team teaching is a great way to model and provide students with content from different disciplinary perspectives. Consider a joint teaching session with a member of staff from a different department or asking them to do one of the lectures for your module.
Supervision of final year projects and dissertations is an area that needs careful consideration. You will need to decide on the most appropriate balance between providing consistency in approach vs being able to provide subject specific expert supervision. The Sheffield Methods Institute (SMI) take the following approach:
All dual and interdisciplinary programmes should have a single set of programme aims and objectives. The extent to which these are integrated will depend on the aims of the programme.
Examples of programme aims and outcomes
The UK Qualification Framework for Higher Education (untagged PDF) states the following conventions for naming dual programmes:
BSc/MPHYS Physics with Medical Physics - approaches and mechanisms in place to ensure programme coherence