Responsibilities of Heads of Department/Division
Heads of Department/Division have broad responsibility for:
- the quality of the delivery of courses and educational programs under their Department/Division;
- maintaining academic standards through monitoring and approving course grades;
- ensuring that faculty and other instructors involved with assessing students understand and apply the University’s policies and procedures.
Final grades must be endorsed by the Head of Department/Division responsible for a course before submission to the Academic Registry. While Department/Division Heads have broad discretion in the exercise of their authority to endorse grades, under agreed policies the University expects Heads to:
- Provide for a clear delegation of authority for the assignment and approval of course grades, and establish a clear process for the review of grades, including timelines for grade submission to the Academic Registry;
- Ensure that an equivalent standard of achievement of students is applied across all the sections, where course grades are assigned to more than one section;
- Ensure that inexperienced instructors understand the University’s approach to course grading;
- Ensure that grades provided by teaching assistants, demonstrators, or other junior members of the teaching team have been moderated;
- Clarify arrangements and responsibilities for dealing with cases of academic dishonesty, grade review, and student appeals in line with University policy.
Where considered necessary, Heads may review grades with course instructors, who may be asked to justify their grades. If the Head and instructor cannot reach an agreement on course grades, the matter should be referred to the Dean/IPO Director, whose decision is final.
To ensure maintenance of academic standards, Heads may consider forming a Panel or inviting one or more senior colleagues to advise the Head on assessment issues, on some or all of the following:
- Proof-reading assessments for clarity and English;
- Reviewing assessments and examination questions, to ensure that they are well designed and that the academic challenge is appropriate to the level of the course and allows for the evaluation of different standards of student achievement of intended learning outcomes;
- Reviewing assessment schemes and course grade distributions and making recommendations to Heads for action, including moderation of course grades, where deemed appropriate.
While the above good practice is in place in a number of HKUST departments, at sister institutions in Hong Kong, and internationally, it may be burdensome and unnecessary to undertake such review for all courses. Heads may therefore consider arranging for a) and b) above to be undertaken for the following courses:
- All new courses;
- Existing courses periodically (e.g. every three years);
- All courses for which recent grades have been significantly outside the University’s historical distributions.
It is good practice for Heads to assign senior colleagues as mentors to new faculty of the University, to foster collective responsibility for student assessment in a Department/Division by:
- providing constructive feedback and helping faculty design appropriate assessments;
- reviewing a sample of students’ work, to assist new staff to calibrate grades to the Department’s standards and to understand the University’s assessment and grading requirements;
- assisting with assessment moderation, when required.