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Case study 01: Recognising M-Level, University of Bedfordshire


Notes originally prepared for fellow-tutors to initiate a debate about master’s level work, but which escaped into the wild.

Recognising work at Master's level is an "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it" situation. Unfortunately, that is not very much use to programme participants who want some idea of what to expect and what to work to.

They were intended to promote increased consistency in marking from the tutors, and a clearer idea of expectations from the participants – by articulating some of the ways in which one tutor recognises Master's level work.

Describe, briefly, the activity/initiative/practice

Originally a paper document circulated for discussion, now a web-page, which sets out the qualities I look for in Master’s level work: Writing at Master's Level

What is the background/context to the activity/initiative/practice?

A contribution to a debate among a team of academics when setting up a Master’s in Learning and Teaching in HE (MALT) at De Montfort University in the mid-90s. Its interesting feature was of course that it was both about HE teaching and an example of it at Master’s level. It was shared within the team and by our colleagues who were taking the course, was incorporated in the Handbook, and then taken up by colleagues at other institutions.

What made/makes it “masters” level?

That’s an interesting question, because of course these notes themselves are not at M level. Are they?

What challenges were encountered/overcome - in terms of mastersness - and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?

At one time we were going to create a more definitive set of guidance notes, but happily never got round to that, because it is the status of the notes as something to be argued with or about which makes it work at this level. I think—but feel free to disagree!



James Atherton, semi-retired from University of Bedfordshire,

Websites at,