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Professional Exam Gains University Status

Raising the standard of education and qualifications to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century

Starting in July 2008, successful candidates in The Institute of Quarrying’s examination will be awarded a Diploma in Quarry Technology by the University of Derby instead of the traditional blue IQ Professional Examination certificate. This qualification will be recognized within the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and valued at 180 CAT points (Credit Accumulation and Transfer), equivalent to half of an ordinary degree.

This is an enormous step forward for The Institute and the quarrying industry, and represents the culmination of several years of effort to obtain national recognition of the rigorous training given to quarry managers through what have become known as the DAPS (Doncaster Assisted Private Study) courses. The Institute of Asphalt Technology has achieved a similar position with the University of Derby, which will be awarding Diplomas in Asphalt Technology from 2008.

The Institute of Quarrying created the Professional Examination as long ago as 1948. Indeed, next year will be the Diamond Jubilee for this examination, which is now the most widely known and respected qualification for quarry managers in the UK. For many years, candidates had to prepare themselves for the examination using a syllabus provided by The Institute, although courses related to the surface mining of iron ore were offered by colleges such as Grantham. Then, in 1971, under the leadership of Mike Arthur, the Doncaster Metropolitan Institute of Higher Education, as it was then known, developed a distance learning course (DAPS) to prepare students for the examination. DAPS, although conceived as an interim measure, proved to be very popular and it is estimated that more than 2,000 persons have successfully completed the Quarry Technology course. This very significant contribution to education and training was recognized by the award of the MBE to Mike Arthur in 1999.

Over the years the DAPS course has been continuously revised and updated to meet the needs of industry. The most significant revisions took place in 1999, with sponsorship by a consortium of the institutes and companies in the Quarry Products Association, and in 2005 with support of MIST, part of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. In addition, since 1999 the teaching material, comprising approximately 200 booklets or ‘units’, has been subject to a continuous rolling review every five years, during which the units are subject to critical review by academic staff and ‘industry experts’.

By 2006 it could be claimed that the DAPS course in Quarry Technology delivered the ‘underpinning’ knowledge required by a manager being assessed for the NVQ level 4 in Health, Safety and Environmental Management, one of the so-called SHE NVQs that are accepted by the HSE as demonstrable evidence of competence. At the same time, the Asphalt Technology course delivers the knowledge required to demonstrate competence under the National Highway Sector quality assurance schemes and allows engineers involved in the industry to register with the Engineering Council.

Nevertheless, in some ways the strength of the courses was also their weakness. Although widely respected and maintained by industry, the Professional Examinations were not recognized within the National Qualification Framework; they had no value in the CAT system. As a consequence, employees who moved to other industries, or were seeking enrolment upon courses of further or higher education, encountered difficulty in obtaining accreditation of prior learning (APL). The institutes, therefore, investigated the possibility of achieving accreditation within the NQF, first as a Certificate of Higher Education through the Open University, and then through the University of Leeds. Unfortunately, neither initiative was successful.

In 2005 the University of Derby (UoD) had expressed interest in mounting a display at the Hillhead Show and in 2006, during a Internet-based search of educational establishments, the UoD was identified as a potential provider of the DAPS courses. An initial approach to UoD was met with interest and enthusiasm.

The University of Derby has been teaching geology since 1896 and is located in a region containing substantial quarrying activity. The former college of further education achieved university status in 1993 and now has 23,000 students and over 2,000 staff located in Derby and Buxton. Strong links already exist between staff and local quarrying companies for the purposes of fieldwork.

Moreover, the UoD is a leading educational establishment in the delivery of knowledge via the Internet – e-learning, especially bespoke courses for local employers such as the NHS, Rolls Royce, the RAF, Derbyshire CC and Thorntons, the chocolatiers. The School of Flexible and Partnership has been established to promote, create and manage these courses, which are already delivered for a number of professional bodies.

Thus, after months of negotiation, a partnership agreement has been signed between the institutes and UoD whereby the institutes agree to continue to maintain the ‘industry-specific’ teaching materials in return for a share of the tuition fees. Doncaster College, meantime, agreed to sell their intellectual property rights (copyright) in the teaching materials to the institutes.

With respect to the academic staff of the DAPS Section, all have been offered employment by UoD commencing on 1 August 2007, which will ensure continuity of tuition and minimal disruption for the students. Existing students will also transfer on this date and APL will be given towards the diplomas for examinations and studies already completed.

The diplomas were officially launched during a ceremony conducted at the University of Derby, Kedleston Road Campus, on 20 April. The audience was addressed by the vice-chancellor and members of staff who will be responsible for delivering the courses. The audience was invited from senior managers and training officers of the quarrying industry, DAPS Section staff, DAPS students, industry organizations, the institutes and examination moderators. The previous day, a media event was staged at Cliffe Hill Quarry for local television and radio.

So what happens now? The present staff of the DAPS Section will officially transfer from Doncaster College to UOD on 1 August 2007 and the delivery of the diploma courses will commence in September. As soon as a replacement can be found, Mike Smith, presently the general manager of The Institute of Quarrying, will be seconded to the DAPS team to assist the orderly transfer between Doncaster College and the University of Derby and to begin the task of converting the DAPS teaching units into a form suitable for e-learning, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The Institute has submitted a budget 2007/2008 for approval by Council that contains a substantial provision to fund this exercise.

The transfer of the courses is also presenting a further opportunity to make significant improvements to the teaching material of the Quarry Technology course with respect to creating a culture of ‘health, safety and environmental protection’. This follows the ‘MIST4’ project of 2005, which introduced advice on protection of the environment and the health and safety of the workforce into all units. The separate module ‘Health & Safety, Legislation & Practice’ will be dismembered and the units related to individual Acts of Parliament, and Regulations will be included within the relevant modules on quarry operations.

In order to avoid any disruption to the studies of students due to complete their studies in 2008, the Professional Year of the existing DAPS Quarry Technology course will be delivered during 2007/2008 as an interim measure. In addition, the improvements have been designed so that none of the modules common between Quarry Technology and Asphalt Technology will be affected by these changes.

Until 1 August 2007, all enquiries should be directed to the DAPS Section, Doncaster College, on tel: (01302) 553908; email: [email protected]

After that date, enquiries should be directed to Dr Stan Salmon, Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences, on tel: (01332) 591703; email: [email protected]

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