Distinctions Review outcome

05 April 2017

Region: Headquarters

The Society conducted a review of it s Distinctions process under the chairmanship of Robert Albright FRPS and supported by David Cooke FRPS and Tony Kaye ASIS FRPS. The committee reported back to Council last summer and this was followed by a consultation with the Distinctions Advisory Board. Following this the actions below either have been, or will be, implemented. 

Distinctions Review: conclusions

A. Currently the general membership is not allowed to attend Fellowship applications at the distinction panels or at the Fellowship Board.

It has been agreed that attendance at Fellowship assessments will now be opened to members of the Advisory Board, in addition to members of Council. This is intended to counter suggestions of a secretive process and to make it clear that the Fellowship process is applied with fairness and rigour. Practical considerations will ensure that the assessors have adequate space to examine the applications and to discuss them openly and thoroughly.

B. The review was concerned to ensure that all distinction applications are reviewed by the correct category panel and that the incidence of being referred to another distinction panel is minimised.

Over 50% of submissions are brought by the applicant on the day, at considerable cost savings to the applicants. Requiring them to be submitted in advance would require very substantially increased storage in Fenton House, and would require panel Chairs to attend additional days at extra cost. When applicants attend from a significant distance, they would still incur travel and accommodation costs and there would be insufficient time for these to be amended. Recent steps have been taken to minimise the problem, including the availability of prior review by the RPS distinctions team. Applicants are strongly urged to take up this option.

C. The review suggested that the DAB (Distinctions Advisory Board) reviews with Moderators how clearly the distinction categories are being explained at Advisory Days, on the website and in The Journal. All instances of applicant confusion about distinction categories should also be reviewed.

1. The DAB and panel Chairs continually review the categories and their definitions, not just at the twice annual DAB meetings. Articles are regularly featured in The Journal and the website is frequently updated.

2. The DAB has now set up a dedicated email address for category advice, namely category@rps.org

3. Advice on distinctions categories is given at distinctions advisory days; its accuracy and effectiveness is continually monitored.

4.The DAB will continue to help applicants if a submission is clearly submitted in the wrong category by referring it to an alternative category where it might have a better chance of success.

D. The review suggested eliminating all cases of significant inconsistency between the advice given to potential applicants at advisory days and at the subsequent distinction assessments. The DAB would then provide feedback to the advisors and/or the assessment panel in order to establish greater consistency.

1. The DAB reviews inconsistencies between advice given at advisory days and comments made in assessments; identified inconsistencies are reviewed and feedback given to panel members. 

2. Feedback is part of the training for all panel members and further training is planned for panel Chairs and deputy Chairs on the provision of written feedback.

3. Inconsistencies have reduced since the printed form was introduced 18 months ago which records advice given at advisory days.

E. The review examined whether the moderator should be allocated additional authority to allow successful applications at the category panels to be passed directly to Council for ratification.

After extensive discussion it was agreed that moderators should not be involved in assessment discussion at the category panels. The moderator's role is to ensure the process is correctly followed and to ensure consistency - it is not to be a part of the assessment discussions.

1. It would introduce two unofficial categories of Fellowship – one that was directly approved by Council, the second, approved two months later, that had been considered by the Fellowship Board.

2.The Fellowship Board would not see a large percentage of recommended Fellowships 

3. It would be difficult to bring external assessors onto the Board if they were only to review some submissions.

4.The argument that the initial category panel makes no decisions is false – they are required to decide if the application meets the criteria and if they consider it worth further consideration for Fellowship. 2014 F Applications  134.   Considered by the F Board  21.   Recommendations to Council 14.  2015 F Applications  109.   Considered by the F Board  13.   Recommendations to Council 7. 

The Fellowship system is a single process incorporating three stages: the category panel, the Fellowship Board and Council (ratification).

F. The review was keen to ensure that where, in the opinion of the Fellowship Board, the panel has made an error in its assessment the rationale is fully explained and remedial actions are put in place. 

Category panel chairs or their representatives attend all Fellowship Board meetings. It is their responsibility to provide feedback to their panel on reasons why a submission has failed. The DAB moderator can help with this.

In addition, a copy of the feedback form to the applicant is forwarded to all panel members.

G. The review asked for the consistency of the quality of feedback to failed applicants be regularly audited by the DAB and action taken as necessary to ensure that continuous improvement in quality is implemented.

It was agreed in May 2016 that requirements for A and F would be detailed on a specific form as they are for Licentiate, with feedback given on the basis of these requirements. All candidates who are unsuccessful are already given the opportunity for verbal feedback with one of the panel members.

H. The review wished the DAB to explore the resource implications of further extending the number and geographical diversity of advisory days and alternative ways of giving advice to potential applicants, including on-line communication both within the UK and globally.

1.The DAB makes its best endeavours to meet requests from regions – and more recently from special interest groups – for distinctions advisory days. The DAB will encourage these where it feels that there is a lack of activity, but organising them is the responsibility of the regional organisers. Most regions now have 2 per year.

2.The DAB has instigated video advisory sessions for overseas members, and in response to the low level of passes for images for screen, is organising video advisory sessions for these applicants.

3. In addition to these, on line advice is available for members on the website http://rps.org/distinctions/advice 

4. At the request of London Region, 1:1 advisory sessions have been organised.

5.Recognising the cost implications for members travelling considerable distances for advice on particular specialist categories, a system has been put in place whereby members can receive specialist written advice on their specialism and more general technical advice on their submission at any advisory day.

I. The review examined whether there should be any overlap in personnel between the DAB and the Fellowship Board.

The Fellowship Board consists of seven voting members, three of whom are the nominated DAB Moderators, recognising the DAB’s role as a moderating body. The DAB members are in the minority as three other Board members are independent from the distinctions process and, additionally, one represents the Panel Chairs.  The Chair of the Fellowship Board is non-voting. It is proposed that the membership of the Fellowship Board rises to a maximum of nine with the addition of two more independent assessors when candidates with the necessary experience and skills have been identified.

3 March 2017, and published in the RPS Journal, April 2017.