Chloe Fletcher
22 December 2017

Updating our membership criteria - what is relevant academic experience?

Earlier this year, the IES adopted a new working definition for Environmental Science as part of our organisational strategy. This characterisation of “an integrative academic field, unifying the physical, chemical, biological, engineering and social sciences in the study of the environment and in finding sustainable solutions to environmental challenges” serves to broaden the scope of our membership, extending to professionals with backgrounds in a range of natural, social and sustainability sciences. We have, as a result, launched new membership criteria to reflect this perceptual shift in what constitutes environmental science. The major changes to the criteria are outlined below.

Changes to the assessment of relevant academic experience
We recognise that environmental scientists come from a diversity of academic backgrounds which may not always have a clear and direct prescription to the environment. Whilst such courses may not in themselves be absolutely relevant, the skills, knowledge and education attained may enable direct access to work within the environmental sector, and therefore should be considered relevant. For example, a physics graduate who now works as an air quality specialist, or a chemistry graduate now employed as a soil scientist, may directly use their academic knowledge and expertise within their profession.

To combat any discrepancies, we have developed a new two-tier system for assessing academic relevance.

In the first tier of this model, degree titles which demonstrate clear alignment to environmental science will be automatically considered relevant by the Application Review Panel. Suggested course titles have been compiled into a master list of approved environmental science programmes. Please note, some degrees not mentioned on this list may be considered relevant at the panel's discretion.

If your programme does not fall into this first tier, fear not – your degree programme may still be relevant! In this second tier, you will be invited to submit a 200-word justification for how your academic experience has directly furthered your understanding of environmental science in an educational or professional capacity. Relevance here will be determined on a case-by-case basis at the assessors’ discretion, and may be further supported by inclusion of a transcript.

Members who fit within this second tier may now be eligible for a regrade. If you are an Affiliate with any or no professional experience, you may be able to regrade to become an Associate. If you are an Associate with at least 5 or 6 years’ full-time professional experience (depending on your qualification level), you may be entitled to regrade to become a Full Member.

Regrade forms can be downloaded here. If you’re unsure whether you’re due for a regrade, please take a look at our Application Grading System, or contact Chloe Fletcher for a quick chat.

Increased weighting for PhD qualifications
Since the conception of our membership criteria, PhD qualifications have been awarded 8 units under the Application Grading System. Despite spanning an additional 3 to 4 years than an MSc, to date, a relevant PhD has only warranted 1 additional unit.

At our last governance meeting in November, the IES Council agreed that 8 units was no longer a sufficient award for completing a PhD, and that the number of units should instead be more reflective of the number of additional years undertaken. Therefore, our criteria have now been amended to award a total of 10 units for a relevant PhD. This means that, to obtain Full Membership of the IES, candidates will still need 2 years of professional experience on top of their academic study.

Are you an Associate Member who has a relevant PhD and two years’ full-time professional experience? Then you may be eligible for a regrade! Regrade forms can be downloaded here. If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, please contact Chloe Fletcher.

Clarification on the assessment of postgraduate qualifications
As PgDip qualifications are becoming increasingly common in the UK, we have reviewed our approach to the assessment of this qualification, and agreed a new grading system.

Although PgDips are a level 7 qualification, they do not involve the same extensive research element as an MSc. Therefore, the Council agreed that a relevant Postgraduate Diploma should be awarded a total of 6.5 units on the Application Grading System, falling midway between a relevant BSc (6 units) and MSc (7 units).

As Postgraduate Certificates require a significantly shorter period of study than both master’s and postgraduate diplomas, typically a third of a full-time academic year, it was agreed that PgCert qualifications would not be considered at all by the Application Review Panel.