University of Chester

Programme Specification
Work Based & Integrative Studies MA
2014 - 2015

Master of Arts

Work Based & Integrative Studies

Work Based & Integrative Studies [MA, MSc, MBA]

University of Chester

University of Chester

The programme is delivered at the Chester and Warrington Campuses. The client-centred nature of this programme also requires that individual modules be delivered at sites determined by clients' needs.  For example currently, delivery sites include Arrowe Park Hospital. The programme is also delivered at the Isle of Man College. 

A number of our WBIS approved studies routes are supported primarily at distance.

Work Based and Integrative Studies

Full-time and Part-time

Residential and Open,

The duration of study on approved studies routes within the programme is negotiable within the maximum permitted time-frame.

6 Years





17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Business and Management Centre for Work Related Studies

No benchmark characteristics have been published for this programme except with regard to the MBA award where QAA guidelines for post-graduate Business & Management programmes apply. Other programmes are designed to embrace relevant subject benchmark statements or relevant occupational standards and equivalents delineating specialist practice areas, where appropriate.

Not Applicable

Work-based and Integrative Studies Programme Assessment Board

Tuesday 1st May 2012

WBIS is a framework designed to accredit work based and work related learning in HE. Its name reflects the nature of the framework itself:- 'work based' because it allows students to access academic credit for their learning at work;- 'integrative studies' because students are typically able to integrate relevant taught modules (from the University's 'bank' of modules) into their negotiated pathway of learning. These pathways of learning can be negotiated by individual students or by organisations on behalf of cohorts of students.

The WBIS framework and its programmes specifically aim to:

  • provide access to learning opportunities which promote personal and professional development undertaken for academic credit and/or personal need;
  • enhance students' workplace practice through application of the knowledge and skills gained through their degree programme and elsewhere;
  • deliver coherent, meaningful, approved studies routes which give participants the opportunity to negotiate their learning, plan their study routes and achieve their desired outcomes;
  • facilitate reflective practice and develop knowledge and understanding of its underpinning theory;
  • develop the skills and knowledge appropriate to the field(s) of learning within approved studies routes and reflect academic development in those fields;
  • work with businesses and organisations who seek staff development and CPD opportunities through higher education;
  • make use of the widest learning resources available, as appropriate, for module achievement.

Knowledge and Understanding
Subject specific knowledge and understanding will be developed in the context of modules negotiated as part of the student's pathway.
Knowledge and understanding of work-based learning.
Principles of work-based learning - self review, work-based skills and processes, designing practitioner research , project design, implementation and evaluation, self-critical reflection.
Application, reflection and modification of practiceinformed by practice-based and professional expertise.

Thinking or Cognitive Skills
Intellectual and cognitive skills will be developed through subject specific modules and those designed with subject and practice-based content specifically for the programme. Intellectual and cognitive skills will be developed through analysis and reflection on the Work-based and Work-related learning experiences which are central to the programme. Exemplar learning outcomes include the ability to:

  • contextualise their role within the workplace and review critically their own perspective on the world of work.
  • analyse critically the current knowledge base underpinning specific areas of work and, as a consequence of this analysis, demonstrate further development of work-based (tacit) knowledge;
  • evaluate critically approaches, methodologies and practicesused in the workplace and identify how these might be enhanced;
  • demonstrate appropriate analysis and synthesis of concepts and/or protocols used in one work-based context and demonstrate their effective application in another;
  • review critically published literature and demonstrate how current working practices might be informed and enhanced by relevant research and/or contemporary developments in evidence-based practice;
  • demonstrate logical thought, interpretation and application in work-based/related settings.

Practical Skills
Work-based skills and processes are central to the programme.
Learning outcomes which focus on practical skills will be specified in the taught module descriptor or Negotiated Experiential Learning Agreement as appropriate. Practice and professionally based skills e.g. for nursing, teaching, business, IT, etc. will reflect specific vocational areas and may be specified within modules. Practical skills and professional competencies will be assessed within the workplace by Associate Tutors, appointed by the Centre for Work Related Studies, Professional Development,who are demonstrablycompetent to make the assessment based on their qualifications and experience.

Key Skills
Students will be required to demonstrate effective:
  • Communication written and verbal communications skills (e.g. written report or essay and when giving formal presentations.)
Example learning outcome: Disseminate the researchfindings and recommendations arising fromyour work-based project by preparing and delivering a formal presentation.
  • Application of Number
Appropriate use of numerical and statistical techniques will be incorporated, where relevant, into the student's negotiated approved studies route. For example, when collecting andanalysing quantitative data in a 40 credit, Level 7, NELM module,(ifappropriate.)
Expressed as a Learning Outcome : select and deploy appropriate and effective tools for data collection and analyse quantitative data using suitable statistical techniques.
  • Information Literacy and Technology
Literature search and retrieval e.g. use of internet, word processing skills, use of databases and statistical packages (whereappropriate).
  • Improving own learning and performance
This programme is designed to enable students to reflect critically ontheir own professional practices and those of the organisation in which they work. In the initial self-review module,students are asked to examine their own preferredlearning styles, political compassand to reflect critically on their pre-suppositions and assumptions as a way of enhancing their learning and development.
The assessment strategy of most modulesincludes a component in which the student is requiredto reflect critically on theirapproach to andperformance in work-based tasks orinitiatives as they strive to become self-reflective practitioners.
Expressed as a learning outcome : analyse and reflect critically on your approach to and performance inleading and managing work-based teams.
  • Working with others
Due to the work-based nature of the programme, students routinely work with other members of their organisation invarious way. Typical examples might include:working as a leader/ member of work-based teams, leadership and managementof staff, working with customers, stakeholders and/orclients, and students may reflect on their negotiation, influencing and communication skills when working with these groups. The personal learning outcomes specified in the learning agreement will focus on the students development of these skills and on their reflections on their approach to and performance in developing them.
  • Problem solving (in the workplace)
Students are frequently required to demonstrate and reflect critically on theirproblem solving abilities when completing work-based projects assessed through the Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules. The learning outcomes specified in the NELA and the negotiated assessmentbriefwillreflect this as appropriate.
Expressed as a learning outcome: devise, implement and evaluatea strategy for enhancing employee engagement within your department or organisation.

Transferable Professional Skills
One of the primary aims of this programme is to enable students to develop and demonstrate their application of a range oftransferable professional skills through work-based or work-related learning. Students are encouraged to specify, as learning outcomeswithin the Negotiated Experiential Learning Agreement (NELA), the personal and professional transferable skills they intend todevelop or demonstrate. Students are required to complete the NELA prior to commencing the Negotiated Experiential Learning Module.
Examples include: coaching skills, negotiation skills, influencing people, leading and managing teams, managing conflict,project management.

WBIS Generic Programme Learning Outcomes - Postgraduate Programme (FHEQ Level 7)
By the end of the programme students will be able to:
1. develop coherent lines of discussion and argument from relevant sources, considering critically the appropriateness of the sources and their application to work-based practices, ensuring that any unpublished sources are used in both a critical and accessible manner.
2. undertake - where relevant - any research work (e.g. experimental, experiential, reflective) in such a way that is planned, implemented and evaluated with due regard to appropriate modes of enquiry, evidence and the effective communication of outcomes.
3. formulate ideas and arguments which demonstrate innovative or original ways of thinking and doing.

FHEQ Level 7 - (Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, Master's Level)

This negotiated programme is modular in structure; students may elect to complete the full Master's degree or to exit the programme with one of two intermediate awards: i. a Postgraduate Certificate or ii. a Postgraduate Diploma. WBIS approved studies routes are usually negotiated in relation to the client's work-based development needs and specialist areas of practice. Approved studies routes may be designed to feature WBIS modules alone, or a blend of these plus discipline-specific modules selected from those offered by other Faculities within the University.

Module selection:  Modules selected as part of approved studies routes must be at the appropriate level and modular pre-requisites are recognised in the usual way. To ensure coherence of approved study routes, only modules related to the field of working practice and/or the negotiated award title of the participant, will be permissible.

Students on individually negotiated routes will complete an Approved Studies Learning Agreement (ASLA) in consultation with their Personal Academic tutor. This will be submitted to the WBIS programme team for approval, and reported to the University’s Work Based and Integrative Studies Approval Panel.

Specific pre-validated, Level 7 modules have been written for the programme and these generally relate to the need to help students plan and contextualise negotiated programmes of work-based and work-related learning. These modules typically form the key components of a WBIS negotiated route and include:

  • Self Review and Negotiation of Learning, where students engage in a process of personal review and then negotiate an outline learning pathway (‘approved studies') based on their personal and professional development needs. This is typically the first module a student will take on their WBIS study route, enabling them to engage in the process of programme planning.
  • Skills & Approaches for Work Based Learning, a module which is designed to help prepare the ground for work-based experiential learning and the accumulation of academic credit for this purpose. It is typically taken after the Self Review module.
  • Designing Practitioner Research , which helps students prepare for research projects in the workplace, being mandatory for all students on full Master's degree programmes. Master's students would usually take this module just before the significant research project which finishes a full M.A., M.Sc. or MBA programme of study.
  • Exit Review & Forward Planning - typically taken by students at the end of their WBIS approved studies pathway, this module encourages students to reflect on their programme of study as a whole, look at how they have developed personally and professionally, and then plan for future opportunities and career progression in the light of this.

In addition, two types of pre-validated ‘template' module exist within the WBIS post-graduate programme:

  • Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (NELMs), which give credit for work-based learning and project work. Learning is driven by workplace practice and experiences and students customise generic learning outcomes with their own, specific ones negotiated with their tutor, also having the opportunity to negotiate appropriate module assessment.
  • WBIS Work-Related Taught Modules. These specialist modules are commissioned and designed on a collaborative basis by organisations and individuals working with the University, and are aimed at increasing vocational knowledge and competence in specific areas of study. They exist as generic ‘templates' which can be specifically customised at each level of study. Organisations, students and other interested parties may negotiate the content, assessment and learning strategies. The customised versions of these template modules are presented to - and authorised for use by - the University's WBIS Approval Panel.

In relation to the above, the validation of the WBIS framework allows the University's WBIS Approval Panel to authorise:

(i) customised versions of the WBIS Taught Work-Related Modules to meet the student's/ client's needs

(ii) negotiated approved studies, which may include the types of module listed above, plus modules from relevant, existing validated programmes offered elsewhere within the University (the University of Chester bank of modules)

A link to the list of customised modules approved by the WBIS Approval Panel is in section 32.

A summary of the framework modules available and their codes is given below :


Core ModulesOptional ModulesAwards and credits available



(FHEQ Level 7)

Normally, IS7001 Self Review and Negotiation of Learning.




IS7 022 Designing Practitioner Research  is a core module for those undertaking a research-based Negotiated Experiential Learning Module.


IS7 002 Skills and Approaches for Work-based Learning (20 credits)

IS7 031 Taught Work-Related Modules (with negotiated specification) (10 credits)

IS7 903 Taught Work-Related Modules (with negotiated specification) (15 credits)

IS7 003 Taught Work-Related Modules (with negotiated specification) (20 credits)

IS7 960 Taught Work-Related Modules (with negotiated specification) (30 credits)

IS7 060  Taught Work-Related Modules (with negotiated specification) (40 credits)

IS7 911-914   Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (with negotiated specification) (15 credits)

IS7 011-016   Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (with negotiated specification) (20 credits)

IS7 917-919   Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (with negotiated specification) (30 credits)

IS7 017-019   Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (with negotiated specification) (40 credits)

IS7 020-021   Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (with negotiated specification) (60 credits)

IS7 023 Exit Review and Forward Planning (20 credits)

In addition to the above, students may, on negotiation, elect to include modules selected from the University's FHEQ level 7 module bank which are appropriate to the student's WBIS approved studies route.

Note: students may include a single, 20 credit, FHEQ level 6 module within their approved studies route (the rationale for this is stated above).


 See section 24c

Programme Award Titles and Component Modules.

The usual criteria relating to the quantity and level of credit will determine the exit awards: 

  • degree awards: the title  M.Sc. or M.A., will be conferred according to the same general criteria operating across the undergraduate Combined Honours framework, where the major discipline across the modules studied dictates the title; in the case of WBIS, all credit counted towards the relevant award shall be taken into account.  In the situation where individual modules are undertaken that have no distinct Arts/Science focus (such as, on occasion, experiential learning modules which may cross-cut disciplines) then the appropriate title of awards relating to the profession concerned will be the germane factor in the case of this particular credit (e.g. for students working in the field of nursing these modules will be counted as Science, or for a student who is a public sector manager, Arts). If, across an approved studies route, the nature of the exit award is for any reason in doubt, then the default degree award will be an Arts one. 
  • degree awards: in the case of the MBA award, where a student negotiates a programme that includes all of the following aspects : markets, customers, finance, management of operations, communication & information technology (CIT), business policy and strategy and pervasive issues in strategic business management, the final award will be Master of Business Administration (Work Based & Integrative Studies).
  • named approved studies: Where the Programme Team negotiates approved studies leading to an award with an individual student or with a client or partner institution involving a cohort of students, the award will be appropriately named and subject to final ratification by the University’s WBIS Approval Panel: e.g. M.Sc. Mental Health Nursing (Work Based and Integrative Studies). Award titles must relate to the student’s area of working practice and the modules which make up the approved studies route leading to the award must offer coherence.
  • intermediate awards of Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma will be available.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
IS7001 7 Self Review and Negotiation of Learning 20 N/A
IS7002 7 Skills and Approaches for Work-Based Learning 20 N/A
IS7003 7 Taught Work-Related Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7011 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7012 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7013 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7014 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7015 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7016 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 N/A
IS7017 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (double) 40 N/A
IS7018 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (double) 40 N/A
IS7019 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (double) 40 N/A
IS7020 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (Triple) 60 N/A
IS7021 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (NELM) (Triple) 60 N/A
IS7022 7 Designing Practitioner Research 20 N/A
IS7023 7 Exit Review and Forward Planning 20 N/A
IS7031 7 Taught Work-Related Module (half) 10 N/A
IS7060 7 Taught Work-Related Module (double) 40 N/A
IS7903 7 Taught Work-Related Module (15 Credits) 15 N/A
IS7911 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (15 Credits) 15 N/A
IS7912 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (15 Credits) 15 N/A
IS7913 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (15 Credits) 15 N/A
IS7914 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (15 Credits) 15 N/A
IS7917 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (30 Credits) 30 N/A
IS7918 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (30 Credits) 30 N/A
IS7919 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (30 Credits) 30 N/A
IS7960 7 Taught Work-Related Module (30 Credits) 30 N/A

FHEQLevel 7 - Master's Level
After admission to the programme at Level 7, the student or employer-client negotiates a WBIS approved studies pathway of either three, (Postgraduate Certificate) six (Postgraduate Diploma) or nine modules (M.A., M.Sc. or MBA).
Successful completion of the relevant number of modules will permit a student to exit the programme with :
i. a Postgraduate Certificate -(60 credits, 3 modules - minimum 40 credits at Level 7, maximum 20 creditsat Level 6)
ii. a Postgraduate Diploma -(120 credits, 6 modules - minimum 100 credits at Level 7, maximum 20 creditsat Level 6)
iii. a Master's Degree (M.A./M.Sc./MBA)- (180 credits, 9 modules - minimum 160 credits atLevel 7, maximum 20 credits at Level 6).

Entry Criteria:

It will be usual for candidates undertaking study at FHEQ Level 7 to have a first degree in any discipline together with requisite professional experience.  In certain circumstances, candidates without a first degree but with exceptional and high level professional responsibility and experience may be admitted directly to Level 7 study on the provision of evidence demonstrating their capability of study at this level. This will typically take the form of an interview, requiring them to provide evidence of their Master's Level cognitive skills and abilities as applied in the workplace (such as critical evaluation, strategic thinking and decision-making, etc). Where a candidate seeks entry to postgraduate study without professional experience a first degree normally achieved at second class honours or above will be a requirement.   Through the initial Self Review module students will be encouraged, if appropriate, to seek credit for prior learning (including prior experiential learning) through the University’s APL processes and procedures. 

In respect of the MBA (WBIS) entrance, students may not transfer into this programme after initial registration and they must also satisfy a mandatory requirement of an honours degree in an appropriate area and a minimum of two years appropriate management or business experience.


There are no benchmark characteristics specific to this programme except in respect of the MBA award (see below). Programmes are designed to embrace subject benchmark statements or relevant occupational standards or equivalents which delineate specialist practice areas where appropriate.

For the MBA award, Subject Benchmark Statements apply.

Under QAA typology the MBA is defined as a type 3 career development level 7 programme requiring significant relevant work experience.

"2.12 The MBA is defined as a career development generalist programme for those who have significant post-graduation and relevant work experience on which the learning process should build.  Normally, the experience required will be at least two years with the typical entrant having substantially more than this.  The main emphasis of these programmes is on leadership through strategic management.  While the academic level is positioned no differently from that of Type 2 programmes, there is a strong practical and professional orientation to the curriculum and they may be linked to professional institute qualifications.  Due to the maturity and work experience of the students, MBA programmes are expected to be different in their objectives, recruitment and pedagogical processes to other Master's degrees in business and management." (QAA 2007)

The MBA (WBIS) is firmly grounded in work based and action based learning and this is demonstrated by its learning methods and the experience of the teaching team of academics and practitioners.  Many of the teaching team hold professional qualifications in addition to academic qualifications.

"2.13 MBA degrees should be essentially generalist in nature although a limited amount of specialisation may be included." (QAA, 2007)

The MBA has a distinctive identity and has an international recognition for providing high quality broad based post-graduate management education to post-experience students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

"3.1 There is an expectation that generalist degree programmes covered by this subject benchmark statement should provide a broad, analytical and integrated study of business and management.  The specialist programmes will be expected to set the specialism within the context of the broader field of business and management." (QAA, 2007)

"3.2 All Master's graduates will therefore be able to demonstrate relevant knowledge and understanding of organisations, the external context in which they operate and how they are managed (see below).  There is likely to be an emphasis on understanding and responding to change and consideration of the future or organisations, and the external context in which they operate." (QAA, 2007)

The MBA (WBIS) culminates in a substantial Project or Dissertation.  This major piece of work gives the student an opportunity to demonstrate and comply with this QAA benchmark and also enhance their own career development within a working environment.

The negotiated nature of the programme requires that tutorial staff adopt flexible strategies for teaching and learning. A range of approaches is thus used depending on the focus of the module and the mode of delivery appropriate to the client group. Some examples are listed below:

  • Individual face-to-face tuition plus support and guidance via e-mail and telephone (e.g. Self Review and Exit Review and Progression, Negotiated Experiential Learning modules)
  • Blended Learning predominantly using a web-based VLE but with additional e-mail/Skype/telephone tutorial support (e.g. the Postgraduate Certificate in Regeneration)
  • Group Workshops plus online and e-mail support (e.g. Designing Practitioner Research, Taught WBIS modules, Skills and Approaches to Work-based Learning)
  • Action Learning sets
  • Role play activities and analysis of case studies (Conflict Transformation)
  • The use of online discussion groups with certain client groups (WBIS Postgraduate Certificate in Regeneration.)

Students are supported and their progress monitored by:-

i.  e-mail, Skype, phone and where feasible, face-to-face contact.

ii. formative feedback on assignments.

ii. publication of four assignment submission deadlines throughout the year.

iv. contact of fallow students by their PAT three times per year.

In the spirit of work-based learning, assessment within this programme is often negotiable within set parameters outlined in the module descriptors, allowing participants to present workplace artefacts (where appropriate), and negotiate forms of assessment that otherwise have relevance to the workplace.

Description of the range of assessment methods 

Assessment and learning are seen as complementary and interdependent. Where modules allow students to negotiate individual assignments, these will be designed to assess all or some of the learning outcomes.

i. Modules specific to the WBIS programme.

A number of modules on the programme (e.g. Self Review and Negotiation of Learning, Exit Review and Progression Planning, the NELM modules) enable students to identify realistic outcomes and promote self-audit of intellectual and practical capability, and attainment of personal development through critical reflection. Students are encouraged to reflect critically on some of the following areas: relevant professional knowledge, current working practices, problem solving, analytical and decision-making skills, pro-activity, creativity, and their ability to relate theory to practice, personal transferable skills, sensitivity to people and events, emotional resilience.

The modes of assessment used on the programme will include for example: critically reflective essay, presentation, project report, dialogue interview, an experiential learning proposal, a work-based research proposal and, on negotiation, work place artefacts. Examples of such artefacts might include: a website designed by the student, a video or DVD produced by the student, company report, policy or procedure, a database and supportive training documentation developed by the student. The mode of assessment appropriate to and agreed in the the Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules, will be formalised in the Negotiated Experiential Learning Agreement (NELA). Formal examinations are not normally used as a mode of assessment within the WBIS accredited modules.

Re-assessment will normally be designed to assess the same qualities and learning outcomes as the original assessment. However the method by which these are assessed may be changed in order that students are given maximum opportunity to demonstrate their learning. This will be specified in the module descriptor.

 ii. Modules selected from the UC module bank and integrated within the student's approved studies pathway: assessment and re-assessment will conform to specification outlined in the validated programme and its module descriptors.

Level related assessment criteria: Assessment for all modules within this programme will conform to the generic FHEQ 7 Level descriptors, and the assessment criteria and methods published for those modules.

As WBIS is a programme which is designed to facilitate work-based and work-related learning, students following the programme are typically already in employment. Graduates who have already completed the programme indicate that the skills and abilities they have developed during their period of study have enabled them to reflect upon, and consider, their personal and professional development in some depth.

Career paths followed by WBIS students are hugely varied, though substantial numbers work in the fields of management, education, nursing, IT, services, administration and coaching.

WBIS students are encouraged, when appropriate, to undertake the Exit Review and Forward Planning module at the end of their period of study on the programme. This module enables students to reflect on their development across their entire WBIS programme of study and encourages them to plan for future career and personal development. Until recently, it was a unique module in Higher Education in the UK, and has since been adopted as good practice on similar programmes of negotiated work-based learning at other UK HEIs.

The WBIS programme fully embraces the University's Lifelong Learning and Widening Access and Participation agendas, being specifically designed to facilitate a negotiated curriculum that is tailored to the learner's needs and flexible in terms of both the mode and location of delivery, and of assessment. The programme is open to all students who meet the admission requirements specified in section 30 above.

The needs of students with specific needs or disabilities are closely managed in collaboration with the University's Disability Support Service. A number of staff within the Centre have experience in supporting students with specific needs /disabilities.

A Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks will not normally be required unless, in completing a module(s), students are working with children or vulnerable adults. In the case of NELM modules, this issue will be discussed during negotiation of the Negotiated Experiential Learning Agreement (NELA).

Link to the Schedule of modules approved by the WBIS Approval Panel

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