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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has unveiled plans for its flagship Diploma qualification, following a review carried out by Jane Brocket MW. Chief executive Andrew Paviour said this was the first review since 1992 (which was implemented from '96). Some changes will be effective this year, but most will come into force in 2003. One of the key findings from the research - which includes the views of students, employers, lecturers and examiners - is that lecture time devoted to the New World should be increased. School principal David Hunter said that from this year, the time spent on North and South America and South Africa would increase to five hours, Australia and New Zealand to four. More time will also be given to Spain (up to four hours), Alsace, Eastern France and the Rhne (an extra half-hour each). Coverage of Italy is also being reviewed. The UK and central and southeastern Europe will receive less coverage. Brocket said that feedback on the current Diploma was positive', and there were no plans to change the timing of the course, to make it modular or to extend it. Employers had requested greater emphasis on commercial realities' - a realistic understanding of the market based on volumes and turnovers. Feedback on the WSET's Systematic Approach to Tasting was hugely positive', said Brocket, but students requested more consistency in lecturers' use of it. She said that another area of concern was exam preparation, and that there is a need to establish learning outcomes', so that students and lecturers alike know better what is expected of them. David Wrigley MW, director of WSET Awards, stressed that the school did not want to cramp lecturers' style' or be dogmatic or dictatorial', but wished instead to help and support'. On the role of employers in ensuring suitable candidates are entered, Wrigley cited as ideal the Oddbins' entrance exam, whereby prospective students are tested. With most growth in student numbers coming from overseas, the Diploma essay came under pressure for being peculiarly British'. The WSET will retain it, however, as it gives the best students the opportunity to shine', but the Implementation Team is looking to incorporate multiple choice questions and introduce coursework to ease the burden on examination day', according to Brocket. Lecturers will no longer mark exam papers. The Diploma is pitched at level four' (first-year undergraduate) and the WSET is hoping to get Qualifications & Curriculum Authority accreditation for education best practice. Paviour intimated that the WSET and Institute of Masters of Wine are increasingly working together and looking to align their programmes. He said that Copia, the new American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, in the Napa Valley, (Harpers, 30 November) is to run WSET courses, and may run MW courses as well.