The University of Leeds degree classification profile over the last five years (2015-2019) shows an increase of (8.3%) in the proportion of first class degrees awarded over that period and a reduction in the number of upper second class honours (4.5%), lower and undivided second class honours (3.0%) and third class/pass degrees (0.8%).
Assessment and marking practices
The appropriateness of the assessment strategy and alignment to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) for modules and programmes is considered as part of the approval process. All new programmes and major amendments are sent for external subject-specialist review to confirm the appropriateness of the level and alignment with sector expectations.
In common with the rest of the sector, calibration of academic standards is criteria referenced, rather than norm referenced. Codes of Practice on Assessment conform to a common University template, are approved annually and published to students. Assessment criteria are specified in appendices to each schools Code of Practice on Assessment, along with the approach to marking and assessment practices. Codes of Practice on Assessment also specify the approach schools take to the double marking and check marking of assessments.
Training in the design of assessment strategies forms an integral part of programmes for staff new to teaching, and is aligned to the Advance Higher Education (Advance HE) UK Professional Standards Framework.
The approach to assessment and marking practices is considered as part of our rolling and periodic review processes and external examiners are asked to verify compliance with the expectations of National Subject Benchmark Statements, where these are available. External Examiners are appointed for each programme of study and are asked to comment on the alignment of intended learning outcomes with assessment, the appropriateness of the assessment methods for the level of the award and the academic standards demonstrated by students.
From 2020/21, external examiners will also be requested to comment on degree classification trends over time. We will also review our approach to the induction of external examiners and will introduce revised materials aligned with Advance HE resources in the 2020/21 academic session.
The approach to student cases is aligned to the Universitys Academic Appeals Procedure, Mitigating Circumstances Guidance and the Academic Misconduct Procedure. An annual student cases summary is considered through the academic governance structure and actioned as appropriate.
The Universitys Standards Steering Group, reporting to the Taught Student Education Board, has oversight of the Universitys regulatory framework for assessment and standards and has provided a forum for ensuring consistency of practice across the University. A broad overview of the outcomes of the Groups deliberations is reported to the Universitys Senate and Council, via the Universitys Quality Assessment Framework Report, and includes analysis of degree outcomes over time.
Assessment, Progress and Award Boards operate on a school-by-school basis on delegated authority of the Senate to institutionally specified terms of reference. All collaborative provision arrangements are aligned to a School Assessment Board and awards are ratified within the University.
An Assessment Strategy Group has developed the Universitys strategy for assessment and associated feedback to students, and has devised and is overseeing the implementation of Leeds Expectations for Assessment and Feedback. This incorporates a holistic approach based on the Assessment Transformation Framework (Higher Education Academy, 2015), and sets out expectations grounded in principles that consider, amongst other matters:
- The nature of our assessment regimes, structures and processes
- How we measure achievement
- Our assessors and the expectations we place upon them
- The understanding and confidence our students have in our assessments; and the promotion of the intellectual curiosity, creativity and ambition of students.
The University works to a common set of Ordinances and Regulations, supplemented by Rules for Award (PDF) that apply to all taught provision, ensuring consistent requirements across the University. This approach is summarised for students in the Code of Practice for Assessment.
All marks are returned on a 0-100 scale, with year averages calculated accordingly. A common classification system was introduced in 2000 and has remained unchanged, apart from the removal of 20-90 marking scale from 2018/19 (formerly this entailed translation of marks on 20-90 and 0-100 scales to a common classification grade; outcomes using the historic translation and current 0-100 averages were compared by student and cohort).
Consideration of the following areas is currently in progress: criteria for and nature of academic discretion, classification boundaries, and the relative weighting of FHEQ levels 5 and 6.
Teaching practices and learning resources
The University has invested substantially in the academic and physical infrastructure over the five-year period and provides a state-of-the-art learning environment. This includes extensive and highly regarded libraries and study facilities (the University scores highly in the National Student Survey for resources, being rated at 91% in 2017 and 2018, and 90% in 2019), continued support for professional development and excellence in teaching, substantial digital investments supporting learning and teaching practices, and a significant programme of new-build and renovation developments.
In 2017 the University received a Gold award in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, which recognised the Universitys approach to supporting, professionalising and rewarding teaching excellence. This commitment to student education, alongside work to refine the approach to assessment methodologies, has helped to improve student engagement and is held to have had a positive impact on outcome standards.
Under the Leeds Curriculum, all undergraduate programmes are required to culminate in a major autonomous piece of research, which is normally at least 40 credits. This was introduced universally for those students entering the University in 2014/15, and must be recognisable as research within the students discipline. External examiners attest to the high quality of the student projects and schools have cited engagement with the project as contributing to the improvement in outcomes standards.
In addition, there has been an increase in the proportion of students choosing four-year programme variants (undertaking either an industrial placement or study abroad year, from 14.7% of the population in 2015 to 24% in 2019). Analysis indicates these students perform strongly in the final year (FHEQ level 6) when they re-join the cohort on three-year courses.
Good practice and actions
The University takes its responsibility for securing standards seriously and routinely monitors degree classification trends, including across demographic groups. In response to the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) Statement of the Intent, the University is undertaking the following and will present a timeframe for implementation to the Taught Student Education Board in the autumn term 2020/21:
- Consideration of proposed revisions to the Universitys Degree Classification Algorithm [academic discretion, classification boundaries and the relative weightings of FHEQ levels 5 and 6]
- A review of the information contained within the Codes of Practice on Assessment to ensure that the description of the classification algorithm is clear and accessible to students
- More explicit focus on assessment, calibration of standards and alignment to the Leeds Expectations for Assessment and Feedback in module and review processes and embedded within staff induction processes
- The appointment of an Institutional External Examiner in the session 2019/20 to provide an overview of the Universitys approach to standards
- Routine reporting of classification trends over a five-year period as part of annual review activities and to Assessment Boards from 2020/21 onwards.
- Requirement for external examiners to comment on classification trends over time
- Improved resources and induction for external examiners.