Degree outcomes statement 2021/22

This statement provides an overview of the University’s classification profile over the last five years.

It is set out in accordance with guidance issued by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) that expects universities in England and Wales to periodically publish details of their undergraduate degree classification profiles and any developments resulting from internal institutional review. Universities UK also made a commitment to this approach in an announcement published in July 2022.

This statement replaces the University’s previous Degree Outcome Statement that was published in 2020, and provides the undergraduate classification profile relating to the years 2017/18 to 2021/22. The statement reports on all Undergraduate (FHEQ 6) and Integrated Master’s (FHEQ 7) awards. Over this period of time the University has seen an increase in the proportion of ‘good degrees’ awarded (2:1s and 1s), with a particularly marked increase in the proportion of 1s awarded in 2019/20 and 2020/21. The profile for these years was affected by special measures introduced by the University to ensure that students were not unfairly disadvantaged by impact of the global pandemic.

Academic year First class degrees Upper second class degrees Lower second class degrees Third class and pass degrees
2017/18 32% 55% 11% 2%
2018/19 33% 54% 11% 2%
2019/20 41% 49% 9% 1%
2020/21 48% 44% 7% 1%
2021/22 44% 44% 9% 3%

Classification algorithm

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 each school’s Code of Practice for Assessment that conforms to a University specified template.

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).

The degree class for Bachelor’s degrees with classified honours is currently determined according to the better of 1:1 or 1:2 weighting of grades between programme year 2 and 3 (for FHEQ levels 5 and 6) respectively and equivalent weightings for degree programmes of other durations. All marks are returned on a 0-100 scale, with year averages calculated accordingly.

The University mitigated the potential adverse impact of the pandemic through the approval of exceptional measures. The normal regulations applied, alongside the mitigation of removing results returned within 2019/20 from the calculation (using a 0:1 weighting or equivalent ratio) or by applying a prevailing classification average that excluded numerical marks returned for semester 2 2019/20. Whilst the impact of these measures can be seen within the classification profile reported, external examiners confirmed the appropriateness and fairness of the approach that we took.

A revised classification algorithm is being implemented for undergraduate students commencing their studies in 2022/23. The approach has been simplified to improve transparency for students and staff, and to ensure alignment with the UKSCQA Principles for Effective Degree Algorithm Design. The revised approach includes: use of decile boundaries; use of raw module marks; the sole use of a 1:2 weighting (for FHEQ levels 5 and 6) for classification of 3 year undergraduate degrees (and equivalent weightings for degree programmes of other durations), and; the removal of discretionary consideration for borderline outcomes.

Academic governance

The University’s Quality and Standards Committee, reporting to the Taught Student Education Board, has oversight of the University’s regulatory framework for quality, standards and assessment. An overview of analysis and resultant action is reported to the University’s Senate and Council through the annual Student Education Summary Statement, which includes consideration of degree outcomes over time. Classification trends are also routinely considered at school and faculty Taught Student Education Committees, with an expectation that any actions required in the light of this consideration are incorporated within school action plans.

The institutional template for school Codes of Practice on Assessment specifies the approach to be taken in relation to the marking and moderation of assessments. Assessment, Progression and Award Boards operate on a school-by-school basis on the delegated authority of the Senate to institutionally specified terms of reference. The University’s small number of collaborative provision arrangements are aligned to a School Assessment Board and all awards are ratified within the University.

Our approach to assessment

The University has committed to excellence in student education and has invested substantially in the academic and physical infrastructure, including continued support for professional development and excellence in teaching, substantial digital investments supporting learning and teaching practices.

In the autumn of 2021 we implemented a new institution-wide Assessment Strategy to ensure that our approach to assessment is:

  • fair – so that the marks students are awarded are a true reflection of their achievement
  • inclusive – so that all students have an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills and understanding
  • authentic – so that assessments reflect tasks that are appropriate for the subjects students are studying and have relevance to the challenges they will face and the careers they may pursue after graduation.

As part of our Curriculum Redefined Project we have commenced on a 10 year University-wide project (from 2021) to review and refresh all our taught programmes, and will ensure the effective implementation of our assessment strategy as part of this undertaking.

We have also implemented an Access and Student Success Strategy 2025 (PDF) which works across the full student lifecycle, through: Access, Continuation, Attainment and Progression. This strategy identifies and seeks to address a number of areas of differential attainment between student groups, particularly between students from under-represented backgrounds and their more well-represented peers. The approach to the implementation of this strategy has been data-led, investigating degree awarding gaps in detail to understand the factors contributing to these gaps and ensure that our interventions are appropriately contextualised, targeted and proportional.

Summary and completed and ongoing steps

We continue to reflect on our approach to assessment design and means by which we ensure and uphold the standards of our awards via the appropriate calibration of standards. We are committed to returning to a more normalised profile of classification following the period disrupted by the pandemic. To achieve this, concluded and current ongoing activities include:

  • the implementation of our revised Degree Classification Algorithm (which will apply to those undergraduate students commencing their studies from 2022/23)
  • a review of the information contained within the Codes of Practice on Assessment to ensure that the description of our current classification algorithm is clear and accessible to students
  • the appointment of an Institutional External Examiner from the session 2019/20 to strengthen our institutional level overview of our approach to standards
  • the implementation of a requirement for all external examiners to comment on classification trends over time
  • the improvement of the resources and the induction we provide for our external examiners
  • the implementation of our assessment strategy and more explicit focus on assessment design and the calibration of standards within our rolling review and staff induction processes.