Consistent considerations

July 25, 2013

We note that the debate about degree classifications and institutional regulations and actions to increase the proportion of first- and upper-second-class degrees is being raised again: “Surrey considered grade targets for staff appraisals”, 18 July, and the “bending of rules” by universities to award more firsts, according to other media reports.

As performance measures in terms of degree outcomes become increasingly important to institutions as well as to graduates, it is perhaps surprising that there is not more informed debate about the variability in assessment regulations between institutions. This has been a long-standing interest of the Student Assessment and Classification Working Group, resulting in a number of publications going back over 15 years. Our most recent research is into the variability in relation to regulatory frameworks for passing assessments and reassessment opportunities in the first year, on which we will present findings later this year.

Given concerns about equity and potential grade inflation in a market-oriented higher education system, the current variability raises the question of whether some degree of convergence in key principles for assessment regulations is something the sector should consider.

Marie Stowell
Chair of the Student Assessment and Classification Working Group
Director of quality and educational development
University of Worcester

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