Students of fine art and sociology are likely to have higher average marks than students of law, a study of modular schemes in six universities has found.
It also found the spread of marks was broader in subjects such as mathematics and law than in others. Both these findings suggest it is easier to ensure comparability of standards within a subject discipline than across them.
The authors of the study suggest that they "raise the issue of the equity of treatment in the assessment of students."
Mantz Yorke, director of the centre for higher education development at Liverpool John Moores University and one of the researchers on the study, says: "The old CNAA student database showed that it was easier to get a first-class degree in some subjects than others. What is new is that there is now empirical evidence of subject-specific characteristics in assessment outcomes which appear to extend across institutions."
The research has been carried out by the student assessment and classification working group, with members from Anglia Polytechnic, Liverpool John Moores, London Guildhall, Middlesex, Oxford Brookes and Wolverhampton universities.
The findings are based on the outcomes of some 90,000 module assessments at levels 2 and 3 in the six institutions.