Skip to content

Governance and Structure

​​​​​The University Executive Committee is responsible for all matters associated with the development and management of the university.

Degree Outcomes Statement 2022

Last updated: 30 November 2022

1. Introduction

1.1 The aim of this statement is to describe how the University of Gloucestershire is protecting the value of its qualifications over time. This is one of the four primary regulatory objectives of the Office for Students, which is further explained in Condition B4.4.e.i which states that universities in England are required to monitor and manage classifications awarded and the way in which these classifications change over time and compare with other providers.

1.2 The first version of this Statement was published in March 2020, in response to the report Degree classification: transparency, reliability and fairness – a statement of intent published by the UK Standing Committee on Quality Assurance (UKSCQA).  This report set out the expectation for all institutions to publish a ‘Degree Outcomes Statement’ during the academic year 2019/20.

1.3 This latest version of the University’s Statement has been produced following a commitment made by Universities UK in July 2022 that all universities would revisit their previous Statements. UUK suggested that universities should report to their governing bodies and then publish revised Statements by the end of 2022 that include:

a) a review of progress against actions set out in previous Statements;
b) a commitment to restart any outstanding actions paused during the pandemic with revised timelines, where they are still relevant;
c) an assessment of pandemic-related changes and the impact on degree classification, using pre-pandemic data (relating to 2018/19) as an appropriate benchmark and setting out how they will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2022/23;
d) a commitment to further actions to address any areas where there is unexplained inflation;
e) an explanation of how sector-supported principles on degree algorithms and external examiners are being followed.

1.4 It covers final classifications for graduates at Level 6 and also includes awards delivered through collaborative partnership arrangements.

2. The University’s Degree Classification Profile

2.1. The table below shows the percentage of University of Gloucestershire students achieving a classification of First and 2:1 across the past four years.

First Degrees Degree Classifications (all students, including collaborative provision)

YearUpper Awards% Point ChangeFirsts2:1s
2018/2079.9%+ 6.6%32.5%47.4%
2020/2174.7%– 5.2%28.9%45.8%
2021/2262.9%– 11.8%20.0%42.9%

2.2 This table clearly shows the impact of the University’s temporary ‘no detriment’ degree algorithm policy that was introduced due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and affected degrees awarded in 2019/20 and 2020/21. This temporary policy reduced the volume of credit which featured in award classification calculations. However, underlying student performance remained consistent across this period. The variation in proportion of upper awards made was therefore the result of the changed classification algorithm and not student performance.

Mean module mark by level


2.3. This data shows that the University has returned to pre-pandemic levels of award classifications. The reasons for the further change between 2018/19 and 2021/22 are due to changes made to the degree classification algorithm to ensure the University is aligned with sector best practice. These changes are described further in section 6 below.

Specifically in relation to students gaining their award through a collaborative relationship with a partner institution, the University experienced a similar pattern of increased proportions of upper awards due to ‘no detriment’ policy in place during 2019/20 and 2020/21.

First Degrees Degree Classifications (collaborative provision only)

YearUpper Awards% Point ChangeFirsts 2:1s
2019/2071.5%+ 7.7%24.5%47.0%
2020/2170.5%– 1.0%22.4%48.1%
2021/2264.1%– 6.4%19.4%44.7%

2.4 The University carefully monitors the classification it awards against sector averages. The latest information published by the Office for Students (OfS) relates to the 2020/21 academic year1. In this data, the University was listed 109th out of 143 providers for the percentage of upper awards made.

2.5. The OfS also calculated a so-called ‘unexplained attainment’ figure, by which the OfS mean attainment which cannot be statistically accounted for by changes in the characteristics of the graduating cohort. Factors such as improvements in teaching quality or more diligent students are excluded from this calculation. Under this measure, the University was ranked 108th out of 143 providers with ‘unexplained attainment’ in 2020/21 of 9.3 percentage points. The available data indicates that the University has contained well the inflationary aspects of the ‘no detriment’ degree algorithm policy on its own terms and in comparison with the sector.

2.6. The University has also managed its awards over a more extended period of time. The OfS data for the ten-year period from 2010/11 to 2011/12 shows that the proportion of upper awards has not grown significantly and is lower than the sector average. The proportion of unexplained upper awards is also favourable compared to the sector average.


Degree attainment 2010/11 to 2020/21

Graph showing degree attainment 2010/11-2020/21.

2.7 The University’s proportion of upper awards has seen little change over the 10-year period covered by the OfS in their latest report. This is a marked difference from the sector, where the overall percentage of upper degrees has increased substantially over this period: from 64.9% to 81.2%.

2.8 The University has also taken action to ensure consistent understanding of student achievement and how it is calibrated and benchmarked incorporating discussions regarding sector-wide data comparisons at exam boards, the development of reports to analyse student achievement at module level and specifically amending the External Examiner report to focus on student achievement and the proportion of upper degrees.

3. Assessment and marking practices

3.1. The University’s Quality Framework has been aligned with the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) UK Quality Code. At the core of this framework is the concept of externality and the role of External Examiners is central to this. Amongst other things, External Examiners ensure that standards and comparability (both internally and externally) are maintained and that students have fulfilled the objectives of the module and reached the required standards of the award. The University has appointed External Examiners according to strict criteria for appointment, in line with the QAA’s guidance, which ensures that external participants are not only suitably qualified in terms of subject and quality expertise but are genuinely able to bring an independent perspective to the University’s work. The involvement of External Examiners is fundamental throughout the end-to-end process of assessment, from the scrutiny of assessments to the conferment of awards.

3.2. During 2017/18 the University became an early adopter of ‘Professional Development for External Examiners’, an initiative led by Advance HE which was developed following the national review of quality assessment in 2016 and the resulting development of the ‘Degree Standards Project’. The main aim of the course is to improve consistency of academic judgements across the sector. A number of University staff have been trained by Advance HE to become facilitators of the course. This means that we deliver the course not only in support of the professional development of our External Examiners but also to our own staff in order to ensure that, across the institution, awareness is raised of the nature and related challenges of academic standards and potential innovations that are currently being considered across the sector.

3.3. In order for a new course to be validated, it must be evidenced that it meets the University’s range of validation criteria which crucially include giving due regard to external requirements (i.e. the mapping to the Framework for HE Qualifications, relevant QAA Subject Benchmarks and specific requirements defined by Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies) to ensure that awards of the University achieve the appropriate level and subject content as assessed through learning outcomes. Any subsequent modifications that are made at course or module level, including the amendment of learning outcomes, are subject to a process that includes scrutiny and approval by the External Examiner.

3.4. The University’s Assessment Guidelines are regularly reviewed. These guidelines, which sit within the wider regulatory framework of the Academic Regulations for Taught Provision (ARTP), define the end-to-end process of assessment and clearly detail the University’s expectations from assessment design (including assessment criteria) through to the marking of assessments including first marking, double and/or second and, when required, third marking, and moderation. External Examiners moderate every component of assessment at every level to ensure that marking standards are consistent and appropriate and that students have reached the required standard. Through this process the University takes confidence that the marks awarded are not only accurate but are comparable with the sector. Courses delivered through the University’s collaborative provision are also subject to the same regulatory framework, assessment guidelines and involvement of External Examiners.

3.5. Other assessment-related policies and regulations that directly impact the outcome of awards, such as Extenuating Circumstances, Appeals and Complaints, and Academic Misconduct, are managed through central University teams therefore ensuring consistency of approach and application across the institution.

3.6. Each course is also required to have an approved Course Assessment Strategy (CAS) which ensures oversight and a shared understanding of assessment across the course team and students as well as consistency of assessment within and across levels whilst ensuring careful consideration and action in relation to assessment load. This requirement includes courses delivered through partnerships.

4. Academic Governance

4.1. Academic Board is responsible for the conferment of the University’s awards and delegates this authority to Boards of Examiners (BoE). Membership of the BoEs include External Examiners who have particular responsibility for ensuring that standards and comparability are maintained and for judging whether students have fulfilled the objectives of the module and reached the required standard. The University operates a two-tier system of BoEs to agree assessment outcomes. The first tier, or Module Board of Examiners (MBEs), confirms marks and awards credit at module level for all students studying the modules in its subject area. The second tier, the Award Board of Examiners (ABEs), uses those confirmed marks to make decisions on the progression of students and the classification of awards. In addition, the ABE also maintains oversight of the whole assessment cycle to ensure that a consistent approach is used to arrive at outcomes for all students and monitors outcomes to ensure that they are in line with national benchmarks therefore remaining vigilant for unexplained grade inflation.

4.2. An Annual Assurance Statement is produced for Council by Academic Board to provide assurance of the academic quality and standards of the University’s awards. It is intended to:
a) assure Council of the University’s approach to continuous improvement of the student academic experience and student outcomes;
b) summarise evidence from periodic review and other review processes;
c) summarise how student feedback has been used to enhance the student academic experience and student outcomes;
d) provide evidence of embedded external peer and professional review;
e) assure Council that the University has robust measures in place to maintain the standards of awards for which the University is responsible.

4.3. Courses that are delivered through collaborative partnerships are subject to the same quality assurance and governance mechanisms as the University’s ‘home’ provision. In addition, they are subject to close scrutiny by the Annual Business Review (ABR) of Collaborative Partners which is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. A RAG-rated approach ensures that focus is targeted at any areas of concern and resulting actions are followed up by a mid-year Interim ABR.

5. Classification Algorithms

5.1. The University reviews the ARTP annually and, as such, there have been significant changes made across recent years and these are detailed below. These changes are separate to those introduced to ensure students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were not placed in a detrimental position. The University is confident that, taken in combination, these changes have significantly reinforced the robustness of our awarding practice.

5.2. The University introduced new regulations which took effect at the beginning of 2017/18 for all students entering in that year. Each element of the ARTP was considered and carefully modelled to ensure that it was not contributing to any potential for grade inflation and, as such, the following significant changes were made:
a) The degree algorithm. For students entering in 2017/18 two methods of calculating degree classifications were used. The first method used all 120 credits at the level of the award (prior to 2017/18, this method of classifying degrees was calculated using only the ‘best’ 90 credits at levels 5 and/or 6. The second method used all the credit at the level of the award and the level below the award i.e. this method incorporated credit from both levels 5 and 6, with the weighting 20:80 levels 5:6. The outcome using both methods was used for all students, with the higher classification being award.
b) Prior to 2017/18 students that achieved within one mark of a classification border and met other eligibility criteria were ‘upgraded’ to the higher classification. This facility was removed for 2017/18 entry students onwards.
c) The facility to condone failed modules was removed at the same time.

5.3. The University has subsequently made further changes to its degree algorithm to follow the recommendations more closely in the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assurance’s Principles for Effective Degree Algorithm Design report published in July 2020. Specifically:
a) For students entering in 2021/22, the University moved to use only one degree algorithm based on all credit obtained at levels 5 and 6.
b) The algorithm weighting of 0/33/67 between levels 4, 5, and 6 was adopted at the same time, which is one of the models recommended by the UKSCQA. Previously the University had employed a 0/20/80 model (as noted above). The new weighting was introduced for students graduating in 2021/22, but for those students who started programmes before 2021/22 it only applies where it gives students a better outcome than the algorithm they entered on. This phased implementation is to make sure students are not disadvantaged by the change.
c) The University had previously rounded marks at two points: at the module level and at final classification. It has been agreed that the final module mark will be expressed to one decimal place with effect from September 2023, in line with recommendations in the report. This will ensure marks are only rounded at one point. For those students who started programmes before 2021/22, the classification will be determined using both rounded and unrounded module marks and the higher classification will be awarded.

5.4. Especially when considering the changes introduced to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has made several changes to its degree algorithms in recent years. However, for students entering in 2021/22 onwards there should be stability, with all students having their classification based on the average (not rounded) of the best grades at the level one below that of the award amounting to 120 credits, weighted at 33%, plus the average (not rounded) of the best grades at the level of the award amounting to 120 credits, weighted at 67%, rounded to the nearest whole number.

5.5. The University is therefore confident it has an approach to degree classification which is fair, transparent, and accords closely with sector best practice.

6. Review of progress against actions set out in previous Statements

6.1. In its first Statement, the University committed to review its use of two classification calculation methods in order to ensure that this is not contributing in any way to grade inflation. This was undertaken and one model is now used, as noted in 5 above. More generally the University committed to follow closely the sector dialogue and developments in best practice for classifications and, as described in this report, the University has kept this commitment.

Was this article helpful?