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University of Manchester Degree Outcomes Statement

In May 2019 the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment published a Statement of Intent recommending that every higher education provider across England should publish a Degree Outcomes Statement analysing their degree classification profile and providing the results of internal reflection and review of their arrangements for teaching, learning and assessment of students, academic regulations, and academic governance. 

The following information is the result of that internal review and reflection at the University of Manchester and is updated annually:

Institutional degree classification profile

The University's degree classification profile can be seen in the document linked to below, which shows the percentage of degree classifications awarded since 2017.  

The University remains committed to the targets set out in our Access and Participation Plan and to implement strategic evidence-based interventions to remove the Awarding gap for all students.  The University continues to see an awarding gap between white, black and Asian students. In 2021/22, the awarding gap between white and black students decreased from 16.2% in 2020-21 to 12.5%, although this remains higher than our milestone target. The awarding gap between white and Asian students was 9.3% in 2021/22, an increased from 11.5% in 2020/21. We have met our APP milestone target for the awarding gap between disabled and non-disabled students which has decreased to 2%, since 2020/21 when it was 3.7%. The gap between IMD (indices of multiple disadvantage) Quintile 1 and 5 students has increased from 11.5% in 2020-21 to 13.6% in 2021-22.

Our degree classification algorithm has remained the same (aside from additional arrangements put in place during and following the Covid-19 pandemic to seek to ensure that students studying during this period were not adversely affected by the pandemic; for example, the introduction of a 1% increase in the boundary zone between classifications).

With reference to our Degree Outcomes, we operate in accordance with the UUK Degree Classification ‘Statement of Intent’ and review our outcomes regularly in order to identify any unexpected uplifts.

The University is firmly committed to being an open and accessible university that pro-actively seeks out students capable of benefiting from higher education. The University’s strategy for widening participation is set out in our Access and Participation Plan with the Office for Students (OfS) and is overseen by the University’s Access and Participation Strategy Group. The Access and Participation Plan covers the whole of the student lifecycle, from increasing the entry rates of widening participation students into HE to improving retention and attainment rates whilst at university and supporting progression into graduate-level employment or further study.

Good practice and Teaching and Learning Enhancement Activity

The Institute of Teaching and Learning website and blog posts encourage sharing of good practice in relation to teaching, learning, assessment and student support (Academic Advising). Various teaching toolkits and resources have been designed to provide ideas, strategies and techniques to support teaching staff in enhancing key areas of their teaching,  learning, assessment and advising practice.

The Institute’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference facilitates the sharing of good practice and cross-disciplinary networking on strategic themes. For example, ‘Exploring Assessment’ was a key theme of the 2023 conference, covering: authentic assessment; learning through assessment; effective feedback; how to create secure and reliable assessments; and exploring the potential impact of technological advancements like AI assistance on assessment. The conference is also a pipeline for sharing material to improve practice through the TEA blog and the Open Workshops Programme. Recordings and resources are also made available on the ITL website.

Assessment and Feedback is a popular strand of the ITL’s Open Workshop Programme, which runs throughout the academic year and is open to all staff:

A Teaching and Learning Online Network (TALON) Yammer group has been set up for colleagues to share good practice and find answers to queries relating to teaching, learning or assessment, with over 500 colleagues currently signed up. This is a peer-to-peer group which is self-sustaining and has led to active collaboration on education projects.

The Institute of Teaching and Learning coordinates the University’s ‘Leadership in Education Awards Programme’ (LEAP) which is accredited by AdvanceHE to make awards against Descriptors 1-4 of the UK Professional Standards Framework. As part of their award LEAP alumni are invited to share their practice via One-Minute CPD videos or case studies. LEAP is available to all staff and there are various routes for students to gain awards through participation in relevant University activities.

Good practice is routinely brought into the New Academics Programme (for all new academic appointments, accredited at D2 of the UKPSF) with more units being delivered collaboratively across the three Faculty pathways.

The Institute of Teaching and Learning has a fellowship programme for colleagues to work on strategic projects and University-wide initiatives. Fellows work closely with student partners providing employment opportunities for students and bringing students into the heart of academic development initiatives.

A new Teaching and Learning Excellence at Manchester webpage has been developed which provides information about fostering a culture of excellence for both students and academics.  This aligns with our Teaching, Learning and Students (TLS) priorities and includes some of the examples highlighted above, plus details of initiatives to prepare future leaders for a challenging, ever-changing world, for example, through Stellify (co-curricular activities and volunteering opportunities) and Ethical Grand Challenges.

Assessment and marking practices

The University has an Assessment Framework in place which governs our approach to assessment across the institution and includes policies on marking, moderation, feedback, examination board procedures and mitigating circumstances. We also have a set of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Degree Regulations which contain the regulations specific to a student's programme of study, including details concerning assessment and progression, reassessment and classification.

Processes for designing assessment are in place whereby specific assessment criteria are produced in order to demonstrate that students' intended learning outcomes are achieved. Schools publish details of their programmes' intended learning outcomes in a programme specification set up for each individual programme.

The University's Policy on Marking sets out arrangements for internal examining and moderation, and external moderation, to ensure robust checking and moderation of assessment. Marking criteria are determined at School/programme level to ensure that the most appropriate criteria are in place for specific programmes. Students are provided with the marking criteria in programme handbooks or on programme intranets at the start of their programme of study.

The Institute of Teaching and Learning has produced an Online and Blended Learning (OBL) Assessment Toolkit which outlines the University's key assessment principles and recommended inclusive online assessment types. This guidance has been developed to help colleagues to make decisions about assessments in an online, blended and flexible learning environment. The Institute also provides other resources for staff around assessment, including a contract cheating toolkit, which aims to raise awareness about contract cheating as a form of academic malpractice, and offer ways in which to combat it. More work around Assessment Security generally (anti-cheating measures) has taken place in recent years in order to identify the issues and encourage students in good practice.

Quality assurance

The University of Manchester protects the integrity of its degree outcomes through a collective responsibility for quality assurance.  Colleagues across the university (and where delivery takes place at a validated partner) operate closely and collaboratively, and within a robust institutional framework that maintains consistency and alignment with expected standards and quality.    

Objective scrutiny is an integral component of our quality framework where student partners, industry professionals, academic peers and external examiners are a prominent feature of programme approval and major amendment processes, the latter of whom are also required to attend examination boards.  Such critical inspection prevents complacency, supports calibration across and within subject areas and ensures compliance with sector expectations. A coordinated programme to review practices is being strengthened across this academic year and future years, including partnering with those outside the immediacy of the Programme Team which will form part of this process.

A cyclical schedule of continuous monitoring, review and enhancement ensures there is a constant and cumulative dialogue to ensure the maintenance of standards and the enhancement of the student experience at the University.  The Annual Performance Review considers classification data as part of its scope, and an extended meeting of the Teaching and Learning Strategy Group (TLSG), provides a summative opportunity to join up critical reflection from throughout the year.  An aggregated institutional report of external examiner feedback and a summary report of those submitted by Collaborative Academic Advisors, as well as Faculty quality statements and consideration of all major changes to programme portfolios are scrutinised for their compliance with regulatory and sector requirements. This annual review of teaching and learning also ensures we can be satisfied that assessment practices have taken place in accordance with our University Assessment Framework and the University Quality Framework/programme enhancement processes, managed by Teaching and Learning Delivery, Division of Student and Academic Services (SAS).

External Examiners are appointed at the University both at programme and subject level with a specific remit to ensure assessment procedures have been properly discharged, and the standard of our awards and student performance maintain at least nationally comparable standards.  Faculty-approved appointments of External Examiners are subject to recruitment, induction and supporting practices to ensure their role in assuring degree outcomes are in line with QAA’s core practices and expectations on externality.  External examiners are asked to draw upon their comparative experience of sector norms to review all core assessments leading to classification, as well as to moderate work to reconfirm alignment and level of rigour as applied in practice by academic colleagues.  Annual External Examiner reports are shared with students as part of a transparent system of quality assurance based on partnership. 

All new programmes are subject to additional scrutiny by an External Adviser to express their professional judgement about the alignment of intended learning outcomes and overall programme assessment structure with external reference points, specifically the UK Quality Code for Higher Education and discipline-specific Subject Benchmark Statements, and The Framework for Higher Education.  No programme can reach the second stage of approval without fulfilling the requirement to appoint and to act upon the feedback from this autonomous subject expert.

Academic governance

The University of Manchester's governance structure is comprised of a number of authoritative bodies, some of which include both officers of the University and lay members.

The Senate plays a key role in the governance of the University of Manchester, acting as the University’s principal academic authority. A large number of the statutory powers reserved to Senate are regulatory in nature and control the academic business of the University. The Senate is responsible to the Board of Governors for the promotion of research and for monitoring standards in teaching.

Senate is supported by two Academic Quality and Standards Committees, for Teaching, Learning and Students, and for Research. The Teaching, Learning and Students Committee is tasked with assuring Senate regarding the maintenance of academic quality and standards in teaching and learning, and the enhancement of the student experience.

March 2022 Senate approved the process for Senate to provide annual assurance regarding quality and standards for Teaching, Learning and Students to the Board of Governors. Detailed reports will be considered in turn by the Senate Academic Quality and Standards Committee, Senate, and the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee, prior to the Board itself, at a joint meeting of the Board and Senate.

The Teaching and Learning Strategy Group (TLSG) is chaired by the Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students. Its remit is to develop, promote and monitor strategies, policies and procedures for the delivery and enhancement of teaching and learning, as well as to develop and monitor policies and procedures for the maintenance of standards and the enhancement of the student experience (undergraduate and postgraduate taught, including collaborative provision).

The Teaching and Learning Engagement Forum has a wider membership from across the University and acts as an advisory group to the Teaching and Learning Strategy Group.

Teaching and Learning Delivery within the Division of Student and Academic Services (SAS) manages the Quality Framework, including determining the processes by which reviews of the quality and standards of educational provision and the student academic experience take place, and has responsibility for managing and reviewing institutional teaching and learning policy and guidance, including student academic appeals and complaints.

The University's Student Protection Plan, a requirement on HEIs from the Office for Students, contains an assessment of risks to continuation of study for students, including measures to mitigate risks and links to refund policy.

Any major issues that are identified or brought to our attention by External Examiners, through internal quality processes, student appeals and complaints or by student representation methods, are investigated by the relevant body or group, with actions put in place to address such issues if required.

Classification algorithms

The University's classification algorithms for its taught degree programmes are detailed in our Undergraduate Degree Regulations and Postgraduate Taught Degree Regulations. If specific Schools require any variations to the classification algorithms for particular degree programmes, they must seek approval from their Faculty; generally, any such variations would only be due to stricter requirements of professional or statutory bodies.

Bachelors degree classification is determined using a weighted average for three-year degrees. These weightings are also used as a guide for four-year Bachelors programmes and those which also include with a study abroad year or placement, unless there are alternative requirements for external accreditation by a professional or statutory body.

The Undergraduate Degree Regulations provide details of arrangements for consideration of students whose mark profiles sit in classification thresholds or borderlines, including the process of classification review. After allowances have been made for mitigating circumstances, students whose weighted average at the first assessment is within the boundary zone of a degree classification (2%, or 3% for Third Class), they must be awarded the higher degree classification as long as a number of criteria are satisfied: for undergraduate students, 2/3 of the credits taken in the awarding academic year are equal to/higher than the final award (for example, if the student is in the boundary between a 2.1 and a first, 2/3 of the credits must be at 70% or higher to fulfil this criteria and award the students a first class degree).

For postgraduate taught students, degree classification for the award of merit and distinction is based on the weighted average mark across the programme calculated to one decimal place, where marks for individual course units are recorded as whole numbers. After allowances have been made for mitigating circumstances, postgraduate students whose total mark at the first assessment is within the boundary zone of a degree classification (2%), must be awarded the higher degree classification as long as both the following criteria are satisfied: for the award of distinction, all course units must have been passed at the first attempt without any compensation, and 2/3 of the credits are equal to/ or higher than the final award.

Students are required to successfully complete all course units registered against their programme of study, in order to qualify for an award. Where a student is unsuccessful at their first attempt, they may be offered a reassessment opportunity for the affected unit, unless in the final year; the marks for these reassessments are capped at the lowest compensatable mark.

At undergraduate level, compensation is available for a maximum of 40 credits, per level, at levels 4 and 5 of an undergraduate programme.

Postgraduate taught programmes can be compensated up to 40 credits for PG Diploma/Masters and 20 credits for a PG Certificate. The number of credits referred and those compensated cannot exceed half the taught credits in total. The total number of credits allowable for referral for a PG Diploma/Masters is 60, of which 40 can be compensated. For a PG Certificate, the total number of credits allowable for referral is 30 credits, of which 20 can be compensated.

Students are informed about these algorithms via the Degree Regulations and programme or School specific supplementary material in their programme handbooks or School intranet. External Examiners are provided with links to the Degree Regulations and other related policies and procedures, so that they are aware of these as part of their role.

These algorithms and specifications of the Degree Regulations are the standard arrangements for all taught programmes, unless programmes are accredited by professional bodies which have alternative arrangements.

Teaching practices and learning resources

The University's Vision and Strategic Plan, Our Future, sets out our three core goals of research and discovery, teaching and learning, and social responsibility. Under the goal of teaching and learning, our priorities are:

  • Enhancing the quality of our teaching
  • A transformative student experience
  • Realising students' potential: 'Manchester made me'
  • An education for global leadership
  • Lifelong and flexible learning

The University's Institute of Teaching and Learning (ITL) supports our strategic aim to deliver teaching excellence. The Institute is an academic centre created to support teaching quality, embed innovative teaching methods and lead on University-wide strategic projects.  We are committed to fostering and celebrating a culture of teaching excellence. Through effective and collegial partnership, the Institute enables ongoing professional development for academic staff, supported and tailored to meet their needs, consequently supporting improvements in teaching quality and standards and thus, also improving the learning experience of students.

The Institute's blog web page contains regular new blog posts and provides the opportunity to share practice and experience around teaching and learning with colleagues, students and the wider public – how we Teach, Explore and Apply (as outlined in our blog pages).

The University's Learning and Organisational Development unit provides learning, training and development opportunities for all staff members, including for both academic and professional support staff. This, in turn, contributes to enhancing teaching and learning, and the student experience.

The University has a Campus Masterplan, which is a £1 billion ten-year plan to create a world-class campus for students and staff. As part of this, there has been recent substantial capital investment in teaching facilities and increased study space, including the creation of the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) building, providing world-class sustainable research facilities, alongside flexible and innovative teaching and learning spaces that enable students to shape their own learning environment. Further plans are in place to develop the campus facilities to provide more research labs, teaching and study spaces, as well as developments in student accommodation provision.

The University of Manchester Library provides a welcoming space for students to study, read and work, with a wide range of paper and electronic resources available to support student, and staff, learning and development. My Learning Essentials is the Library's award-winning skills programme, offering face-to-face workshops and a range of online resources for both students and staff members.

There are a range of wellbeing and support resources available to students (and staff members) including a student support microsite, which provides advice and information and directs students onto relevant offices, student support resources or external agencies. The Counselling and Mental Health Service provides a wide range of resources, face-to-face appointments, group sessions and online facilities for members of the University who require assistance in this area.

Future actions

The Institute of Teaching and Learning is redesigning processes to expand the number of places available on LEAP and plans to develop new programmes around inclusive education and other core aspects of the University’s vision and values.

Academic Advising is increasingly being seen as a form of relational pedagogy, that enables each student to reach their potential and reduce the attainment/awarding gap. We have increased engagement with the Senior Advisors’ Network, established an Academic Advising Support Network on Yammer and subscribed to UKAT to raise the profile of advising. Work in this area is continuing.

Teaching and Learning Delivery, within the Division of SAS, are leading on the implementation of a refreshed Quality Framework for University-wide adoption including, but not limited to, a redefining of the role of External Examiners to place a greater emphasis on providing feedback in relation to longitudinal classification trends, the development of a new student feedback strategy, and new review processes based on the principles of risk and proportionality, and through embedding alignment with national quality exercises such as TEF.

Working with students, we plan for our refreshed Quality Framework to be based upon the core principles of accessibility, empowerment and inclusivity where data metrics, such as longitudinal classification trends will be accessible and intelligible to both staff and students. 

All the policies that make up the Assessment Framework are planned to be reviewed during the 2022/23 and 2023/24 academic years. This includes policies such as the Policy on Marking and the Policy on Feedback to Students.

There is a commitment to review this Statement as part of our annual academic assurance review.

We aim to monitor the differences in degree outcomes amongst student groups prioritised by The Office for Students and implement interventions which align with our Access and Participation Plan priorities.

One of our Teaching, Learning and Students (TLS) strategic ambitions for 2021-25 is to provide transformative student experiences; this will also be one of our TLS key priority ambitions for 2022-23. TLSG has agreed on key deliverables, which will include a programme of work on Students as Partners, and on Inclusive curriculum and assessment.

Research-based approaches to differential attainment and experience: The Differential Attainment Project is an 18-month University funded study into factors underlying differential attainment and experience between students with different demographics, in line with Access and Participation Plan commitments.

The study has involved the recruitment of a postdoctoral research associate who is being supported to undertake a realist evaluation of the context, mechanisms and outcomes associated with differential attainment in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health and across the University more broadly.

Based on a thorough understanding of the data picture and interviewing stakeholders, including students, staff and University policy makers, the study aims to identify potential mechanisms that contribute to the currently ‘unexplained’ gap in good degrees between different groups of students otherwise entering University with equivalent tariffs.

An understanding of the factors at play locally, grounded in data, experience and culture, will enable the University and its staff to develop and implement interventions that are more effective at enabling everyone to reach their potential academically and progress on to further study and employment.

Assessment for the Future: In keeping with our commitment to identifying and implementing research-based interventions, our Vice-Dean for Teaching, Learning and Students in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health is currently leading a project on Assessment for the Future. The project is bringing forward recommendations, based on staff and student views, and shared effective practice across the sector, which will embed the qualities of relevance, inclusivity and trustworthiness into our future (and increasingly diverse) assessment.

Updated 17 October 2023