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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 statement is the result of that internal review and reflection at the University of Manchester:

Institutional degree classification profile

The University's degree classification profile can be seen in the documents linked to below, which show the percentage of each degree classification awarded over the last five years as well as the percentage of 'good degrees' (1st or 2:1).

The percentage increase in the number of 1sts awarded in the last five years is 58.3% and the percentage increase in the number of 2:1s awarded is -0.0%. Over the same time period, there has been a slight decrease in the awards of 2:2s and 3rds.

During this time period, our degree classification algorithm has remained the same and it is the University's view that the gradual increase in our classification profile is primarily due to improvements in student performance alongside increased levels of quality teaching and learning practices and resources.

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.

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 is 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 assessment types. This guidance has been developed to help colleagues to make decisions about assessments in an online and blended environment, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the move to primarily online and blended learning.

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 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, Learning Group, (the body with ultimate responsibility for assuring degree outcome standards to our Board of Governors), 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.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Group (chaired by the Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students) is the body with ultimate responsibility for assuring degree outcome standards to the Board of Governors. 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 Group.

The Academic Development and Policy team within the University's Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development manages the Quality Framework, including to determine 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. The recent revisions include updates relating to dates and statistics, web links, and providing more detail.

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. These algorithms have been in place since 2012/13 when a major revision of both sets of Degree Regulations took place. 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 PSRB.

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%), 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.

Teaching practices and learning resources

The University's Vision and Strategic Plansets 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 sustainable development
  • Lifelong and flexible learning

We have recently established the Institute of Teaching and Learning, which supports the University’s 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 will enable 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 University's Staff Learning and 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.

There has been recent substantial capital investment in teaching facilities and increased study space, including the creation of the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, a state of the art study and learning centre boasting an onsite café, an impressive atrium providing a social meeting space with WiFi access and flexible study spaces and environments throughout the building.

The University has a Campus Masterplan 2012-2022, which is a £1 billion ten-year plan to create a world-class campus for students and staff.

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 number 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.

Good practice and Teaching and Learning Enhancement Activity

The Institute of Teaching and Learning website encourages sharing of good practice in relation to teaching and learning. 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 and learning practice. A ‘Share your Practice’ section has been developed and submissions will be used to provide lived examples in the toolkits and other resources that the Institute produces.

A Teaching and Learning Online Network (TALON) Yammer group has been set up for colleagues to share good practice and find answers to queries. 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 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 asked 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 ‘Leaders in Teaching’ programme provides further opportunities for aspiring teaching leaders to share practice and build networks. This programme is open to colleagues from all parts of the University.

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 bring students in to the heart of academic development initiatives.

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.
  • The Academic Development and Policy team within the University's Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development will lead on the implementation of a refreshed Quality Framework for University-wide adoption in 2021/22 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.
  • 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.   A partnership approach to dialogue will be a standing feature of strategic decision making at The University of Manchester when considering degree outcomes over time.
  • A commitment to review this Statement as part of our annual cycle of quality review with the first reporting point in December 2021 at the University’s Annual Review of Teaching and Learning.
  • To monitor the differences in degree outcomes amongst student groups prioritised by The Office for Students and implement recommendations which align with our Access and Participation Plan priorities.

Drafted October 2020