Home > Policy and analysis > Reports > Degree classification: transparent, consistent and fair academic standards

Degree classification: transparent, consistent and fair academic standards

Degree classfication: A wide range of factors behind the increase in the number of graduates receiving first and upper-second class degrees.

This report by UUK, GuildHE and QAA, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) looked at the reasons behind the increase in the number of graduates receiving first and upper-second class degrees.

Key findings show that a wide range of factors could be driving the increase in upper degrees, including additional investment in teaching and learning and heightened student motivation. However, there is a risk that a continued increase in the number of top degrees may undermine confidence in the value of a degree from a UK university, making the classification system less useful for employers and students. 

The report recommends that universities should issue a sector-wide statement of intent, leading to actions to protect the value of qualifications over time. This includes commitments such as:

  • Reviewing and publishing evidence on their degree outcomes at the institutional level – the skills and knowledge demonstrated by graduates at every grade with external assurance of the data – in a statement. This should enable a university’s governing body to ensure the university is protecting the value of its qualifications.
  • Agreeing common criteria, to be used by all universities, to describe the quality of work required for each degree classification.
  • Publishing and explaining scoring systems and processes that universities follow to determine a student’s final degree classification in an accessible format, including why any practice differs from accepted norms.

Technical report

The drivers of degree classifications

This publication and research was carried out by Dr Ray Bachan, University of Brighton on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment.

Degree classification consultation

Degree classification: transparent, consistent and fair academic standards (consultation document)

The UK wide UKSCQA degree classification consultation, run by QAA on behalf of the UKSCQA, invites respondents to consider these recommendations in line with national regulatory contexts, how they might be taken forward, and what further action might need to be taken.

Responses should be made through the online portal by 8 February 2019.

News

Major review of university admissions underway

22 July 2019
​School, college, student, university and UCAS leaders to review admissions

Thousands more should be able to do Degree Apprenticeships

15 July 2019
Bold action is needed from government to reform the degree apprenticeship system so many more people can become degree apprentices, according to a major report published today by Universities UK.

Blog

A-level results day and Clearing 2019: reasons to be cheerful

12 August 2019
As A-level results day approaches, UUK’s Daniel Wake looks at recent trends in university admissions, and provides some final information to applicants, who for the first time can choose to put themselves into ‘Clearing’.

Higher education policy priorities for the new prime minister

31 July 2019
UUK's Karmjit Kaur on how new Prime Minister Boris Johnson can can help maximise the role of universities for both his domestic and global ambitions.