In May 2019, the UK higher education sector signed a statement of intent committing to protect the value of degrees over time. This report reviews progress made between May 2019 and December 2020, assessing the statement’s impact and setting out the recommended next steps.
What is the statement of intent?
The statement of intent called on providers to meet four specific commitments:
- Ensure assessments continue to stretch and challenge students
- Review and explain how final degree classifications are calculated
- Support and strengthen the external examiners system
- Review and publish data and analysis on students’ degree outcomes
The statement was signed by sector representative groups and endorsed by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA), which brings together students, institutions, representative bodies as well as regulators and funders from across the UK.
This report outlines progress to date across the sector in meeting these commitments, which has included a levelling off in the proportion of upper degrees being awarded, with no increase seen in 2018−19. It shows that the sector remains strongly committed to the statement’s principles.
What actions has the sector taken?
Actions the sector has taken include:
- Publishing degree outcomes statements (in England and Wales), setting out how student outcomes data has been scrutinised and the associated regulations and processes reviewed.
- Developing UK-wide descriptors for degree classifications expressing what all four classifications look like for the first time.
- Strengthening the processes by which degree outcomes are calculated by developing for the first time UK-wide principles for effective degree algorithm design.
- Enhancing the comparability of qualifications through improved externality by developing the external examiner system’s training and calibration activities.
The report also sets out areas that could be explored to reinforce this work and ensure transparency, fairness and reliability in degree classification.
There is a five-page summary of the report, which includes the main highlights, findings and suggested next steps.