The increase in the number of degree students gaining first and upper second class degrees, particularly in England, has been the subject of ministerial concern and media speculation about putative grade inflation over the past few years. The Office for Students has made ensuring that qualifications awarded to students hold their value at the point of qualification and over time a condition of ongoing registration for English institutions.
The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) is currently overseeing two major initiatives designed to support UK higher education providers in ensuring the reliability of their degree standards.
- Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE have reviewed the degree classification algorithms and have recently published, in collaboration with the QAA, two reports looking at the reasons behind the increase in the number of graduates receiving first and upper-second class degrees: The Drivers of degree classifications and Degree Classification: Transparent, consistent and fair academic standards. UUK has also launched a consultation on a sector statement about how to protect the value of the honours degree qualifications over time. The response to the consultation is likely to be known in May 2019.
- The Degree Standards: External examining project, which has now been running successfully for over two years, has developed and piloted:
- blended learning and online versions of a generic Professional Development Course (PDC) for external examiners;
- a Develop the Developer programme designed to enable partnering institutions to roll out the PDC within their own institutions;
- calibration exercises with range of professional bodies and subject groups; and
- integrated courses combining subject-specific professional development and calibration in Geography and Law.
This timely conference on protecting the value of qualifications in the UK and the role of degree classification and external examining in contributing to this, delivered in association with UUK and Guild HE will:
- explore how higher education providers across the UK can ensure that qualifications do not lose their value over time
- disseminate the response of higher education providers to the UUK consultation on protecting the value of honours degree qualifications.
- disseminate the findings of the Degree Standards project in order in part to encourage both the recruitment of more higher education providers to the project and interest in professional bodies and subject associations in calibrating academic standards.