Accessibility statement

Degree Outcomes Statement

Students working in a group

In accordance with the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) Statement of Intent (May 2019), the University has produced a Degree Outcomes Statement.

Our Degree Outcomes Statement articulates the results of an internal institutional review analysing degree outcomes for graduates (2014-2019) on Level 6 programmes.

The development of the Statement was overseen by a University Teaching Committee Working Group. Prior to approval by Council (in November 2020), the Statement was considered by the Standing Committee on Assessment, University Teaching Committee and Senate. In line with UKSCQA’s expectations, an external advisor was engaged (as a member of the Working Group) to develop the Statement.

Analysis of degree outcomes

The University undertakes an annual analysis of degree outcomes, with one of the metrics being the percentage of upper-classification (UC) degrees (First and 2:1) along with an analysis of sector trends, using HESA data. We also undertake regular detailed analyses of the correlation between student demographics and outcomes (for example, attainment and progression). 

In 2020, prompted by this review, the University developed a data-visualisation tool that provides an interactive analysis of how degree outcomes vary over time and by graduating year, and of any correlation with the A level entry grades (or equivalent) and other demographics, for that graduating cohort. This tool has now been disseminated to faculties and departments. 

Using these tools, and other data, we have performed an analysis of the last six years of graduating cohorts (2014 to 2019). We have chosen to start this analysis in 2014 since virtually all graduating students at York will, from 2014 onwards, have had their degrees classified under the same progression and award rules (those currently in place). The analysis has focused on the fraction (percentage) of all Level 6 (H-level, Bachelor) graduates who were awarded an upper-classification (UC) - ie first-class or upper-second-class - degree.  

Considering data across all subjects, the percentage of graduates awarded UC degrees (which we refer to as %UC) has remained largely constant over the last six graduating cohorts - see Figure 1. The analysis does not include Level 6 awards for students from Hull York Medical School, which are awarded jointly by Hull and York and have separate award regulations and governance arrangements. Only a small number of students (~3 per year) graduate with classified Level 6 awards, and hence any statistical analysis will be very limited. A simple linear regression analysis yields a change in %UC (per year) of close to zero over those six years.  

Graph showing level 6 outcomes against year of graduation: 2014 80.5%, 2015 79.2%, 2016 79.8%, 2017 79.4%, 2018 78.8%, 2019 81.0%

Figure 1: Data for the percentage of students who graduated from the University of York with either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree (= %UC) as a function of graduating year.

%UC for University of York has been higher than the median for all universities in the UK sector in this period, although lower than the median for other Russell Group universities. The rising trend seen across both the sector and the Russell Group has not, on average, been seen in our data over the period under review. 

We are strongly focused on identifying and narrowing attainment gaps for traditionally disadvantaged groups, as part of our commitment to widening participation. Our published Access and Participation Plan contains data on attainment (%UC) and attainment gaps compared with students’ more advantaged peers, and we compare our performance with the sector averages in these areas. Data from the access and participation plan is published up to 2018 graduation and includes Level 7 awards.  

The graduating cohort in 2018 had, compared with graduates from 2014, a higher proportion of students (20.2% in 2018) who originated from traditionally lower-participation postcodes (POLAR4, Q1 and Q2) and a higher proportion who identify as BAME (13.5% in 2018), although both of these remain below the sector average. The 2018 cohort also had a higher proportion with a registered disability (15.2%) - in line with the sector. For students from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR4 quintiles 1 and 2), the attainment gap, referenced to quintile 5, has narrowed since 2014, and is now just a few percentage points. For BAME students, as with the rest of the sector, there remains an attainment gap (referenced to white students), which for York was 11% in 2018, and this gap has been consistently lower than the sector average in this period. Attainment rates are good for disabled students, with a very small attainment gap of around 1% for graduates in 2018, compared with non-disabled students. 

Assessment and marking practices

The University of York has well-developed processes for ensuring that assessment activities and criteria are in line with national expectations and published sector reference points.

The processes for programme approval ensure that Programme Learning Outcomes are aligned with the relevant FHEQ qualification descriptors and that programme design is informed by the relevant Subject Benchmark Statement and any requirements of Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies.

The University mandates that new programmes are evaluated by external assessors, who are specifically required to comment on alignment with the FHEQ, Subject Benchmark Statements, Characteristics Statement and any professional requirements. 

The principles for standards and marking are articulated in the University Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback.

Departments are responsible for the development of assessment and marking criteria that adhere to these principles.

Devolution to subject areas ensures that assessment criteria and marking practices are informed by external reference points and reflect discipline-specific expectations.

The Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback provides advice on the suitability of different marking procedures for different assessment types (based on risk); within this framework subject areas are responsible for developing and monitoring local policies on marking and moderation. 

All taught provision that leads to the award of credit or a qualification of the University is overseen by an External Examiner, who is recruited following a robust process designed to follow the principles defined by the UK Quality Code.

The External Examiner reporting template ensures systematic reporting on the appropriateness of the grading criteria, threshold standards, comparability of standards, conduct of the Board of Examiners and the application of the University rules relating to assessment, progression, award, exceptional circumstances and academic misconduct. 

In the last four years of this review period, all External Examiner reports confirmed, for all undergraduate programmes, that 

  1. standards set are appropriate for the qualification;
  2. academic standards and the achievements of students are comparable with similar programmes in other UK institutions;
  3. processes for assessment, examination and the determination of awards followed policy and were fairly conducted.  

All Hull York Medical School (HYMS) programmes are awarded jointly by the Universities of Hull and York; a distinct quality and standards framework, overseen by the HYMS Joint Senate Committee, governs HYMS provision. While this framework is distinct, the processes for securing standards and for the assurance and enhancement of quality are comparable to those articulated within the Degree Outcomes Statements of the Universities of Hull and York.

Academic governance

Responsibility for the assurance of standards of taught provision resides with a Senate Committee; University Teaching Committee (UTC) which is chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students and includes Student Representatives. 

The Standing Committee on Assessment (SCA), a sub-committee of UTC, is responsible for the monitoring and review of policies and procedures relating to assessments, marking, feedback and progression and for the approval of External Examiners. 

An External Examiner summary report, which identifies University-wide issues and common themes arising from External Examiners’ annual reports, is considered by SCA and UTC; this ensures robust oversight (and follow-up) of institution-wide and substantive issues relating to assessment, marking and standards. 

Reports on degree outcomes are considered by SCA and UTC at different points in the academic year. An analysis of undergraduate degree classification distributions is presented in the Autumn and later in the academic year once sector data is available. In addition, a statistical analysis of the relationship between outcomes and entry profile characteristics and demographics is presented in the Spring. 

This approach ensures regular high-level monitoring, by senior (Senate) Committees, of degree outcomes (including trend data) and the effect of student characteristics on degree outcomes.

External assistance in assuring this Degree Outcomes Statement was managed through membership of the University’s Degree Outcomes Statement Working Group which included a University undergraduate External Examiner. 

Classification algorithms

University of York has a single undergraduate modular framework for all undergraduate awards, which provides a single set of progression, award and classification regulations. All Bachelors (Level 6) degrees are classified using a single algorithm which is based on a weighted average of all marks obtained in modules in the final two years of study. The current award and classification rules were introduced in 2010, and there has been little change since then. The definitive list of progression, award and classification regulations can be found in the University Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback. In addition we publish a Student Guide to Rules for Progression and Award in UG Programmes (PDF , 365kb) to those same regulations. 

The only substantive modification made to the award rules since 2010 is a reduction in the minimum module mark required to allow compensation in the final year of study, a change which will have reduced the number of final-year resits (2017 graduates onwards). It should be noted that degree classification is based on first-attempt module marks, not the marks after resit. An analysis of degree outcomes was undertaken after two years of operation (of the revised compensation rules) and, of the small number of graduating students affected by the change, the majority did not obtain UC awards. 

For the purpose of this statement, we have provided a Summary of University of York award rules. This is to aid with the interpretation of the data we have presented. It contains a summary of the rules on progression, compensation, reassessment, award and degree classification, including the rules for borderline cases.

Teaching practices and learning resources

The past decade has seen a series of learning and teaching strategic initiatives each designed to secure standards and assurance and enhance the quality of the student experience. 

University-led initiatives over the period include the expansion of our skills provision and investment in our physical learning environment. Our Writing and Language Skills Centre and Maths Skills Centre provide drop-in and bookable one-to-one advice with trained staff, to supplement the support that is embedded in modules. Support is designed to support students with transitioning to a more academic and independent way of study. 

We also have a huge suite of academic integrity resources and have a compulsory online module that ensures all students have a baseline knowledge of the standards required. In addition we have developed a series of online Skills Guides to supplement embedded skills training. The Skills Guides enable students to locate and access a range of skills easily and according to their needs, and enable teaching staff to incorporate content into the Virtual Learning Environment module design. 

Our most recent capital investments include our centrally-located Spring Lane teaching building, completed in October 2016, and the Piazza Learning Centre, which opened in January 2018. Together these new buildings add two 350-seat lecture theatres and over 50 seminar rooms to our estate, along with high quality study and informal learning spaces.

It is difficult to determine a causal relationship between our strategic learning and teaching initiatives and our degree outcomes. That said, we believe that these enhancements have positively supported student achievement and, notably, throughout a period of expansion and widening access, ensured that the percentage of students achieving an UC degree has been broadly constant (see Analysis of degree outcomes). 

We are proud to have achieved a Gold award (in 2018) in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) demonstrating that we deliver consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for our students. In awarding Gold, highlights from the TEF judging panel included: a research-strong environment that engages and provides the most outstanding levels of stretch for students in their learning; the impact of interventions to ensure that assessment and feedback are used effectively in supporting students’ development, progression and attainment; outstanding academic support that enables all students to progress and succeed in their studies.

Identifying good practice

We are confident that, as outlined above, our processes for securing standards, and institutional oversight thereof, are robust.

In undertaking the work to develop our Degree Outcomes Statement we have enhanced our degree outcomes data sets.

Notably we have expanded our suite of Tableau workbooks to include students’ top three A level results; this enhancement allows analysis of how degree outcomes vary over time and correlate with changes to average entry tariffs.

In considering the annual Degree Outcomes report at its May 2020 meeting, University Teaching Committee commended the enhanced data sets and the effectiveness with which the workbooks supported the monitoring of, and actions arising therefrom, degree outcomes.

Likewise, the workbooks were positively received by Faculty Learning and Teaching Groups and have been disseminated (for reflection as part of Annual Programme Review) to departments and schools.

Our Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback provides, in one place, all relevant information in respect of assessment, standards, marking and feedback.

In providing clear and explicit guidance on standards-related processes (for example the determination of first-class degrees with distinction) in a single document, the Guide (which is updated annually) supports consistent implementation, at local level, of University expectations.

In this way the Guide, which is highly valued by staff and External Examiners, is a key resource in supporting us to discharge our responsibilities with respect to the standards of our awards.

Areas for further work or review

The review group compiling this Statement has undertaken an evaluation of degree outcomes data at University level and has, as part of that process, engaged with subject experts through faculty-level consultation. Staff in the faculties have appreciated the opportunity to do this.

The degree outcomes data-visualisation tool, developed as part of this review (which can analyse data at subject, faculty or University level), has been shared with all departments.

As an institution we will seek to build the regular review of such data into the regular subject- or faculty-level cycle of business, in addition to the University-level scrutiny that already exists.

The review group considered that, while the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback supports consistency and transparency in all matters relating to award and classification (see above), further work could be done in explaining more fully the rationale behind some of the award regulations. 

Finally, as with most universities in the sector, we have put in place a number of mitigation strategies in light of the COVID-19 crisis, to protect our students during the crisis, and introduced significant modifications to assessments. The University has begun a process of evaluation of the impact of these adjustments.