Daniel Baker (lead author), Stephen Gow, Adrian Lee, Vanessa Richardson-Pratt, Jen Wotherspoon, Jess Burchell and Patrick Gallimore.
The University undertakes an annual analysis of degree outcomes, with one of the metrics being the percentage of upper-classification (UC) degrees (= 1st and II.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 (eg attainment and progression).
A data-visualisation tool 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. Using these tools, and other data, we have analysed the last nine years of graduating cohorts (2014-2022). 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). We present data for the 2022 graduating cohort, as this data was fully available at the time of writing. The analysis has focused on the fraction (%) of all Level 6 (H-level, Bachelor) graduates who were awarded an upper-classification (UC) - ie first-class or upper-second-class - degree. Trends over the last eight years are shown in Figure 1.
Considering data across all subjects, the percentage of graduates awarded UC degrees (which we refer to as %UC) saw a clear and significant decrease in 2022, following a period of increase during the pandemic. A similar pattern has been observed across the sector, and is attributable to the impact of pandemic-related changes to award rules (see next section) %UC for the University of York remains substantially below the median for other Russell Group universities (York: 83.1, RG: 87.9), as well as below the pre-pandemic Russell Group median (86.1 in 2019). Data for the whole sector shows a similar pattern (74.4 in 2022, down from a high of 79.7 in 2020, and close to the pre-pandemic value of 72.4 in 2019).
Students graduating in 2022 were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in a number of ways, including a rapid switch to remote teaching and learning in 2020, and the replacement of closed examinations with online assessments. There were, in addition, some changes to the award and progression rules that were designed to support students in this time of unprecedented change and recognise the challenges that our students have faced throughout their studies. The algorithm for determining the final degree class in 2022 was adjusted so that two alternative weightings were considered when calculating the award mark for level 6 graduates (Bachelors).
The first was the standard weighting (2:3), and the second (a 1:3 weighting) reduce the contribution of marks from 2021 by 50 per cent. Students' award marks were calculated using the better of the two weightings. This measure was intended to compensate for disruption due to the pandemic, and we anticipate it will have had a slight inflationary effect on overall degree classification.
However, the pandemic compensation in 2022 was less substantial than for students graduating in 2021, who also benefited from a 'safety net' process on their grades from 2020. Relative to the 2021 cohort, there was a 2 per cent decrease in %UC in 2022, which we attribute to this reduction in pandemic mitigations. We anticipate further reductions going forward, as the remaining changes to award rules wash out and we further consider our assessment formats. We therefore anticipate that our degree outcomes will return to their stable pre-pandemic baseline by 2022/23.
We are strongly focused on identifying and narrowing award gaps of upper classification degrees (2.1 and first classification) for traditionally disadvantaged groups. Our published Access and Participation Plan (APP) contains data on award gaps compared with students’ more advantaged peers (for undergraduate home students only). The following data can be found and analysed in more detail on the Office for Students Access and Participation Dashboard.
For mature students, the award gap has reduced the most of all the primary APP characteristics, moving from a -16.9pp gap to a -13.3pp gap - a decrease of 3.6pp. The largest award gap is for socio-economically disadvantaged students (IMD quintile 1) -17.88pp gap in 2021/22 compared with -10.66pp gap in 2017/2018 (an increase of 7.2pp). The second-largest award gap is for black students, who had a -17pp award gap in 2021/22 compared to -16.6pp in 2017/2018 (an increase of 0.4pp). For Asian students, they saw a reduced award gap from 2017/18 to 2021/22, decreasing by 1.4pp, but still experienced a large gap (-14.2pp in 2017/2018 compared with -12.8pp in 2021/22). Students with a registered disability have the smallest award gap but still experienced an increase in their awarding gap (of 3.5pp) to -4.6pp in 2021.22 compared with -1.1pp in 2017/2018.
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 professionals, statutory or regulatory bodies. The University mandates that new programmes are evaluated by an external assessor.
The principles for standards and marking are articulated in the University Guide to Assessment, Standards Marking and Feedback (the “GTA”). 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.
All taught provision that leads to the award of credit or a qualification of the University is overseen by External Examiners, who are recruited following a robust process aligned with the principles defined by the UK Quality Code. In the last five years of this review period, all External Examiner reports confirmed, for all undergraduate programmes, that (i) standards set are appropriate for the qualification; (ii) academic standards and the achievements of students are comparable with similar programmes in other UK institutions; (iii) 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. 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.
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 subcommittee 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 of institution-wide and substantive issues relating to assessment, marking and standards. Analyses of undergraduate and taught postgraduate degree classification distributions are considered by UTC and SCA on an annual basis; degree outcomes data is also considered annually by departments/schools as part of our annual review process.
The 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 the same, single, algorithm which is based on a weighted average of all marks obtained in modules in the final two years of study. 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 of York Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback. In addition we publish Student Guides to the same regulations. For the period covered by this statement, in addition to the temporary changes introduced in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic (see above), 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 outcomes was undertaken after two years of operation and, of the small number of graduating students affected by the change, the majority did not obtain upper classification awards. It should be noted that the University has undertaken a review of the progression and award rules.
For the purpose of this Statement, we have provided a supplementary document: Summary of University of York award rules to aid with the interpretation of the data we have presented. This document contains a summary of the rules on progression, compensation, reassessment, award and degree classification, including the rules for borderline cases.
In 2023, the institution proudly achieved a Gold award in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) demonstrating delivery of consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for our students. 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. In recent years, inclusive learning projects have been prioritised to support all students, such as student-led learning communities projects, peer-assisted learning and the decolonising and diversifying the curriculum project. Other university-led initiatives over the period include the expansion of our skills provision and investment in our physical learning environment, such as the Writing Centre, Maths Skills Centre, academic integrity resources and series of online skills guides to supplement embedded skills training.
All first year students take part in our York Strengths Programme that supports students in understanding the transferable/core skills graduate employers are looking for and enables them to explore these using a strengths based approach to understand what they can do and love to do. Our teaching, learning and community spaces are constantly developing and improving - view our latest projects. For example, the state-of-the-art Church Lane Building, opened in September 2021, including a lecture theatre, multiple classrooms and numerous break out and social spaces.
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 any correlation with A level grades.
The University has undertaken a full review of the award and progression rules, which will be implemented from 2023 onwards. The review is partly motivated by a recent revision of the modular scheme framework, which will apply to all programmes from the 2023/24 academic year, along with a shift to a semesterised calendar. The University Guide to Assessment, Standards Marking and Feedback is under review to improve marking and feedback.