Taught Postgraduate Degrees and Awards Assessment Procedures


TQA Manual - Introduction and Contents


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Taught postgraduate degrees and awards assessment procedures

 

1 Introduction

1.1 This document summarises, for the convenience of Schools (or Institutes and Centres, where appropriate), the procedures for use by Boards of Examiners in the award of Masters Degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Certificates. It covers:

1.2 Subject to the approval of the Faculty of Taught Programmes Board, Schools are permitted to adopt a specific set of assessment conventions within the University’s generic framework.

1.3 Marking criteria should be in the public domain and brought to the attention of students.

1.4 Codes of practice regulating the procedures of Boards of Examiners and the work of external examiners are included in the TQA Manual. Note that it is not the responsibility of a Board of Examiners to make recommendations about the consequences of failure for any referrals, deferrals or repeat study they recommend for individual students. This is the responsibility of the Head of School or nominated staff acting on behalf of the Head of School.

1.5 The disclosure of marks to students is regulated by conventions included here in the TQA Manual.

1.6 These criteria should be read in conjunction with the University's Levels and Awards Framework .

 

2 Nomenclature

The following definitions are adopted for the purposes of this document:

2.1 Assessment: any work undertaken by a student that counts towards their degree or progression, including both examinations and coursework.

2.2 Level: A level is an indicator of the relative demand, complexity and depth of learning and of the relative autonomy and responsibility of the learner, associated with a module of a programme.

2.3 Deferral: A deferral means an assessment taken at a later occasion because either a student has been prevented from taking an assessment, or where an assessment was attempted, but the student is permitted to have another attempt. Deferral decisions are made where the Board of Examiners decides there are adequate grounds, such as medical reasons or exceptional personal circumstances. Where the assessment in question was a first attempt, the deferral will also be treated as a first attempt (i.e. marks are not capped); if the assessment in question was already a referred assessment, then the deferral will mean that the assessment taken at a later occasion is also treated as a referral. Deferrals shall normally take place within once calendar year of the initial assessment.

2.4 Referral: A further attempt on the next normal occasion, following initial failure, at an individual assessment without the requirement to repeat any attendance. Students may be referred in an individual assessment on one occasion only, and have a right to be so referred only following initial failure.

2.5 Repeat Study: A School has the option, following the failure of a candidate in all or part of a programme, of requiring a candidate to repeat a module or the whole programme. In some instances individual candidates will be permitted to repeat "with or without attendance"; in others "attendance" or "non-attendance" may be specified.

2.6 Condonement: The process that allows a degree or other award to be passed despite failure to achieve the required number of credits for the award. Condonement can be applied to failed modules with a mark of 40 – 49% provided that an average mark of 50 % has been achieved over the programme, including the marks for any failed modules. On the student transcript no credit will be given for condoned marks, and such marks will be recorded on the student transcript in their original form. See Section 3 for further details.

2.7 Mitigation: The process by which a Board of Examiners may exercise its discretion, in appropriate and fully documented circumstances, such as medical reasons or exceptional personal circumstances, for example to:

(a) grant a deferral for a module assessment attempted; or

(b) raise a mark for a module or for an individual assessment component; or

(c) disregard a mark for classification purposes (ie in the calculation of a credit-weighted mean mark); or

(d) leave module marks unchanged, but take account of mitigating circumstances in the determination of the award classification; or

The minutes of the Board of Examiners must clearly identify all such cases and provide a brief justification for the decision. Marks which have been modified through the consideration of mitigating circumstances are recorded in their modified form on student transcripts, and no reference is made to mitigation, in order to protect the privacy of the candidate.

 

3 Condonement

3.1 Condonement: In certain circumstances a Board may decide to recommend an award despite failure to achieve the required number of credits, provided that overall credit-weighted mean, including any failed modules, is at least 50%.

3.2 Condonement may be applied to failed modules with marks in the range 40 – 49%. Marks below 40% constitute failure, as does any mark between 40% and 49% that cannot be condoned.

3.3 Schools are permitted to nominate modules for which automatic condonement may not apply. Such information will be listed in the programme specification and will be made available to students at the start of each programme. The credit-weighted mean mark calculated for classification purposes must use marks in their original form.

3.4 Where a module is condoned, the actual mark is used in the calculation of a degree award or classification. No credit is awarded for condoned marks and the actual mark is recorded in its original form on student transcripts.

3.5 In deciding whether to apply the Condonement Process rather than a referral for a failed module, a Board of Examiners should have regard to whether, in referring a student, the student would be able to attain a higher degree classification (though bearing in mind that marks on referral are capped, see 7.1). If it is unclear whether the student themselves would wish to have the failed mark condoned or rather have the opportunity to be re-assessed, then the Board should empower the Chair to contact the student and take Chair’s Action to confirm the Board’s decision once the views of the student are known.

3.6 Masters degree

Condonement may be applied for modules to a maximum of 45 credits where the overall credit weighted mean is at least 50% (including the marks for any failed modules) and the failed modules to be condoned have not been listed in the programme specification as being excluded from the condonement process.

3.7 Postgraduate Diploma

Condonement may be applied for modules to a maximum of 30 credits where the overall credit weighted mean is at least 50% (including the marks for any failed modules) and the failed modules to be condoned have not been listed in the programme specification as being excluded from the condonement process.

3.8 Postgraduate Certificate

Condonement may be applied for modules to a maximum of 20 credits where the overall credit weighted mean is at least 50% (including the marks for any failed modules) and the failed modules to be condoned have not been listed in the programme specification as being excluded from the condonement process.

3.9 If more than the maximum number of credits given for the awards specified above fall in the range 40%-49%, those credits with the highest marks will be condoned (up to the maximum number of credits given for the award), and fails recorded for the remaining credits.

 

4 Assessment Scheme

4.1 To ensure consistency in the University, including in the preparation of transcripts, marking schemes should be numerical. Marks returned by the Board for both assessment components and the overall module mark should be integers.

4.1 The marking criteria shown below are recommended as a framework for all disciplines within which assessment conventions specific to individual programmes and related to their learning outcomes should be developed.

Marks Range

Marking Criteria

70% and above

Distinction. Work of exceptional standard reflecting outstanding knowledge of material and critical ability.

60-69%

Merit. Work with a well-defined focus, reflecting a good working knowledge of material and good level of competence in its critical assessment.

50-59%

Pass. Work demonstrating adequate working knowledge of material and evidence of some analysis.

40-49%

Condonable fail. Limited knowledge of core material and limited critical ability.

0 - 39%

Fail. Lacking in basic knowledge and critical ability.

4.3 Staff should use the whole of the mark range in their assessment of student performance.

4.4 The mark sheets submitted to Boards of Examiners should record the following information:

(a) Credit value of each module

(b) Mark awarded (expressed as a percentage) for each module

(c) The credit-weighted mean mark

4.5 Schools should assess postgraduate modules against a mark range specific to postgraduate rather than undergraduate modules. The University's Levels and Awards Framework permits, however, a proportion of module credit below level M to count towards a postgraduate qualification. Where a student on a postgraduate programme is taking a module at level 3 or below, the module should be marked according to the normal undergraduate marking criteria for the module and the marking scheme for undergraduate modules (i.e. a mark of 40-49% is a pass, not a condonable fail). The mark obtained should be used in the calculation of the mean-weighted mark for the programme as a whole as normal (i.e. there should be no ‘scaling up' of marks).

 

5 Award Criteria

5.1 Masters degree:

(a) A Masters degree is awarded when a student gains at least 180 credits including at least 150 at Level M, on a designated programme.

5.2 Postgraduate Diploma:

(a) A Postgraduate Diploma is awarded when a student gains at least 120 credits including at least 90 at Level M on a designated programme.

5.3 Postgraduate Certificate:

(a) A Postgraduate Certificate is awarded when a student gains at least 60 credits including at least 45 at Level M on a designated programme.

5.4 Rules for classification:The rules should be applied in descending order, starting at the Pass / Fail threshold, so that fail students are excluded from further consideration.

Pass / Fail threshold for the programme

The pass / fail threshold for the programme is an average of 50.00%

Qualifies for Distinction award

A final weighted mark greater than or equal to 68.00% and modules to the value of at least 50% with a module mark greater than or equal to 69.50%

or

A final weighted mark greater than or equal to 69.50%

Qualifies for Merit award

A final weighted mark greater than or equal to 58.00% and modules to the value of at least 50% with a module mark greater than or equal to 59.50%

or

A final weighted mark greater than or equal to 59.50%

Overall pass mark

A final weighted mark greater than or equal to 49.50%

 

6 Other Award Matters

6.1 In calculating an overall module mark or the credit-weighted mean mark for the programme as a whole, a calculation resulting in a decimal of 0.5 or above should be rounded up.

6.2 As an alternative to referral or as a consequence of failure in referrals in designated Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate programmes, the lesser award of Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate can be made if the candidate gains sufficient credit to comply with 4.2 or 4.3 above. It would not be appropriate for a lesser award to be made while a candidate still has a right to referral in the failed modules, and where the outcome of the referral may allow the candidate to achieve the higher award.

6.3 Raising of module marks:A Board of Examiners may decide, in appropriate and fully documented circumstances, to raise a module mark where it decides there are adequate grounds, such as medical reasons or exceptional personal circumstances. The minutes of the Board of Examiners must clearly identify all such cases and provide a brief justification for the decision.

6.4 Awards are determined by the Examiners exercising their judgment of the award which best represents the candidate's achievement based on the overall level of performance. A Board of Examiners may, where it decides there are adequate grounds and in appropriate and fully documented circumstances, recommend raising an award beyond that indicated by the profile of marks in accordance with the assessment conventions for the programme. The minutes of the Board of Examiners must clearly identify all such cases and provide a brief justification for the decision. All such decisions are subject to approval by the Faculty Board.

6.5 Where students are prevented by illness from taking a deferred assessment they may request that the award of an Aegrotat degree be considered under the terms of Ordinance 13.

 

7 Re-assessment procedures

7.1 Marks following referral are capped at the pass mark of 50%. For any assessment, candidates have a right to be referred on one occasion only. Where the Board of Examiners decides there are adequate grounds, such as medical reasons or exceptional personal circumstances, it may allow a deferral (i.e. re-assessment without the mark being capped), or permit a further referral.

7.2 In cases where the automatic condonement process does not apply (see section 2.6), students must be referred in sufficient modules to obtain an overall credit-weighted mean of 50% with a mark between 40-49% for modules comprising no more than the maximum number of credits given in 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9 (whichever is applicable). The modules to be referred should be selected:

(a) In consultation with the student concerned; and

(b) With due regard to the overall average that can be obtained when marks following referral are capped at 50%.

7.3 In cases where a referral is inappropriate, Boards of Examiners may consider a lesser award (see 6.2)

7.4 Absence from Examinations: The treatment of students failing to sit examinations will be as follows:

a) If a student is absent from examinations with properly documented medical, or other extreme personal circumstances known to the School before the relevant Board of Examiners, the examinations will be deferred.

(b) If no reason for absence is given to the Board of Examiners, or if a student produces a reason explaining their absence to the Board of Examiners which does not fall under (a) above, the Board of Examiners will regard the absence as a fail with a mark of 0 for the examination.

 

8 Communication of Decisions

8.1 Following a final Board of Examiners meeting, recommendations for the award of qualifications should be submitted to the Postgaduate Administration Office. Separate report forms on dissertations do not need to be returned.

8.2 Where a Board of Examiners requires a referral or deferral, these decisions should be communicated to the Examinations Office using the Pass/Fail lists issued by that Office, and signed by the Chair of the Board of Examiners and the External Examiner(s). In relation to the referred / deferred examination period, it is essential that Boards return the Pass/Fail lists by the deadline specified by the Examinations Office.

8.3 Module marks (including dissertation modules) should be entered into the student record system directly (for those Schools appropriate), or submitted to the Examinations Office in a grid which clearly records:

(a) candidate name and student number;

(b) the module name and code;

(c) the numerical mark, or non-submission, or absence;

(d) whether a mark has been condoned;

(e) whether mitigating circumstances were considered;

(f) whether a candidate is being referred in the assessment concerned.

Separate report forms on dissertations do not need to be returned.

 

PROFESSOR HILARY LAPPIN-SCOTT
Dean of the Faculty of Postgraduate Studies

June 2008

 

Revised and Updated Faculty Office September 2008
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