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This QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project poses a critical enquiry into what is termed the ‘mysterious quotients’ of commonly used undergraduate assessment terms and phrases. 

The maintenance of national standards across the higher education sector relies upon alignment by each higher education provider of their local standards with the descriptors set out in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

Concerns around a lack of consistency and a perceived trend towards grade inflation has resulted in the Advance HE Degree Standards Project which provides professional development for external examiners in their role of safeguarding national standards, and promotes opportunities for the calibration of standards through social moderation activities between academics. 

However, a sector-wide shared understanding of the language of assessment and standards amongst academics does not automatically apply to students - for them, this language often remains unintelligible.

It is important for students to understand how the national standards are applied in the context of their discipline and programme. What must they do, and ‘what does good look like’ in relation to the assessments they are asked to undertake?

The University of the West of England, working with the University of Hertfordshire, University of Brighton and University of Greenwich, will conduct extensive field research including surveys and workshops to inform development of a toolkit for staff and students to support dialogue, transparency and shared responsibility in the assessment processes.

The aim of the toolkit is to:

  • reduce student anxiety over assessment terms
  • lessen staff time dealing with queries and complaints
  • decrease the likelihood of inconsistency in assessment standards
  • reduce awarding gaps
  • increase the use of more accessible and inclusive language
  • provide improved transparency around assessment
  • increase NSS scores on assessment and feedback
  • provide a collective understanding of the standards used for assessment by staff and students. 

The project team are disseminating findings and outputs at sector events including:

  • QAA Evolving Student Engagement Conference (June 2021) 
    • ‘From Both Sides Now’: Reflecting upon staff-student perspectives on a collaborative research project - access the presentation 
  • Advance HE Assessment and Feedback Symposium (November 2021) 
  • Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) International Research Conference (December 2021)

QAA Membership podcast: Making the language of assessment inclusive

In this two-part podcast, we talk about the QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project 'Making the language of assessment inclusive'. The project is led by the University of West of the England, in partnership with University of Brighton, University of Greenwich, and University of Hertfordshire.

Part 1


In the first part, we look at:

  • drivers for the project
  • the mystery behind mysterious quotients
  • challenges within assessment for staff and students
  • the how of the project and emerging themes.

Part 2


In the second part, we cover areas including:

  • the student as partners approach
  • cross-institutional partnership - opportunities and challenges
  • the intended vision for this project.


Project lead:

University of the West of England

Project partners:

University of Hertfordshire, University of Brighton and University of Greenwich

Other Collaborative Enhancement Projects

QAA supports a number of projects every year, covering a range of topics and interest areas. Each is led by a QAA Member, working in collaboration with other members institutions. You can find more information on all projects, and access resources and outputs, on our website.