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Unpacking the literature on degree classifications in UK higher education

Date: January 6 - 2023

Our latest literature review provides our members with an overview of previous explorations of degree classifications in the UK. It underpins the sector-wide conversations QAA is engaged in to understand the role the UK degree classification system is fulfilling, particularly given the current patterns of degree outcomes.

The literature review provides an overview of policy and evidence and identifies six aspects of practice emerging from the analysis, including a snapshot of international perspectives.

It suggests a number of areas for further discussion including external examining practices, the calibration of marks, defining degree classifications within Subject Benchmark Statements, and further exploration of supplementary information to accompany degree classifications.

Dr Ailsa Crum, QAA's Director of Membership, Quality Enhancement and Standards commented: 'This helpful report looks across the breadth of work undertaken to explore UK degree classifications since the Dearing Inquiry in the 1990s. It provides a useful basis for shaping our future work in this space. We look forward to continuing conversations across the sector to ensure those delivering and awarding degrees are supported to reflect on the role degree classifications play in effectively conveying student achievement.'

We look forward to continuing our discussions with members through our network sessions and events, including our flagship Quality Insights Conference in February. The conference will cover three themes with registration opening w/c 16 January:

  • Creating successful academic communities
  • Graduate outcomes and attributes for the real world
  • Evaluating and enhancing practice

This literature review, which was completed in QAA's capacity as a membership organisation, draws on publications and reports from UK policy providers, funding councils, quality agencies, academies, and individual providers. It is available to QAA Members via the Membership Resources Site. Sign up to use the site by completing our simple registration form.