Guide to the Code of Assessment 2023-24 – Introduction
Location of the Code
The Code of Assessment is published as Regulation 16 of the ‘University Fees and General Information’ chapter of the University Regulations. It contains most but not all of the regulations relating to assessment.
If in any case an explanation or illustration in this guide appears to contradict the terms of the Code itself, the Code takes precedence.
Key Changes for 2023-24
1. Online Examinations and Late Submission
The Code of Assessment now incorporates principles around the submission of online exams (§16.28), with supporting information and examples included in the Guide (Chapter 2).
This information was previously available as freestanding guidance and is unchanged in content.
2. Ratification of Course Results
Schools are reminded of §16.33:
Where there is provision for assessment to be split between examination diets, a Board of Examiners shall determine and report the results for the individual courses of the programme after each intermediate diet and the overall award after the final diet.
Provisional results should be released to students as soon as they are available but must be ratified by a Board of Examiners after each diet. In most cases, this means that there should be formal meetings of the Board of Examiners after semester 1 as well as after semester 2.
3. Grades used in addition to those set out in Schedules A and B
Chapter 2 of the Guide now includes a list and description of grades other than those set out in Schedules A and B, e.g. MV, CA, CW.
4. Eligibility and Timing of Reassessment
In response to changes in the kinds of assessment being used, Chapter 3 of the Guide now includes the following note:
Eligibility for reassessment depends on knowing the ratified overall course grade. Normally this means that resit exams will take place at the August diet and reassessment of coursework will take place over the summer. However, the format of assessment may, in some cases, mean that that timescale is not appropriate and that it would be preferable for the reassessment to take place before the overall course grade has been confirmed. For example, where a small component of a course’s assessment comprises a series of weekly class quizzes, it is acceptable to offer a second attempt at a quiz on a very short timescale in order to promote consolidation of the student’s learning. E.g. where a quiz is released on a weekly basis, to be submitted by noon on Monday, with the result issued on the Tuesday, the reassessment version of the quiz could be released for completion by noon on the Thursday. Students should be advised how their eligibility for the reassessment will be determined and how they will be informed that they should take that reassessment. Where any such non-standard arrangements apply in relation to small components or sub-components of assessment, those arrangements must be explained in the course handbook.
5. Good Cause
5.1 Affected performance in honours or PGT independent work
Students experiencing adverse personal circumstances may claim good cause in relation to:
- missed assessments; and
- completed assessments where they believe their performance has been significantly impaired.
From 2023-24 onwards it is no longer possible to claim good cause in relation to significantly impaired performance in the independent work (dissertation/project) required for a classified honours degree or a postgraduate taught masters degree (§16.45 (a) (ii)).
This reflects the fact that good cause is defined as relating to acute circumstances whereas the independent work takes place over a period of months. Over such a period, acute circumstances can be addressed through short extensions or, in exceptional cases, a longer deferred deadline (e.g. completion of an honours dissertation in the summer). Schools are encouraged to highlight this point to students undertaking independent work, noting that where they encounter difficulties, they should alert staff in good time and, crucially, before the work is submitted.
5.2 Timing of good cause claims
A reminder that the timing of good cause claims is covered here:
§16.47 Where incomplete assessment may be the result of good cause, notification later than five working days after the examination, or after the date at which submission of the work for assessment was due, shall not be taken into account unless circumstances have prevented the candidate from submitting a claim within this time. A candidate may not retract a claim of good cause more than five working days after the examination or after the date at which submission of work for assessment was due, nor after the date of publication of the results of the assessment, whichever date was earlier.
Any claim submitted after results have been published – even if they are only provisional – should not be considered. A student wishing to raise adverse circumstances at that stage would need to use the academic appeals process.
The Guide to the Code now includes a diagram (Chapter 5, p.12) giving an example of the timeline applying to good cause claims. This shows (a) when a good cause claim is considered to be on time, (b) when a good cause claim is late and will only be considered where it is accepted that there are compelling grounds for the claim having been submitted late, and (c) when the claim is late and should not be considered. The diagram also shows the associated timeline for the submission of academic appeals.
5.3 ‘Good Cause Committees’
Good practice guidance on the management of good cause claims is in development and will be issued later in 2023-24.
5.4 Aggregation and course grade profile where assessment is missing due to good cause
Chapter 2 of the Guide includes an example showing the calculation of the final outcome where some components have been missed with good cause and there is no further opportunity for the student to complete those components. This covers aggregation to establish the final grade point average (GPA) and application of course grade profile.
Other Assessment Regulations
The ‘University Fees and General Information’ chapter of the University Regulations contains further Regulations relevant to assessment which are not part of the Code and are therefore not included in this Guide. These Regulations are:
- Instructions to candidates on their conduct in written examinations (Regulation 17)
- Use of a computer in an examination (Regulation 18)
- Use of dictionaries by students in examinations (Regulation 19)
- Use of electronic calculators by students in examinations (Regulation 20)
- Invigilation (Regulation 21)
- Rules of invigilation (Regulation 22)
- Appointment of external examiners for taught courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level (Regulation 23)
- Examination and other assessment arrangements for disabled students (Regulation 24)
- Code of practice for exceptional international examination arrangements (Regulation 25)
The Essence of the Code
Assessment is an integral part of the process by which the University makes awards to students who have completed their programmes. The regulations which comprise the Code of Assessment are intended to deliver transparently fair and consistent outcomes in all student assessment. It is the pursuit of transparency which has imposed most demands on the design of the Code and on examiners.
If a student was to receive a mark of 67% for a very good essay, we may take for granted that this mark was fair and reflective of consistent standards. We therefore assume that students who had performed as well in previous years might also have got 67%, and, within this student’s own cohort, those students whose essays were less good were awarded less than 67% and those (few) who had written better essays achieved marks (only a little) higher than 67%. But this model of fairness and academic rigour has two weaknesses:
- Its range of consistency is very limited – students in other subjects who had demonstrated as thorough a grasp of their course content might have scored 87% or even more.
- It is meaningless beyond the function of ranking students – the essay was a very good one and yet it scored only two thirds of the way up the implied scale of 0 to 100.
The object of the Code of Assessment is to make assessment outcomes as consistent as possible across all taught disciplines within this University, and to provide a clear statement of the learning that each student has demonstrated.
Chapter 1 of this Guide discusses intended learning outcomes (ILOs). ILOs tell students what they are expected to learn, and all universities are required to publish these. One of the things the Code of Assessment does is make an explicit connection between ILOs and the assessment of each student’s performance. Thus employers (and anyone else) may determine what the grades reported in a student’s transcript actually mean.
Chapter 2 explains how this connection is made by a set of grade descriptors, in which each grade is described in terms of a student’s achievement of ILOs. What the examiner has to do is determine which grade descriptor best matches the student’s performance. The University’s main assessment schedule (Schedule A) uses eight grades, A to H, and the bands into which these grades are divided allow the marker 23 discrete scores from A1 to H. The chance awkwardness of this number confirms that a student’s performance is being assessed against grade descriptors, not as a ratio of right answers to questions asked.
University awards are not made on the basis of a single assessment. The Code must, therefore, provide a way of aggregating grades from all summative components. The simplest and most readily transparent method of combining grades is to convert them into numbers, and Chapter 2 explains how this should be done and how the final score should be translated to a course result or a classified degree.
Other Aspects of the Code
As noted, it is an objective of the Code to deliver fair and consistent outcomes in all student assessment. Consistency across the University requires regulation; fairness calls for sensitivity, on the one hand, to the individual student – recognising when their circumstances justify special provision – and, on the other, to the integrity of the University’s awards. These issues are never far from the surface in the rules governing reassessment (Chapter 3) and incomplete assessment resulting from good cause (Chapter 5). Course credits represent a transferable currency – this University will recognise credits gained by students in other institutions just as other institutions will recognise the value of credits awarded here – and students must accumulate course credits in order to qualify for a certificate, diploma or degree. Chapter 4 is concerned with setting minimum standards for the award of credits. Chapter 6 is about making the whole thing work, and sets out the responsibilities of Heads of Schools, assessment officers and examiners, both internal and external.