Teaching

Further Guidance for Stage 1 Undergraduate Students on Changes to the University's Classification Conventions

January 2012

This purpose of this note is to provide further information to those students in Stage 1 of an undergraduate degree programme in 2011/12 on the changes being introduced to the rules and conventions that the University uses to classify its degree awards (i.e. First Class, Upper Second Class, Lower Second Class, Third Class and Fail). It should be read in conjunction with the earlier guidance on these matters that was published in September 2011, which can be found here:

https://www-test.kent.ac.uk/teaching/qa/guidance/changesclassificationug.html

The present note covers the following matters:

  1. Stage Weighting - Update
  2. Changes to the rules for classification
  3. Protocol for the rounding of marks
  4. Consideration of borderline candidates
  5. Use of Viva Voce examinations
  6. Consideration of concessionary applications

It is worth recording that the University believes that it is acting in the best interests of its undergraduate degree students in making these changes. The changes arise from the recommendations of a Working Group that was established to review the transparency and consistency of the University’s procedures and conventions for classification as applied by Schools. The amendments set out in this present document build on those announced in September 2011 and seek to introduce a more standardised system of classification for all undergraduate students across the University – a system in which the degree result for any candidate, regardless of School or Faculty, might be reached through the application of common rules and processes in a consistent and transparent manner.

It is neither intended nor anticipated that any student will be disadvantaged by the introduction of these changes.

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Stage Weighting - Update

You will be aware from the guidance issued in September that the University has introduced standard stage weightings for its degree programmes. Stage weighting refers to the proportional contribution that marks awarded for modules in a stage make towards a student’s final overall weighted average mark: i.e. the mark used for classification purposes.

The standard stage weightings established by the University in 2011/12 are:

[a] Stage 2: 40%, Stage 3: 60% for three year UG degree programmes; or

[b] Stage 2: 20%, Stage 3: 30%, Stage 4: 50% for 4 year integrated Master’s degree programmes).

The weightings for four year degree programmes which include a year abroad or an industrial placement vary depending on whether the marks awarded for the study away from the University have been determined by Kent staff or by the placement provider (see the earlier guidance for more detail on this). If you are studying on a programme with a placement stage, your School will be able to confirm the weighting that applies in your case.

Allowance has been made for Schools to seek exemption from applying the stage weighting to their programmes provided that they can demonstrate sound pedagogical reason or an external requirement for doing so. The Faculty Boards will consider any such petitions in the Spring Term 2012. Your School will be able to advise you if it intends to pursue this course and will be able to explain their reasons for doing so.

In June 2011, the University took the decision to implement the new standard stage weighting in 2011/12 for all students already enrolled on an undergraduate degree programme: i.e. students entering stages 2, 3 or 4 in the Autumn Term 2011. As this change would constitute an in-course alteration for these cohorts, it was agreed that we should continue additionally to calculate the degree result by the stage weighting in effect prior to the introduction of the new scheme, with students to benefit from the better classification result achieved by either method, and so ensure no possible disadvantage might follow from its implementation. Students in these cohorts would therefore have two degree results calculated, one by either weighting, and would benefit from a comparison of the two and so be awarded the better result achieved.

Although we had not originally planned to extend the double calculation of degree results to include students entering the University in 2011/12 (i.e. the current Stage 1 cohort), on the basis that the new standard weighting would be the only weighting in operation for the entire duration of their studies, a number of Stage 1 students have petitioned the University to extend the comparison of results derived from the former stage weighting in force for their programmes when they applied to Kent and from the new stage weighting. I can tell you that in the interests of equity the University has agreed to this request and as a result students who entered Stage 1 of an undergraduate degree programme in 2011/12 will, as with students in Stages, 2, 3 & 4, also benefit from being awarded the better degree result achieved under the old and new standard stage weightings for their degree programmes. In this way the University will ensure that none of its current undergraduate degree students is disadvantaged by the changes presently under implementation.

 

Changes to the Rules for Classification

For many years the University has operated two methods for the classification of undergraduate degree students, the average method and the preponderance method. As its name suggests, under the average method the overall final mark for classification is reached by simply calculating the average (weighted) mark achieved for all the contributing modules (normally those modules taken from Stage 2 onwards). The preponderance method, on the other hand, is slightly more complicated and requires the achievement of a qualifying average mark and a set volume of credit in a specific class band ( First, Upper Second, Lower Second, Third) in order to be considered for an award in that class band. With respect to the classification of cohorts of students admitted prior to 2011/12, Schools have had licence to opt for use of either method exclusively. As part of the present changes all undergraduate degree students admitted in 2011/12 and thereafter will be classified by both the average and preponderance methods and will be awarded a degree according to the better result achieved.

A number of changes designed to standardise the preponderance method have also been introduced for the benefit of current Stage 1 students. Where, formerly, the requirements for the average qualifying mark and the volume of credit required have been variable for each class band, these have now been made consistent for each class of award. For all undergraduate degree students admitted in 2011/12 the following preponderance rubric will be applied at classification:

‘Preponderance’ Method of Classification

A candidate who has met the requirements for award of an Honours degree will be placed in an Honours class on the attainment of:

  • at least the following number of credits in that class or above AND
  • at least the following weighted average mark over the examination as a whole:

 


For degrees with 240 contributing credits:

Class
Number of Credits in class or above
Average mark over all contributing modules of at least
First Class
120
67
Upper Second Class
120
57
Lower Second Class
120
47
Third Class
240
Not Applicable

 

For degrees with 360 contributing credits:

Class
Number of Credits in class or above
Average mark over all contributing modules of at least
First Class
180
67
Upper Second Class
180
57
Lower Second Class
180
47
Third Class
360
Not Applicable

 

For degrees/students with contributing credits other than above:

Class
Number of Credits in class or above
Average mark over all contributing modules of at least
First Class
50%
67
Upper Second Class
50%
57
Lower Second Class
50%
47
Third Class
100%
Not Applicable

 

As noted above, the University does not anticipate that these changes will prove disadvantageous to those students affected by their introduction.

Protocol for the Rounding of Marks

The University has a long-established protocol for the rounding of the marks awarded for (i) the assessed components of modules into an overall module mark, and (ii) for aggregating such overall module marks into a final weighted average mark to be used in classification. As part of the current set of changes it has been agreed that, with respect to all marks awarded as part of an undergraduate programme in 2011/12 and thereafter, the rounding protocol should be adjusted to incorporate the amendments set out below:

(a) where the aggregated overall mark awarded for the module falls within one mark of the boundary for a higher class band (i.e. an overall module mark of 39, 49, 59 or 69) it should not be rounded to the nearest integer as was previously the practice, but should be rounded up to the nearest integer.

(b) where the final weighted average mark for classification is within 0.5 percentage points of a higher classification boundary, it should be rounded up for classification purposes (e.g. a mark of 59.5% would be rounded up to 60%).

Consideration of Borderline Candidates

The rationale for the introduction of the changes to the rounding protocol outlined above lies in a desire to ensure more consistent treatment by Schools of candidates whose performance, both at the level of the module and at the point of classification, falls at the boundary of a higher class band. Indeed, all of the steps outlined in this guidance document and in the related guidance published in September 2011 are designed to ensure that there is greater consistency across Schools in all three Faculties in the application of the University’s procedures for marking and classification. This is particularly relevant to the treatment of candidates whose performance places them at a borderline for classification in a higher class band. For students admitted to an undergraduate degree programme prior to 2011/12, the University’s procedures allow for those candidates whose performance places them close to the boundary for a higher class of degree (i.e. where if two more marks were added to each overall module mark, the candidate might at the discretion of the examiners be considered for raising for a higher class of award). The italicised phrase here is important to note. Inevitably, the exercise of discretion in this area by Boards of Examiners in different Schools in different Faculties is variable (by its very nature, discretion must be locally determined and exercised) and, as a result, the University is no longer convinced that use of the ‘two more marks’ convention is the most equitable means possible for determining degree classifications for all of its students. For students admitted to an undergraduate degree programme in 2011/12 and thereafter, use of this rule has been withdrawn. However, the University is confident that the other steps that it is implementing to regulate more fairly a student performance that falls close to a boundary (i.e. use of the categorical marking scale to resolve borderline marks firmly, the changes to the rounding protocol, the more consistent and universal application of preponderance) will adequately compensate for its removal.

Use of Viva Voce Examinations

Some schools currently use viva voce examination as a means of making decisions about candidates whose overall performance falls close to the borderline for a higher classification. However, many Schools choose not to use this form of examination at all and, where it is used, this has been inconsistent and often for reasons other than to resolve a borderline decision. Given the other measures set out in this document, the University is now withdrawing use of this form of examination for undergraduate degree students admitted in 2011/12 and thereafter.

Consideration of Concessionary Applications

Applications for concessions based on illness or other mitigating circumstances that cause exceptional interference with academic performance will continue to be considered by examiners. The University is drawing up plans to change the structure of meetings for Boards of Examiners from 2012/13 onwards, in the expectation that this will allow for a more timely application of concessionary allowances (with regard to concessions submitted with respect to particular modules or at the end of a stage). Although the removal of the ‘two more marks’ rule, as outlined above, might appear to prevent examiners from taking long-term concessionary circumstances into account when considering whether the performance of a candidate might be worthy of a higher classification than that indicated by the marks obtained, this will not be the case. The University’s conventions retain a clause that currently permits examiners to make recommendations in such exceptional circumstances. Detailed guidance on these points will be given to examiners prior to the relevant set of meetings.

 

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Last Updated: 03/10/2014