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Degree Outcomes Statement

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Institutional Degree Classification Profile



Table 1: Good Degrees by Reporting Year

Staffordshire University has seen an incremental rise in good degrees for its taught students since 2017/18 from 72.7% to 75.9% (a rise of 3.2%)1. Currently, our good degree rates are rising below the sector average. This upward trend evidences our investment in high quality teaching, notable infrastructure projects and innovative support and pastoral care initiatives, as well as reflecting demographic changes. 

The gap between full and part time good degrees has increased over the last five years. (2017/18: 10.5pp gap, 2021/22: 15.1pp gap) Part-time good degrees have consistently exceeded our full-time results. (Table 1)   This is due to changes to our part time provision which has seen a significant intake of students from an Armed Forces background, focusing on degrees related to their roles. 

For students with Indices of Multiple Deprivation (for example those with barriers to education, employment and health), we have been working on closing the attainment gap between the most vulnerable and challenged group and the least vulnerable group. There remain, however, gaps in attainment, particularly for Black students. We acknowledge and are addressing this through our Access and Participation Plan 2020-25, as approved by the Office for Students (OfS) and the associated variation for 2024 which is currently under review by the Office for Students (OfS).  


Table 2: Good degrees by School 

At the School level, good degrees in the School of Health and Science and Wellbeing (HSW) are lower than the University average, with particular challenges in Nursing. All Schools have developed local plans to reduce gaps in performance which look to redevelop curricula and enhancing learning and teaching approaches to increase the academic stretch for students, as shown by its improving trajectory. (Table 2) 

Assessment and Marking Practices

All courses have learning outcomes mapped to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) and relevant subject benchmark statements. Detailed academic scrutiny of course proposals ensures that programme content, teaching and assessment aligns with national reference points. Courses are also continually monitored to ensure they are current, valid and appropriate to the changing markets and needs of our students, partners and employers. In addition, courses meet the expectations and assessment requirements of Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs).

Assessment strategies are designed to demonstrate that course and module level learning outcomes have been met by a student and ensure that a range of appropriate assessment types are used. Furthermore, we consider the learning needs of all groups of students to ensure that assessments are appropriate to the individual and achievable.

Coursework assignments, submission and feedback dates are made available at the start of a module wherever possible. Students are provided with generic and contextualised criteria for success, enabling them to align their learning to meet the learning outcomes and ensure a clear grasp of expectations. Formative (ongoing) assessment methods allow students to receive regular feedback on their progress and feed forward into their summative (final) assessment. Our Personal and Academic Mentoring system enables students to meet to discuss and action their feedback effectively with tutors.

Assessments, submitted electronically where appropriate, are scrutinised with similarity checking software.  Marking is also undertaken electronically, with tutors providing marks and feedback to students online, where appropriate. University policy is to provide marks and feedback within 20 working days of submission. Exceptional circumstances are considered in accordance with our Exceptional Circumstances Procedure.  For both University and partner-delivered courses, assessments are second marked, moderated internally and then scrutinised by external examiners (EEs) to ensure consistency. EEs are experienced, independent Higher Education professionals, who are appointed and trained according to a formal process, culminating in an annual written report. See our External Examiner Policy. EE feedback confirms that the University continues to maintain its academic standards.  An overview of this feedback is provided in the Annual Quality and Standards and Student Success Report to Academic Board and Board of Governors.

Over the course of the pandemic, the University operated its emergency regulations which focused on ensuring students weren’t disadvantaged by changes to delivery and recognizing the challenges created by home-working environments etc. In addition, alternative assessments were put in place by Schools with an overarching University sign-off process to ensure consistency, equability, and the maintenance of standards.

Academic Governance

Academic Board reports to the Board of Governors and is responsible for the planning, development, oversight and resourcing of all the academic work of the University, including teaching, research and knowledge transfer. The Academic Board appoints sub-committees, including the Quality and Enhancement Committee, which is responsible for the maintenance of standards and oversight of all teaching quality assurance.

The University’s committee structure

In addition, Academic Board approves the University’s Academic Award Regulations and all associated policies and procedures governing assessment practice. These ensure marking practices are followed. Award Boards are appointed to receive module results and confirm progression and award decisions for both on-campus awards and those delivered through partnership arrangements. The Terms of Reference and membership of these are outlined in our Assessment Policy and Procedures. Mandatory training for Award Board Chairs is provided by the Registry. Provision for appeals against the decision of Award Boards is set out in our Complaints and Appeals Procedure.

The University’s annual Quality and Standards and Student Success Report provides Academic Board and the Board of Governors with oversight of the operation of policies and procedures concerning learning and teaching, quality assurance and quality enhancement activities.  This report includes academic performance trends over the previous three years and University-level themes/priorities. From this, key actions for the current year are identified and a Quality Enhancement Plan is produced. The report provides governors with the assurance required to sign-off the annual Assurance Statement to the Office for Students.

Academic standards at partner institutions are additionally monitored through the University’s Annual Academic Partnership Performance and Review procedure. The University Partnerships Committee receives an annual qualitative report encompassing all collaborative academic partnerships. The report provides an evaluation of each partnership, including the outcomes of operational and quality assurance mechanisms for the previous 12 months.

Policies focussing on the management and quality assurance of collaborative provision

External advisors have been appointed to provide assistance in assuring this Statement, as outlined below.

Classification Algorithms

Following a comprehensive review, Staffordshire University moved to a single classification algorithm in 2019/20, responding to sector best practice and protecting the standard of our awards. We reworked the University’s regulations introducing a differentiated approach. The aim being a right first time, timely completion approach, supporting students more in their early HE study, providing a transition period and progressively requiring more from students until completion of their award and ensuring that they are work-ready. This is outlined in plain English in the Academic Regulations. Students were pivotal in the development of our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ approach to these and were consulted from the outset.

The base classification is calculated using level 5 and level 6 study weighted at 30% and 70% respectively. The lowest scoring module (to a maximum of 30 credits) is discounted in recognition of a student’s consistent overall performance and to allow students to explore learning without fear of failure. There is only one criterion for a raise in classification and this is where a student’s base classification is within 2% of the higher classification (i.e. 48%, 68%) and has 60 level 6 credits in the higher classification. The University also imposes limits on the number of re-sit opportunities available to students. In keeping with sector norms, students have one opportunity to re-sit an assessment. The mark for this will be restricted to the basic pass mark. Should students require it, they may have one opportunity to retake a module the following year. A rigorous Impact Assessment was undertaken on the provisions of the new regulations, including the revised degree classification and its potential impact on good degrees.

During the pandemic the University adopted regulations that recognised the challenges of working and being assessed remotely when this would not be the normal method of delivery. The principle for this approach was based on an expectation that students would engage with all aspects of assessment but allowed for a greater degree of condonement (45 credits compared to 30 previously) and for a reduced level of completion of assessment at a module level (66%) where it was not possible for students to undertake assessment. This means that students might not have completed up to one third of their assessment during this period. All other aspects of degree outcomes regulations were maintained.

Teaching Practices and Learning Resources

Our commitment to high quality teaching and its significant impact on our degree classification is illustrated by achieving:

  • · TEF Gold (2019) Only one of two institutions successful in achieving movement from Silver within this assessment round. Co-authored submission with students.
  • Top 20 nationally for student satisfaction for Teaching Quality (2018 & 2019 & 2020) [2]
  • Top 10 nationally for student satisfaction for Assessment and Feedback (2017 & 2018 & 2019) [3]

Seven members of staff have been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship and in addition to these, seven members of staff have also attained a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence and 64% of tutors have Higher Education Academy (HEA) status. We have appointed our second Director of Learning and Teaching (May 2021) following the successful appointment of the previous role holder as Director of the Staffordshire Centre of Learning and Pedagogic Practice, who is also a Professor of Critical Pedagogy. We have an ambitious Key Performance Indicator (KPI) expecting that 100% of teaching staff will hold a postgraduate teaching qualification or have a fellowship of the HEA by 2022. To that end, we have implemented an accelerated fellowship programme for a further 60 current members of teaching staff this academic session, who are expected to complete their claims in early 2022. For the most impact on learning, we require all new full-time staff to complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Professional Education, whilst all staff are encouraged to participate in our on-going opportunities for professional development. Further, the Director of Learning and Teaching is leading the development of an academic Continuous Professional Development framework, in conjunction with the Director of Human Resources and Operational Development. Professional support staff also participate in our development opportunities and fellowship schemes which will form part of the equivalent CPD framework.

The University has developed a range of measures to enhance learning and potential to achieve, including the Quiet Induction, and the Step up to HE Programme. These aim to ease the transition into Higher Education for disadvantaged and underrepresented student groups and secure high levels of commitment to study. This year, we doubled our resource invested in the Step-Up programme, as part of our response to the pandemic.

We have conducted a number of insight sessions with local sixth form colleges in July/August 2021 and produced a report with key recommendations on transition to HE 2021-22. We continue to work closely with these and other feeder colleges to maintain this level of insight, to ensure that our curriculum responds to the learning styles, norms and preferences of our student body.

We are developing the role of Academic Mentor, across the university, focussing on delivering a hyper-personalised student experience. We are piloting the introduction of strengths-based coaching to support students and have trained 19 members of staff across the institution, 15 to the level of accredited strengths practitioners.

We have invested £75M in recent years on infrastructure including our £30M Science Centre, £11.5M on the Cadman Studios, £8.7M on the Digital Kiln, £5M on our Beacon Specialist Learning Building and £5.5M on the Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education. The approval of a Staffordshire Centre of Learning and Pedagogic Practice (SCoLPP) in February 2020 represents a step change in further promoting and sustaining learning and teaching excellence. SCoLPP has an ambitious aim: to create effective evidence-informed pedagogic practice which connects learning to enhanced social mobility. This will be fulfilled through a programme of investment over the next 3 years, including the state-of-the-art £43M Catalyst Building. This innovative learning facility, accessible to all, is due to open in January 2022. We are now embarking on a new building project, to determine how we will deliver simulation-based education from our Stoke campus.

Staffordshire University London (SUL) recently completed a strategic expansion project with a capital investment of £3.5 million in new teaching and student experience spaces, advanced technologies and a staffing expansion. SUL’s DICE (Digital, Incubation, Collaboration and Enterprise) teaching and learning framework will launch next generation programs as well as new postgraduate enterprise curricula.

[2] Good University Guide 2020

[3] Guardian University League Tables 2020

Identifying Good Practice and Actions

The University’s review has identified the following strengths:

  • The use of one agreed algorithm for calculating degree outcomes, ensuring transparency and consistency of approach
  • The redevelopment of the academic regulations to ensure that they are student-focused, user friendly and accessible
  • Collaboration with students in every aspect of the University’s operation, from curriculum design and student support to governance and management
  • A consistent partnership working approach assured via Collaborative Academic Partnership management and facilitation
  • Investment in furthering effective evidence-informed pedagogic practice with the development of the SCoLPP research centre

We will be undertaking the following key actions over the coming year:

  • A review of the impact of the changes to the regulations to ensure that we continue to align to sector best practice and protect the standard of our awards
  • Continuing action to close attainment/award gaps for vulnerable student groups, taking evidence-based action informed by sector research
  • Continued enhancement of learning and teaching approaches in the School of Health, Science and Wellbeing, including the introduction of increased simulation-based education, to further the academic stretch for students, ensuring they achieve their full potential.
  • A review of the Degree Outcomes Statement as part of our commitment to assure the value and consistency of our awards, with reports submitted annually to the Board of Governors.

Contributors and Oversight

This statement was prepared by a cross university working group, including student representation and reporting to Quality and Enhancement Committee.

The following external advisors reviewed and provided input in the development of the Degree Outcomes Statement:

  • Helen Smallbone: Academic Registrar and Clerk to Governors, Edge Hill University
  • Ian Vandewalle: Former Pro Vice Chancellor (Retired) Liverpool Hope University

The University’s Collaborative Academic Partners and an existing external examiner were also invited to review the statement.