Degree classification mitigations for postgraduate taught students due to complete their degree in 2021
We are committed to ensuring the degrees awarded this year are both fair to individuals and uphold our academic standards.
Our package mitigates against the impacts of coronavirus on students who will complete their degrees in 2021 and helps ensure that the pattern of marks for this year's cohorts is not negatively impacted by coronavirus.
Before the mitigation is applied you need to:
For postgraduate taught awards two methods of mitigation will be used in combination:
- The cohort exclusion mitigation is the way we ensure that the pattern of units in previous years is similar to this year. This will help protect you against unintended effects of coronavirus.
- We are also introducing a Secondary Rule for Best Classification.
This page explains the details of the new mitigation and how it will work alongside many of our normal rules and procedures. This includes the 2019/20 safety net on programmes of study where that is relevant.
This package applies to postgraduate taught degrees that lead to a classified award. A slightly modified version of these arrangements will apply in programmes with their own separate regulations, such as MA Law or MSc in Social Work.
On this page
- Normal rules and procedures for degree awards
- Coronavirus mitigation: the Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark
- Secondary Rule
- Eligibility for cohort exclusions
- Excluded units
- Exceptions to the Best Classifications
- Evidence needed to make a classification decision
- Individual circumstances
- Assessments and results
- How the mitigation system works
Normal rules and procedures for degree awards
Our mitigation package works alongside our normal rules and procedures.
- What you need to do to get your degree is the same:
- You need to take the assessments for your units and pass enough credits for us to make an award as in a normal year.
- Some degree programmes include units or assessments which you must pass.
- These and other programme requirements apply as normal.
- Our moderation and external examining procedures will ensure marks are consistent and comparable with other universities.
- We will take appropriate action if something unexpected affects the normal running of an assessment.
- Boards of examiners will consider extenuating circumstances and apply individual mitigations in the normal way.
Degree classification mitigation
The Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark
- We will compare the pattern of marks achieved this year in each taught unit with the pattern of marks achieved by previous cohorts in years unaffected by coronavirus.
- We will check if differences suggest that students collectively underperformed on units in 2020/21.
- Where the difference is big enough that we are confident it is not part of the variation we expect to see year to year, we will consider an alternative version of your taught component average that does not include the affected unit or units. This is your taught component cohort exclusion mark.
- We will not exclude any research unit, due to the essential contribution they make to our postgraduate awards.
This method of mitigation will be applied consistently across the University with the same test and level of confidence required.
We will calculate at least two possible taught unit weighted averages for every student eligible for an award. Each average uses a specific combination of the units that contribute to your degree:
- Normal taught component mark: all taught unit marks, so all your individual performances count
- Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark: all taught unit marks excluding those covered by this year's cohort exclusions
If you took units in 2019/20
Some students who are completing their degree this year will also have undertaken units in 19/20. This may include those studying part time. A small number will be on postgraduate programmes that offered a 'Safety net' as part of the 19/20 mitigation. For these students we will also generate two additional taught unit average marks:
- 2019/20 Safety Net Taught Component Mark: all taught unit marks excluding any units outside your 2019/20 Safety net.
- 2019/20 Safety Net and Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark: all unit marks excluding:
- any units outside your 2019/20 safety net, where this is relevant to your programme and mode of study
- any taught units covered by this year's cohort exclusions
We will normally award you the best outcome from these possible combinations of taught unit marks. There may be rare exceptions.
This system will provide a way to identify and remove unexpected differences in your cohort's performance.
- We will check if the result of doing so would improve your classification as an individual.
- We will still reward individual achievement and award the degree classification each student has earned.
- Every student will receive a classification at least as good as that which they would have received if the system had not been in place.
A Secondary Rule for postgraduate students
We are implementing a new secondary rule to postgraduate classifications as part of our mitigation package for 20/21.
Once we have applied the cohort and individual mitigations which are relevant to your case, we will apply the secondary rule to students who are within 1% of the pass/merit or merit/distinction borderline.
Eligibility for cohort exclusions
Who is eligible
- All postgraduate Masters courses that lead to a classified award.
- PG Diplomas and PG Certificates that are not awarded as exit awards and are therefore classified.
- Part-time students completing the final year of their programmes over multiple academic years will benefit from any applicable 2020/21 cohort exclusion when they are later considered for classification. In practice, this means that if you are studying your postgraduate degree part time the cohort exclusion mitigation will apply to units taken this year, irrespective of your year of study. This is a key equality consideration in the mitigation.
- Students on a supplementary year to complete their degree with teaching in 2020/21 are members of the 2020/21 cohort and are therefore eligible provided they qualify to be considered for classification under the 2020/21 academic regulations.
Students studying a 2020/21 unit as part of an assessment-only supplementary year are not eligible for cohort exclusions.
More detail on the definition of a unit's cohort will be included in our Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes which will be updated soon.
What you need to do to be eligible
- You will normally need to complete the assessment on all your units before your degree is calculated under the mitigations package.
- You will automatically become eligible for any cohort unit exclusions if the exam board does not require you to complete any outstanding assessments.
- You must have completed the assessments required to qualify for your degree. This may be:
- after you have taken an assessment again or for the first time in the August reassessment period or,
- at a later time that is in association with this academic year’s cycle.
You cannot select which cohort exclusions apply to you.
The system is a cohort-level mitigation to help ensure your cohort's performance is comparable with previous years. The fairness of the system relies on the same action being applied to everyone.
It is not designed to take account of impacts on individual performance or base your classification on your top marks alone.
If your individual performance has been impacted by coronavirus in ways which are specific to you, or by other factors, tell us using our extenuating circumstances process.
The end result of our system cannot be a lower classification. Every student will receive a classification at least as good as that which they would have received if the system had not been in place.
If you have done well in a unit which is excluded
The purpose of the cohort exclusion marks is to see what your degree would look like without units showing signs of significant cohort underperformance.
If we exclude a unit(s) based on our cohort comparison, this exclusion will only apply to the cohort exclusion versions of your taught unit mark average.
Your high mark will still be included in the calculation we do for each student of the entire marks range with no units removed.
If this produces the best overall result, then this will be the basis of your classification, not your cohort exclusion mark.
Exceptions to the Best Classifications offer
Exceptions may be necessary if:
- an accrediting body requires us to include a specific unit result in your degree classification, or
- in individual cases, if there is too little evidence to form a clear judgement.
We expect exceptions will be rare.
Evidence needed to make a classification decision
Our degree classifications are based on clear evidence of student achievement.
The evidence we need to be able to make a classification decision depends on your programme and mode of study.
- For students on most postgraduate Masters or Diploma programmes: at least 80 credits of taught units plus the 60 credit research unit, where relevant.
- For students completing a standard Postgraduate Certificate in 20/21: at least 40 credits
- Postgraduate taught courses with non-standard structure and credit weighting. Exclusion parameters for these programmes will be agreed with the relevant Faculty.
For a small number of part-time students there may be units excluded in this year's cohort exclusion mitigation and the 19/20 Safety net mitigation.
There may be individual cases where additional units are excluded for extenuating circumstances.
If more than the required number of credit points are excluded from a profile, the board of examiners will consider all available evidence and make a recommendation to a university board to review the case.
We expect that these cases will be extremely rare.
If you were significantly affected by coronavirus and you feel your individual circumstances have not been covered by our mitigations packages, use our extenuating circumstances process. We made enhancements to elements of our extenuating circumstances procedures for 2020/21 as part of our wider package of support. Find out more about our 2020/21 Assessment support package.
Assessments and results
If you miss one or more summer assessments
If your circumstances prevent you from completing an assessment this summer, tell us using either our self-certification or extenuating circumstances process.
You may need to take exams or timed assessments in the reassessment period which starts on 16 August. You will also need to submit outstanding coursework by 16 August.
Exams may need to be scheduled closer together in the short reassessment period. If you are unable to complete your assessments in August you may need to undertake a supplementary year in 2021/22 before you can complete your degree and graduate. There is further information about absences from exams and timed assessments. We will operate the same mitigation package for students at our boards in June and July and in September, following the reassessment period.
If you fail one or more assessments
If you fail a must-pass assessment, you must take it again in the reassessment period.
In other cases, the board of examiners will review your overall profile and consider where compensation between units can be allowed. This is in line with our normal regulations. Further information about the compensation rule (section 38.14).
They will either:
- consider which of the degree averages you are eligible for would give you the best outcome or,
- let you know if other actions are required in individual circumstances.
If you are not happy with your degree result
In certain circumstances, you can appeal your degree result through our regular appeals procedures. You can also seek independent advice and guidance from the JustAsk service based in the Students' Union.
Your transcript will show:
- the marks you have achieved in each unit that forms a part of your degree programme
- the degree class you have been awarded overall.
It will not include an explanation of how your classification has been determined or of any units which have been excluded. This is no different to a normal year.
How the degree classification mitigation system works
The basis for comparing normal marks on a unit with this year's marks
We aim to look at the performance on the unit of three previous cohorts when it was unaffected by coronavirus.
The precise years we use will depend on when the unit ran and how many students were involved. We regard Teaching Block 1 units in 2019/20 as unaffected by coronavirus.
How big the difference needs to be to trigger an exclusion
We use a statistical test that tells us how likely it is that the difference we've detected is one we would see through normal variation in marks from year to year.
If the difference is big enough that we can have confidence it is not a product of this normal variation we will consider an alternative version of your degree average that does not include the unit or units.
We will set a single level of how confident we need to be to ensure consistency across the University.
When these tests are used in other contexts, a significance level of 0.05 or lower is used. This means that the difference observed could be expected to have occurred through normal variation less than 5% of the time. We are analysing mark distibutions from previous years to set an appropriate value for this educational context and we will specify our final system on the basis of this work.
The statistical test we are using is the Kolmogorov-Smirnov two-sample test. We made this decision after consulting with several experts to evaluate the potential tests available.
How the system will affect marks
This system will not inflate the unit marks for students who have done less well.
All degree results will be based on the marks students have actually achieved.
Every student will receive a classification at least as good as that which they would have received if the system had not been in place.
Units for very small groups
We won’t always have enough data to build a comparison using the past results of a unit by itself.
In these circumstances, we'll compare your cohort's performance on a unit with past performance on a 'basket' of units. We aim to build that basket by identifying similar units, and their patterns of marks.
Units that haven't run before
We will compare a unit cohort's performance with past performance across a 'basket' of similar units.
Information about changes to how we are organising exams and assessments this summer.
Degree classification regulations for 2020/21
Further information about degree classification regulations of taught programmes in the 2020/21 (PDF, 304kB)
Mitigations package 2020/21
Further information about the mitigation package to support your assessments.