Degree outcomes statement

Kingston University has undertaken a review of its degree outcomes in line with the Statement of Intent document published by the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment.

This Statement has been compiled and reviewed by colleagues from across the institution including those from Academic Registry, Learning and Teaching Enhancement, Access Participation and Inclusion, Planning, by academic representatives from each of our four faculties and representatives from our UK collaborative partners. External assurance has also been obtained.

Kingston's Degree Outcomes Statement has been considered and approved by the chairs of Senate and Academic Governance Committee. Full consideration by Senate will be undertaken on 3 February 2021 and Academic Governance Committee on 3 March 2021.

For further information, please contact the Academic Registrar at academicregistry@kingston.ac.uk.

Summary

A summary of the statement can be viewed below. Should you wish to read the report in full, please download the degree outcomes statement (PDF).

Kingston University's Institutional Degree Classification Profile

Degree Classification Profile

Course 2015/16 2016/17 2017/182018/19
1st class 995 (24%) 1,130 (28%) 1,151 (31%) 1,108 (32%)
Upper Second Class 1,793 (44%) 1,732 (43%) 1,490 (40%) 1,358 (39%)
Good Degrees Total 68%  71%  71%  71%
Lower Second Class 1,035 (25%) 930 (23%) 774 (21%) 773 (22%)
Third Class 219 (5%) 191 (5%) 207 (6%) 171 (5%)
Other 79 (2%) 45 (1%) 76 (2%) 59 (2%)
Total awards 4,121 4,028 3,698 3.469

A review of the University's degree classification profile over the past four academic years since 2015/2016 has shown that the proportion of good degrees (1st and 2:1) awarded has marginally increased from 68% in 2015/16 to 71% in 2018/2019, a percentage point increase of 3. However, the overall proportion of good degrees has been stable since 2016/2017.

The main driver of this increase can be attributed to an upturn in 1st class degrees being awarded (a rise of 8 percentage points since 2015/16) with the award of Upper Second Class degrees reducing during the same time period (from 44% to 39%).

Data from the most recent Office for Students Analysis of degree classifications over time (published June 2019) shows the proportions of good degrees across the sector at 76% in 2015/16 rising to 79% in 2017/18.

The University has invested significant resource into embedding strategic approaches to the identification and closing of degree awarding gaps for different student characteristics. An analysis of the data of students from a BAME background during the same time-period demonstrates an increase in the number of BAME students awarded good degrees (see figures 2 and 3 in accompanying pdf).

The University's strategic focus on reducing the BAME degree awarding gap since 2012/2013 has contributed to an overall improved performance amongst BAME graduates with the gap narrowing from 25.4% (2012/13) to 12.7% (2018/19).

Kingston has developed a value added (VA) metric that measures the extent to which the awards for full-time, first degree qualifiers at the institution departs from the sector average for a cohort with the same entry qualifications and subjects studied.

If the cohort performs in line with the sector average, the value-added score is 1.0; if the cohort performs above the expected degree outcome, the VA score is greater than 1.0; and if a cohort performs below the expected degree outcome the VA score drops below 1.0.

We believe the value-added approach is effective because it allows us to isolate student attainment from the effects of subject and entry qualifications. Thus, we can focus attention on the institutional factors that may contribute to differential outcomes and make progress while avoiding grade inflation.

In 2018/19, BAME students reached a value-added score of 0.93 (from a baseline of 0.80 in 2012/13). This means that BAME students at Kingston University were in 2018/19 almost as likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1 as the average for all students in the country with the same entry qualifications and subjects of study.

The University will continue to use the value added approach to secure and measure progress against targets set within the access and participation plan over the next five years, to significantly reduce gaps in degree outcomes between black and white students, mature and young students and those from the most and least deprived IMD quintiles. These will remain institutional priorities for the next five years.

Teaching Practices and Learning Resources

There has been a significant shift away from the implementation of isolated pockets of good practice to a more organisational, strategic, enhancement-led and data-driven approach. Recent innovations have resulted from high-level, university-wide projects which have aligned with the University's core values and are aimed at delivering on its strategic priorities.

Innovations are designed to address areas for improvement as well as highlighting and sharing good practice. Examples of key enhancements that were considered for the purposes of this review are the:

  • Revised Academic Framework introduced across all levels in September 2013 and which includes the University's Personal Tutor Scheme and the Teaching Management Guide
  • Inclusive Curriculum Framework introduced in 2016
  • Kingston University Big Read (2015/2016)
  • Kingston Course Enhancement Programme (K-CEP) (2017/2018)
  • early low stakes assessment at level 4 (2017/2018)
  • university-wide student engagement (SEATs) initiative (2018/2019).

Identifying the specific, tangible impacts of these projects on the institution's overall degree award profile is challenging, however, the university is assured that, when taken as a whole, these university-led improvements to teaching, assessment and student support have had a cumulative, positive impact on student engagement, success and, in turn, degree outcomes.

The following sections highlight a few of the key features of these recent projects that it is felt have had the most impact on student success and outcomes. It has not been possible to provide details of all of these projects within the constraints of this document.

Kingston's Academic Framework

Whilst initiated outside of the four-year period that this statement is primarily concerned with, the implementation of Kingston's Academic Framework, which launched across all levels in September 2013, remains core to understanding teaching practice and student support at Kingston.

The academic framework is designed to respond to the needs of our students, who are diverse and come from varied educational backgrounds. It is underpinned by a set of curriculum design principles which require rigour and stretch and which create the best platform to add value to our particular cohorts and, in turn, to improve student outcomes.

All courses were required to revitalise their curriculum offering and demonstrating through a process of re-validation how they met the new curriculum design principles.

Other key features were the redesign of the academic year and modular structure (to help reduce the risk of over-assessment), a focus on the course rather than the module, ensuring course coherence from a student's perspective, positioning assessment at programme level as an integral part of the curriculum, an explicit focus on best practice in pedagogy to engage students, making diversity and inclusion central to curriculum design in all courses, being responsive to student needs in terms of academic and employability skills and a commitment to placing research and practice at the core of our courses.

An Inclusive Curriculum

Addressing unexplained awarding gaps between different student groups is a high priority for the University and the Inclusive Curriculum Framework (ICF) is a key component of this.

The aim is to address differential experiences and outcomes including those relating to ethnicity, disabilities and learning differences, gender, sexual orientation, age and socioeconomic background in recognition that students have multiple identities and therefore may often face multiple barriers.

The ICF has three principles which require and support staff to create a curriculum that

  1. is accessible
  2. allows students to see themselves reflected in it and
  3. prepares them to positively contribute to a global and diverse world.

The ICF is applied from concept to review – to curriculum content, teaching practice, assessment and feedback and review - at module, programme and institutional level ensuring staff can make practical adaptions to support student attainment.

Review of degree outcomes from 2013/2014

A review of the University's degree award profile from when the revised academic framework was implemented shows that there was a positive shift in the proportion of good degrees awarded. This also coincided with the introduction of the Inclusive Curriculum Framework, the initiatives co-ordinated under the access and participation plan and described in section 1 and the introduction of a borderline zone at undergraduate level (see also section below).

It was noted at the time that the proportion of students attaining a ‘good' degree (1st and 2.1) had risen by 7 percentage points to 66% bringing the University into line with where it would expect to be when compared with its comparator institutions, and the sector (see figure 1 in the accompanying pdf).

At the time, this was attributed to two factors: the positive impact of the Revised Academic Framework, and the introduction of the borderline zone.

Degree awarding profile from 2012/13 and 2013/14

Academic Year Total1 + 2.1 1st 2.12.2 3rdOther
2012/13 4,810 59% 16% 43% 30%  6%  5%
2013/14 4,880 66% 20% 46% 28% 5% 1%

Between the 2013/2014 and 2015/2016 academic year, the cumulative effect of the various teaching and learning enhancements contributed to a further rise of 2 percentage points in the proportion of good degrees awarded.

The University is currently engaged in reviewing its Academic Framework to provide assurance that its principles, key features and architectural framework remain appropriate, given that the current framework has been in place for seven years and the University has implemented more strategic and robust ways of evaluating course performance and quality, making supportive interventions where these are required (see K-CEP below).

Kingston Course Enhancement Programme (K-CEP)

Introduced in 2017/2018, the Kingston Course Enhancement Programme (K-CEP) is one of the University's key mechanisms for aligning its core values and performance indicators in order to prioritise a programme of tailored and supportive intervention in each academic year. Courses that do not meet key thresholds indicated by course metrics, as identified on the University's Undergraduate Course Dashboard, will be considered for a programme of intensive support as an institutional priority.

K-CEP aims to develop the skills of staff so that positive changes to metrics and student experience are sustained, benefitting future as well as current student groups.

The Education Committee oversees the work of K-CEP and receives regular reports on progress which in turn are reported to Senate and Academic Governance Committee. Indicators of success include noting improvements in Value Added scores, NSS outcomes and other early shoots indicators.

Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre – Support for Academic Staff

The University's Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre (LTEC) provides training, guidance and support for all members of staff involved in teaching and supporting learning. This includes the Kingston Academic Practice Standards Framework (KAPs), a HEA-accredited CPD framework which reflects the requirements of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).

KAPs includes provision for those new to teaching in higher education, as well as opportunities for more experienced staff, offering the opportunity for staff to gain professional recognition mapped to the UKPSF at the appropriate category of HEA fellowship:

  • Associate fellow (AFHEA)
  • Fellow (FHEA)
  • Senior fellow (SFHEA)
  • Principal fellow (PFHEA).

Specific support is provided for academic partner organisations by nominated liaison officers at both Kingston and the partner institution, and to employers who are involved in any assessments.

Assessment and Marking Practices

The University's Academic Quality and Standards Handbook, Academic Framework and Regulatory Framework work together to underpin course curriculum and assessment design, and quality monitoring and evaluation.

Intended learning outcomes, teaching and assessment are aligned with national reference points, specifically the:

  • UK Quality Code for Higher Education
  • Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of Degree-Awarding Bodies in England
  • discipline-specific Subject Benchmark Statements.

Courses with Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements also ensure alignment with the relevant PSRB standards.

A Fairness in Assessment Policy clearly sets out the expectations for the quality and consistency of marking and feedback within courses and students are able to make use of the appeals process if they have evidence of any irregularities in the assessment process.

The University has well-established processes for engaging external expertise and oversight via its external examiner procedure which is benchmarked to the QAA External Expertise guidance. All courses have nominated external examiners who have the opportunity to comment on draft assessments briefs before they are published to students and review a sample of assessed student work as part of their audit of assessments. This process includes scrutiny of all external examiner appointments against strict criteria to ensure that externality continues to be independent and appropriate.

Academic Governance

Reporting to the Board of Governors, or its nominated sub-committee Academic Governance Committee (AGC), Senate is the University's senior committee for all academic matters such as the setting and maintenance of degree standards and issues relating to teaching and learning, and the policies and procedures for assessment.

Sub-committees, with approved terms of reference and annual schedules of business, are charged with overseeing detailed scrutiny and assurance on behalf of Senate. Senate and AGC receive annual reports on a range of academic areas including degree outcomes, assessment processes, academic appeals, academic misconduct, quality assurance processes, learning, teaching and enhancement and research, business and innovation.

Academic Governance for Collaborative Partnership arrangements

Kingston University works closely with its partners both in the UK and internationally to ensure comparability of delivery and awards across its collaborative network. The University set out its procedures for managing its partnership arrangements, and ensuring we meet the requirements set out in the UK Quality Code, in detail within Section B of the Academic Quality and Assurance Handbook. Further details of the precise arrangements for each collaborative partnership is contained within specific Liaison Documents.

In the case of UK franchised and validated provision, assessment boards are established and chaired by a senior member of staff from the appropriate School or Faculty. Boards are normally attended by course leaders from the partner institutions involved and overarching module and programme level reports are presented for discussion.

All of our collaborative partner provision is subject to external examiner review and an annual internal collaborative monitoring process, a key element of which is a consideration of the comparability and achievement academic standards and the quality of associated learning opportunities.

External examiners audit assessment across collaborative provision and provide confirmation that the standards set for the awards are appropriate and comparable.

Both processes are overseen by the University's Education Committee who provide summary reports to Senate who in turn report to the University's Academic Governance Committee.

The outcome of these processes for the 2018/2019 academic year were presented to the Academic Governance Committee at its March 2020 meeting where it was concluded that the University's processes for overseeing standards across its collaborative network were operating effectively.

Classification Algorithms

The University has a well-considered and transparent set of underlying regulatory design principles which reflect our mission and values. These are consistently used to inform decision-making and provide the foundation for the review of degree algorithms and associated regulations.

Since 2009/2010, Kingston's standard undergraduate degree algorithm has been based on the average marks that a student achieves in the best 105 credits at levels 5 and 6. Level 5 carries a weighting of 20% and level 6 carries a weighting of 80%.

This algorithm is carefully designed to mirror the values and teaching practice of our institution, to reflect our student population, which is diverse and includes students from varied educational backgrounds, and to accommodate the wide range of disciplines that we offer. It acknowledges that our students require time to adjust and learn, it allows students some room for achieving less well than expected, and it places emphasis on credit achieved at the highest level.

The University reviews its regulations regularly to assure Senate and, in turn the Board of Governors, that its regulations continue to align with its underpinning principles and values and with wider sector practice.

The University embarked on period of comprehensive transition in 2012/2013 into a Revised Academic Framework (see section 2). Following this, a detailed review of our undergraduate algorithm was undertaken to ensure that it remained aligned with our regulatory design principles.

The review looked at 28 other Higher Education Institutions from our regional and comparator groups and considered how these other institutions' classified their degrees in terms of credit, levels and weighting. Senate concluded that the University's undergraduate classification algorithm, including the methodology for determining which modules to include within the algorithm and the weighting of levels within the algorithm, remained in alignment with the underpinning principles and sat comfortably within the sector range of classifications.

However, it was noted that the University did differ from some institutions in the absence of a borderline zone at undergraduate level and that this could lead to students being put at a disadvantage when compared to students undertaking similar degrees at comparator institutions.

Senate considered that the introduction of a borderline zone aligned with its underpinning principles for academic regulation and therefore agreed to introduce a criterion based borderline zone in the 2013/14 academic year. Students within 1% of a higher classification band require 50% or more of their final level credit to be in the higher classification band for the uplift to be agreed. Assessment Boards have no discretion in this regard.

The UKSCQA has recently published a set of common Principles for Effective Degree Algorithm Design which includes guidance on how these principles might be implemented. The University is committed to reviewing its degree classification and assessment regulation during 2020/2021 in the context of this guidance.

Identifying Good Practice and Actions

The University continues to invest in activities that benefit its diverse student population at each stage of the student life cycle.

We track these activities in detail and have been able to see where engagement with specific activities has led our students to have more positive outcomes and report increased levels of confidence.

This will continue to be monitored within our Access and Participation Plan.

Risks and Challenges

The University has confidence that current assessment processes and practices safeguard the integrity and value of its awards.

We also recognise that it is important to continue to monitor and reflect on practices and outcomes in order to provide internal and external assurance that any increases in the number of good degrees awarded can be attributed to strategic enhancements that enable a greater proportion of undergraduate students to achieve higher grades without compromising rigour and stretch.

The University is committed to reviewing its degree classification and assessment regulation during 2020/2021 in line with the Principles for Effective Degree Algorithm Design recently published by the UKSCQA.

The University has also launched a new strategic plan, KU2022, which sets out our priorities and ambitions for the next three years. The strategic plan brings focus to those areas that will help individuals prosper, advance our subject areas, increase our societal influence and impact, and increase and diversify income.