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Alongside this degree outcomes statement, we are publishing the classifications profile for our graduating cohorts for the period covering academic years 2014-15 to 2018-19 (Excel).

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Institutional degree classification profile

The data in this statement are derived from the returns we have provided to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and include all students (home, EU and international students). Numbers are rounded or suppressed in line with HESA’s standard methodology. Programmes are grouped into subjects that reflect Office for Students (OfS)’s subject areas employed in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

By way of context, we currently offer 10 honours degree programmes. Our largest first degree programme is the MBBS. The MBBS programme is not a classified degree and the achievements of our medical students are not therefore included in this statement. 

In the five-year period covered by the statement, the number of students who graduated from honours degree programmes rose from 360 to 545, an increase of 51%. The main driver for growth has been the introduction of new programmes and the expansion of our BSc Biomedical Science programme.  Our honours degree portfolio is predominantly full-time and 92% of our 2019 graduates were home students.

In 2018-19:

  • 57% of our honours degree graduates were female compared to 65% in 2014-15.
  • 55% were from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities where ethnicity is known or declared; 54% of students in 2014-15 were from BAME communities.
  • 15% were known to have a disability compared to 10% in 2014-15.
  • 72% were young. Undergraduates are classed as young if they are under 21 on entry. 71% of students in 2014-15 were classed as young.

In 2018-19, 38% of students graduated from allied health programmes (as defined by OfS) and 61% graduated from programmes in the medical sciences. The equivalent percentages from 2014-15 were 17% and 71%. (The remaining graduates completed post-registration nursing programmes.)

In the period covered by this statement, the percentage of first class and upper second (2.1) degree awards that we conferred rose by 4% from 74% in 2014-15 to 78% in 2018-19. In the same period, the percentage of first-class awards rose from 16% to 27%.  The modest increase in first and 2.1 awards reflects: refinements to the selection process, enhancements to teaching and learning practice, investments in student support and the commitment of our students. The growth in first class awards is also the consequence of these enhancements and the impact of some of our new courses. More detail is provided later in this statement.

The year on year breakdown is shown in the following tables.

 

2014-15

1st

2.1

2.2

3rd/pass

%1st

%1st/2.1

TOTAL

55

210

85

10

16%

74%

 

 

2015-16

1st

2.1

2.2

3rd/pass

%1st

%1st/2.1

TOTAL

95

200

85

20

23%

73%

 

 

2016-17

1st

2.1

2.2

3rd/pass

%1st

%1st/2.1

TOTAL

105

250

105

10

23%

75%

 

 

2017-18

1st

2.1

2.2

3rd/pass

%1st

%1st/2.1

TOTAL

130

260

90

5

27%

80%

 

 

2018-19

1st

2.1

2.2

3rd/pass

%1st

%1st/2.1

TOTAL

150

275

110

10

27%

78%

In the period covered by this report, in terms of the achievement of a “good degree” (defined as a first or a 2:1):

  • Female students are now more likely to achieve a good degree than male students. The gap in outcomes was 5% in the 2018-19 and in the previous year. There was no discernable gap prior to that.
  • White students were more likely to achieve a good degree than BAME students in each year.  The gap is large (between 7% and 15%) in the years to 2017-18. In 2018-19, the gap fell to 2%.
  • In most years, students who were known to have a disability were less likely to achieve a good degree than those with no known disability.  In 2017-18, 81% of students with no known disability achieved a good degree compared to 75% of disabled students. That gap widened in 2018-19 (79% compared to 70%).
  • Young students are more likely to achieve a good degree than mature students with differences in each year covered by this statement.  In 2018-19, the gap was 6% (80% compared to 74%).
  • For those students admitted with A levels, students with 120 tariff points (BBB or equivalent) are more likely to achieve a good degree. In 2017-18, 82% of the 320 students admitted with >120 tariff points achieved a good degree. 68% of the 55 students admitted with <120 tariff points achieved a good degree.
  • The intercalated degree undertaken by medical students is the programme that awards the highest proportion of good degrees. 97% of intercalating medical students achieved a first or 2:1 in 2018-19. Medicine is a highly selective programme and a subset of the cohort (~50 students) is given permission to intercalate in any one year.  High levels of achievement are in keeping with the profile of these students.
  • We launched an international MBBS in 2012 to well-qualified overseas students. When these students intercalate, the outcomes are equivalent to students on the home MBBS programme. 93% of the 2018-19 international MBBS graduates achieved good degrees.
  • Our BSc Paramedic Science graduated its first cohort of students in 2017-18 and all 35 students received a 1st or 2:1. The outcomes of students on our BSc Biomedical Science programme also strong with 84% of the 2018-19 graduates achieving good degrees. 20% of these students achieved a first.
As noted, the proportion of students achieving first class degrees has risen by 11% in the period covered by this statement.   The growing numbers of international MBBS students undertaking an intercalated degree has been a factor in this growth. The first substantial intercalating cohort completed in 2017-18 and 44% of the 2018-19 graduates achieved a first (27 students).  The launch of the BSc Paramedic Science programme has also been a factor. 69% of the first graduating cohort of 35 in 2017-18 achieved a first. Elsewhere, there have been incremental increases in the award of first class honours degrees across all programmes which, we believe, are the consequence of the enhancements to our practice described in this statement.  
Assessment and marking practices

Engagement with sector reference is embedded within our quality assurance processes.  When we offer a new programme, our approval mechanism ensures that programmes are benchmarked against sector reference points including the UK Quality Code, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and, where they apply, subject benchmark statements.

We fully involve external experts from other universities and from professional communities in our approval process.  As an established provider of programmes that enable our graduates to practice as healthcare professionals, our programmes are overseen by external regulators including the Health and Care Professions Council who work with us to assure our standards.

We have well-developed processes for designing assessment tasks, developing assessment criteria and for moderation processes to ensure consistency of marking within programme and module teams.  Our approach is underpinned by a mature external examiner system. All external examiners advise on the extent to which our practices comply with sector-wide expectations. Reports from our externals provide high levels of assurance regarding fairness, validity and reliability of all aspects of assessment.

Where students are assessed in the workplace, we provide training and development opportunities for assessors, promulgate assessment criteria to ensure consistency and use moderation processes to ensure reliability in assessment.

Our programmes are reviewed against a five year cycle. External experts are at the heart of a review process that ensures that our assessment practices remain current.

Applications from students for an adjusted assessment (eg more time in an exam) with a health condition or a SpLD must be accompanied by a report from an independent specialist or healthcare practitioner. Academic appeals are submitted to a specialist team and considered independently of the programme team to ensure fairness and rigour. 
Academic governance

We have clear, fully documented policies and processes related to all aspects of assessment. In practice, Course Directors (sometimes working alongside expert assessment leads) are responsible for managing the assessment process including the identification and support of staff involved in marking student work. Course Directors are accountable in two ways (i) to senior staff within the management structures and (ii) by reporting through the committee structure. 

Course Directors are required to analyse and comment on trends in student outcomes as part of our annual monitoring process.  These analyses are considered and approved by independent quality monitoring committees with issues escalated to senior committees if needed. 

In parallel, we have recently constituted an expert group (Data Improvement Group) to monitor patterns of degree awards at institutional level and, where there are discernible changes, to investigate the drivers for change with programme teams. 

We do not deliver honours degree programmes under partnership arrangements. 
Classification algorithms

We operate a clear and transparent algorithm for classifying honours degree programmes.  The algorithm is based on weighted average of all work carried out by the student. The algorithm allows minor variations in the weightings between different years of study although level 6 (the final year of a full-time honours degree programme) must have a weighting of at least 0.6.

Key features of the algorithm are:

  • All module marks are used to determine a student’s classification as per the algorithm.
  • Students must normally pass all modules.
  • The highest module mark at level 6 achieved by the student is double-weighted to encourage students to perform to their upmost in their final year.
  • A standard borderline zone of 1% for all the BSc degree classification boundaries, effectively operating at 68.5% (First class honours), 58.5% (Second class honours (upper division)), 48.5% (Second class honours (lower division)) and 38.5% (Third class honours) due to rounding.
  • There is no provision to alter a classification based on the personal circumstances of students.
  • Undergraduate students have one reassessment opportunity as of right. If students fail at resit, they can apply for a discretionary third attempt. Three is the maximum number of attempts available to honours degree students. Reassessment marks are usually capped. These arrangements are commonplace across the sector.

The algorithm is included in our regulations which are available to all students on our website. Further advice and guidance are available on a programme by programme basis. 

The algorithm has been unchanged since 2014-15.  Following an internal review (18-19) of the institutional pattern of degree awards, we have put an action plan to enhance our practice. As part of this plan, we are considering a review of the borderline zone and the enhanced module mark protocol although this work has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.  We have also launched an operational excellence project to provide for greater standardization of the way in which individual modules are assessed and marks feed into the institutional algorithm. This work is continuing.

Teaching practices and learning resources

The period from covered by this degree outcomes statement reflects a period of rapid change for teaching and learning at St George’s following appointment of a new Principal in 2015. Enhancements across learning resources, learning development, academic and curriculum development, student voice and the addressing of a BAME attainment gap have aimed at improving student success. We expected to see this work feeding through into an increase in the proportion of our Honours students achieving good degrees. This is consistent with the modest 4% increase in good degrees seen over this period, from 74% in 2014-15 to 78% in 2018-19, but unequivocal attribution to enhancement activity is not possible. 

A virtual learning environment transition from Moodle to Canvas was an opportunity for a curriculum enhancement project to transform the coherence of the student learning journey consistently across all programmes from 2016. Hand-in-hand with this, academic staff were supported to redesign modules grounded in sound pedagogical principles to encourage active learning and effective use of the online learning environment. 

Panopto lecture capture was also introduced in 2016, enhancing student learning by providing opportunities to listen again to troublesome lecture content and revise effectively for assessments. 

Building on an annual student experience survey, in 2016-17 a new Student Online Teaching Survey (SOLTS) was introduced across all programmes, providing valuable feedback from students on their modules and teachers, to inform and enhance teaching and learning. Parallel introduction of a Student Experience Action Group has fostered a focus on enhancing student experience, including the setting up student-staff liaison groups, student-staff partnership project grants and opportunities for student and staff to collaborate on improvement projects. More recently (after the period of this review) we have introduced an additional, dialogic, student voice platform (Unitu). 

Ensuring a good environment for BAME achievement and identifying barriers to success has been a major area of focus. An attainment gap at its highest at 15% during this period closed to 2% in 2018-19. 

Over this period, learning development staff provision was doubled and adopted an effective “in and alongside” approach. This combines the provision of elective 1:1 study support and access to Study Plus learning resources within the Academic Success Centre with learning development sessions embedded within programmes and designed to synchronise with assessment activities, in context. 

Academic staff development in teaching and learning benefitted from the introduction of an inhouse Advance HE-accredited scheme for award of Senior Fellowship (SHINE) and the formation of a Centre of Innovation and Development in Education which trebled academic development support. Access to new workshops on topics such as on active learning, assessment and feedback, inclusive curriculum and a curriculum advisory group have provided opportunities for teaching staff to develop their practice and learning design to enhance student learning.

Identifying good practice and actions

We have a small portfolio of honours degree programmes with high levels of external professional regulation.  The programmes apply the same algorithm to ensure consistency of practice and the equitable treatment of students. Our academic regulations also place limits on the discretion available to Boards for the same reason. 

Our quality assurance processes foster dialogue between programmes teams and this dialogue allows shared solutions to common problems to emerge and for good practice in assessment to be identified and shared. For example, we have significant expertise in medical education and our processes have enabled the MBBS assessment team to share its expertise in the assessment of clinical and communication skills and in the assessment of the scientific knowledge that underpins safe practice.

The internal review of degree awards that we carried out in 2018-19 resulted in action to provide additional support for examination board chairs, to include academics from other programmes as members of examination boards and to ensure that senior registry staff attend all boards. These developments will provide greater opportunities for good practice to be shared. 
Risks and challenges
In this statement we have referred briefly to the action plan we put in place following the internal review of our practice in 2018-19.  A challenge that we identified at the time was the difficulty in predicting the degree outcomes of the initial graduating cohorts from newly validated programmes. This can also be a challenge if existing programmes are re-validated and major changes to assessments and assessment strategies are introduced as part of the revalidation process.    In this statement, we have also outlined in some detail the enhancements to teaching practices, learning resources, student support, curriculum and assessment design that we have made.  These enhancements are made with the intention of improving the student experience and student outcomes. However, it is difficult to measure the extent of the impact of any enhancement in a reliable way.

 

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