University agrees radical shake-up of assessment rules

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The biggest change to assessment regulations at Lancaster was passed last week, at the University’s senior academic meeting.

A meeting of University Senate that took place on Wednesday November 24 agreed on the changes to be made for the academic year starting 2011/2012. The proposal put forward is designed to encourage a new grading system to render a first class honours more achievable, and to simplify assessment procedures for both staff and students.

The Students’ Union and some departments had been in support of lowering the pass mark for the major subject in the first year from 45%. Robin Hughes, LUSU Vice President (Academic), said this was for “various robust pedagogical reasons”. Many other departments were unsure as to the benefits and impacts this would have and therefore the final decision of Senate was that this decision would be postponed. The pass mark will remain as it currently is, with the new grading system introduced translating the pass mark into a grade D, or a lower second, required to pass the first year.

A current first will include the grades A+, A and A-, with percentages of approximately 73-100%; a current upper second, or 2:1, will become B+, B or B-, percentages of around 62-69%. A lower second (2:2) will become the equivalent to C grades, percentages 52-62% and a third to the D grade, 40-48%. Anything below this, as already in place, is a fail.

A student’s assignment will be placed within the middle grade (A, B or C) of an honours class, e.g. first, second, third, and assessors will move the mark up or down from there depending on quality of writing. This is similar the A Level marks system that current first years are already familiar with.

Senate also agreed that if a deadline is missed, the result for that work will be reduced by one grade if it is handed in within three working days. This is instead of the current practice rather than the current 10% reduction for such delay.

Any assessment, including all essays, presentations and other forms of assignment, will be converted into one grade, rather than allowing a culmination of multiple pieces of work. This is graded against a 100% outcome, which would mean one late deadline could impact on the overall grade at the end of the course. To compensate for a bigger penalty there is increasing opportunity for reassessment or examination re-sits whichever year of study a student is in, including the final year.

All Part I reassessments, however, can only be raised to a maximum grade of a C-, or a lower second, in a major subject and a D-, or a third, in minor subjects. George Marshall, a current third year in his final year, says: “It is a bit unfair knowing that other people will have a better chance than me, but it works out since they will also be paying three times more than I did.”

Assessment procedures will be available to students in course handbooks and online, meaning that students will hopefully find information easier to understand. Hughes backs up the decisions from Wednesday’s Senate by saying “students should see it as a positive change; encouraging greater use of a full spectrum of marks, clearing up rules and regulations and providing greater opportunity for re-sits, including third year re-sits”.

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