The University of Derby was established on 14 January 1993 and and became an exempt charity on 30 November 1995. Our academic structure has evolved in response to external policy, funding drivers and changing patterns of student demand, including online provision. We operate across sites in Derby, Chesterfield, Buxton, Leek, as well as having academic partnerships in the United Kingdom and internationally. The wider University Group includes Buxton & Leek College (BLC), which provides further and higher education provision, Derbyshire Student Residences Limited (which supports students in their learning through digital access) and Derby Theatre (our established professional learning theatre).
We are fully committed as an institution to providing flexible study modes, either through online, on campus or off campus delivery, which can open up opportunities for prospective students including those from under-represented and disadvantage groups to take part in higher education. We have established a strong reputation for teaching excellence, as evidenced by our TEF gold rating; our rise to 26th position in the Guardian University Guide 2020.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has verified the sustained, high quality of our programmes in successive engagements, most recently in the Quality and Standards Review (Dec 2019) and review of Transnational Education (TNE) in Greece (2015). Ofsted rated both our adult learning programmes and apprenticeships provision as ‘good’ in our 2019 inspection.
1. Institutional degree classification
Institutional degree classifications – all modes
|% Good honours
|Number of 1st and 2:1
Population: Access and Participation Plan (Office for Students condition A1)
Publicly available data can be found at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
Our data over the last five years indicate the following trends:
a) Student attainment across all modes shows steady attainment with an average of 67% good honours.
b) Student attainment for students with declared disabilities has remained stable over the last 5 years, ranging between 66-67%. However, there was a slight dip in performance by 3 percentage points in 2017 from 67% to 64%. On average students who have not declared a disability perform on average 2 percentage points higher than those with declared disabilities.
c) Outcomes by gender shows that female student attainment over the 5-year period is consistently higher than male students by an average of 3 percentage points.
d) While BAME student good honours attainment has remained on average 27 percentage points below white students, this figure has been exaggerated by a 9.2% dip in 18/19. Attainment data for 2019/20 has not been published yet, however, it confirms a significant reduction in the BAME awarding gap.
In April 2019, the University’s Academic Board approved a new Attainment Policy. The purpose of this policy was to eradicate any inequality within the University, whether implicit or structural, which contributed to unequal degree outcomes between different groups of students. The policy demonstrates the University’s commitment to uphold anti-discriminatory practice to enact the commitments of the strategic framework in transforming students’ lives ‘regardless of age, background or location’.
A key implementation outcome will be the elimination of awarding gaps at the University, including those stated in our Access and Participation Plan (APP) submitted to the Office for Students (OfS). However, the policy goes beyond meeting a regulatory requirement and demonstrates our moral obligation as an institution to the success of all students.
To support the implementation of the new policy and the eradication of awarding gaps, a new Attainment Group (led by the Vice Chancellor) was established in June 2020 as the responsible body for driving change across the University. The Academic Board has approved a five-point action plan for 2020/21 to assure effective monitoring, staff engagement and improved outcomes for students.
2. Assessment and marking practices
The Academic Framework of the University is set out in the Academic Regulations for students on taught programmes. The Framework is approved by Academic Board. It includes the awards that can be made, characteristics of these awards and the credit framework, which are all aligned to national frameworks. The Academic Regulations are readily accessible to both students and staff through the University website. The Regulatory Framework Committee (a sub-committee of Academic Board) has responsibility for reviewing the regulations on an on-going basis and recommending enhancements.
The regulations set out the assessment regulations that apply to all taught programmes that are awards of the University. Separate regulations are in place governing the assessment of research degrees. The assessment regulations include the marking scale and award classifications to be applied to all undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes and the threshold academic standards required for progression and awards. Assessment Boards operate to oversee the assessment procedures and to ensure that assessment decisions are made in accordance with the University’s Regulations and are consistently applied. The University has an internal moderation policy and external examiners moderate outcomes and endorse assessment board outcomes.
The University works with external experts in several ways. Validation panels and monitoring and review panels include an external subject specialist who advises on the appropriateness of academic standards of proposed awards in line with external benchmarks. External Examiners comment on changes to the curriculum, Academic Regulations, internal moderation, the operation of assessment boards and academic partnerships via their annual report.
3. Academic governance
(including for awards delivered through partnership arrangements)
The Vice-Chancellor is accountable to the University’s Governing Council as Chief Executive and to the Office for Students as Accountable Officer. She is supported in this by the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive (VCE) and the Performance and Governance Delivery Group (PGDG). In her capacity as Chief Academic Officer, the Vice-Chancellor chairs the Academic Board, our sovereign academic body, which has established sub-committees that have clear duties and responsibilities concerning aspects of academic quality and standards.
Academic Board has responsibility for the award of taught and research degrees; the approval, implementation and review of policies and procedures; and the promotion of enhancement. The Academic Board delegates detailed work to a suite of subcommittees.
The Academic Regulations address all regulatory aspects relevant to the maintenance of academic standards of taught provision. Variations and exemptions to these are recorded in the relevant programme specification, discussed at validation and approved by the Regulatory Framework Committee. The Regulatory Framework Committee monitors and approves revisions to the academic and regulatory framework, which in turn is approved by Academic Board.
Continual Monitoring is the primary means by which the University assures itself on an on-going basis that academic standards and quality are maintained. The process involves the evaluation of evidence including student feedback, performance data such as degree outcomes, external examiner feedback and module evaluation for example.
Monitoring and review of subject areas and academic partnerships is carried out on a cyclical basis (normally every 5 years) in order to evaluate the academic currency of provision, student attainment and assess programme performance in respect to internal and external reference points such as the Quality Code, Subject Benchmark Statements and PSRB requirements.
All University academic partnership arrangements (UK, international and apprenticeships) are operated and monitored through the University’s quality processes. The University applies a risk-rated due diligence process to any prospective new partner to ensure that the partner meets the University’s internal and external requirements. Management of academic partnerships is detailed in the partner operational manual. The manual charts the student journey from application to award, clearly stating the responsibilities of both the University and the partner in managing the relationship.
4. Classification algorithms
Undergraduate award classification algorithms are published in our Academic Regulations.
5. Teaching practices and learning resources
The University has a long-standing commitment to widening access and social mobility and offers a diverse range of provision designed to meet the varied needs of different groups of learners, including flexible study modes (both on campus and digitally enabled).
Our key strategic focus is articulated via several institutional strategies and policies designed to provide high quality learning and teaching for all learners. For example, our Learning and Teaching Strategy 2016-2020 (which won Teaching & Learning Strategy of the Year at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards in recognition of its positive institutional impact on graduate employability and teaching quality), and our progress in building student and staff digital capabilities. Other examples include our Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy (2017-2021) and the Student Experience Framework (2017-2020).
We have a minimum of 30 hours’ work experience embedded in our undergraduate programmes which bring relevant, up to date professional knowledge and skills into the curriculum. We place a high value on teaching quality, with currently 74.09% full-time, permanent, academic staff holding Fellowship or Senior Fellowship status with Advance HE, and currently seven National Teaching Fellows. Our teaching staff continue with their scholarly and professional practice through engagement with external stakeholders such as employers, industry partners, Professional Statutory Regulatory Bodies and external examiners.
We recognise the role of assessment and feedback in enabling students to have positive degree outcomes. Given our applied focus in education, we embed authentic assessment approaches in our programmes through formative and summative feedback, and a varied range of assessment types e.g. presentations, exhibitions, performances, group work, practical assignments, case studies, and viva voce examination.
6. Identifying good practice and actions
The University has a long history of sharing examples of innovative and good pedagogic practice by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching through a central programme of academic staff development, an online community of practice: The Ideas Factory, and an annual Learning & Teaching Conference/Festival of Learning. Students have been active participants in the Learning & Teaching Conference since 2012.
The Centre ensures that the quality of assessment practices from assessment conception to assessment feedback are fundamental components to successful degree outcomes. CELT support colleges at: College away days; in curriculum design for revalidation and validation events; through DELTA staff development sessions and digital support of assessments. The team also contributes to advising programme teams on developing assessment guidance to students at a programme level; it ensures the implementation of e-submission and anonymous marking and works with teams to provide guidance on the marking process and ensuring fair, transparent and useful marking and feedback practices are embedded (standardisation, moderation, constructive feed-forward).
CELT recently introduced a new model for enhancing the academic practice of staff; using a digital first approach with academic practice guides available to support assessment and feedback whilst also offering central and in-college sessions focused around the themes of ‘assessment and feedback’ and ‘effective teaching’. Between September and December 2019; 18 central events where run attended by 87 staff and 26 in-college events attended by approximately 300 staff. The main themes were effective feedback, development and implementation of assessment rubrics and approaches to support active learning.