The University of Derby was established on 14 January 1993 and became an exempt charity on 30th 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 has resources to support students accessing digital resources at their halls of residence) 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 opportunities for prospective students including those from under-represented and disadvantage groups to take part in higher education.
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
Attainment of Good Honours Degrees (first or upper-second class)
% Good honours
Number of 1st and 2:1
OfS B3 - Students who are in scope for the OfS Registration Condition B3 monitoring dataset. The Registration Condition. B3 attainment data covers UK-domiciled, EU and non-EU, undergraduate students. All modes. Data Source: HESA Return.
Attainment of first and upper-second class degree data over the last five years (2016-21) indicate the following:
a) Attainment of good honours overall increased by 4.8pp over this period (2016-21). Average of 68.3%. Despite the 4.8pp increase over 2016-21, a 0.2pp reduction was observed in 2020/21. This may suggest that the upward trend has ceased. The proportion of 1st and 2:1 awards in the most recent years is still below sector average.
b) Disability. Attainment of good honours for students with declared disabilities increased by 4.6pp. On average, the attainment of good honours of students with declared disabilities (68.4%) was in line with no known disability (68.2%) over this period (2016-21). Disabled student attainment increased at a higher rate than non-disabled students between 2016-21 (1.2pp) and was 1.8pp higher than non-disabled students in 2020/21.
c) Gender. Attainment of good honours of female students (71.64%) was 7.5pp higher than male students (64.1%) over this period (2016-21). Male student attainment increased at a higher rate than female students between 2016-21 (3.3pp) but remains 7.3pp lower than female students on average over 2016-21 (and 4.0pp lower than female students in 2020/21).
d) Ethnicity. Attainment of good honours of white students (74.9%) was higher than black (48.4%), Asian (61.4%), Mixed (66.1%) and other (59.3%) students over this period (2016-21).
Ethnic minority groups student attainment increased at a higher rate than white students between 2016-21 (0.5pp) but remains 17.8pp lower on average over the same period (and 19.0pp lower in 2020/21).
The lowest increase between 2016-21 was observed for black students (2.7pp). The average awarding gap between white and black students was 26.5pp over 2016-21 (and 30.6pp in 2020/21 - FT and PT).
The awarding gap between white and black full-time, UK domiciled students (27.7pp in 2020/21) is a key Institutional priority and an Access and Participation Plan (APP) target measure.
A new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Framework and associated Curriculum Design Framework were approved by the Academic Board in the summer of 2022. These reaffirmed the University’s commitment to inclusion and the elimination of awarding gaps as set out in our Access and Participation Plan. The University commitment to uphold anti-discriminatory practice to enact the commitments of the strategic framework in transforming students’ lives ‘regardless of age, background or location’ goes beyond meeting a regulatory requirement and demonstrates our moral obligation as an institution to the success of all students.
Good progress has been made in addressing differential outcomes for students with a declared disability. Indeed in 2020-21 students with a disability achieved a marginally higher proportion of 1st and 2:1 degree outcomes. The increased use of digital tools, blended learning models, recording of sessions etc adopted as a response to the Covid pandemic are likely explanations of this improved picture. After initial positive changes in reducing the ethnicity awarding gap(s), the differential widened in 2019-20, likely due to the intersection of socio-demographic factors associated with the pandemic. Outcomes in 2020-21 indicate a correction back towards reducing this awarding gap.
To support the implementation of the new frameworks and the eradication of awarding gaps, an Awarding Gaps Group, was established in June 2020, this has continued to work closely with Colleges in driving change. Progress in delivering against the Awarding Gap Action Pan is reported regularly to the Academic Board to assure effective monitoring, staff engagement and improved outcomes for students. The university remain committed to eradicating these awarding gaps.
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 Academic Regulations set out the assessment regulations that apply to all taught programmes that are awards of the University. The assessment regulations include use the full 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 Academic Regulations and are consistently applied.
All summative assessments are subject to internal verification and moderation, with external scrutiny also applied to those elements that contribute to honours classification. These processes seek to ensure that the tasks set are appropriately aligned to the intended learning outcomes and relevant academic level.
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.
Over recent years and particularly in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of modifications have been made to assessments. This has included a significant reduction in the use of on-campus examinations and the deployment of a greater range of on-line and virtual assessment tasks. Because of the positive impact of these revised assessment modes on student attainment, a substantial number of changes introduced due to the pandemic have been approved as permanent changes to the assessment strategy.
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. They are supported in this by the University Executive Group (UEB), Vice-Chancellor’s Executive (VCE) and the Delivery and Operational Leadership Group (DOL). In their 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 awards 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. Membership and the terms of reference for these sub-committees is reviewed periodically, with the most recent update undertaken during 2022.
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 continual monitoring process has been aligned to the Office for Students (OfS) conditions for registration. The process involves the evaluation of evidence including student feedback, performance data such as assessment outcomes, external examiner feedback and module evaluation for example.
Monitoring and review of subject areas and academic partnerships is assessed using the University’s Quality and Standards Assessment (QSA) process which is carried out on a six yearly cycle. The QSA is designed to provide assurances to Academic Board that qualifications hold their value over time, are compliant with the regulatory requirements of the Office for Students and the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills and Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies and assess whether student attainment and programme performance meet the B3 indicator baselines.
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 contract and compliance document / operational manual.
4. Classification algorithms
The university publish the degree algorithm annually in the Academic Regulations made available to all students, staff and external examiners. For students on undergraduate degrees the Honours classification is based on the weighted aggregate of the 120 Credits at each of Level 5 (20%) and Level 6 (80%), grade boundaries are set at 10% intervals from 40% (Third Class) to 70% (First Class). Assessment Boards If the weighted average falls into the borderline range (48+, 58+, 68+) the profile of marks will be reviewed and where least 60 credits at level 6 fall at or above the threshold mark, the higher classification will be awarded.
For 2021/22, in recognition that the restrictions introduced to help manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic may have impact student performance in previous years, a temporary change to the regulations was approved to allow the classification to be determined from the better of:
The standard award algorithm of 20% Level 5 and 80% Level 6 or 100% Level 6 performance .
The degree classification algorithm is reviewed periodically with the next scheduled review due to take place during the 2022-23 academic year. This review will also take into account the impact of the various temporary safety-net measures introduced during the pandemic.
5. Teaching practices and learning resources
The University of Derby is committed to delivering higher education opportunities which are equitable, inclusive and open to all who have the ambition and desire to learn and progress. A wide range of programmes are available across all levels in a variety of study modes. During 2022, new Curriculum Design and Learning, Teaching and Assessment Frameworks were approved, these apply to ALL programmes and modules regardless of their level, mode of study or location of delivery.
The Curriculum Design and Learning, Teaching and Assessment Frameworks offer a conceptual model for the design and delivery of qualifications of the University of Derby. The adoption of principles and outcomes-based models supports academic innovation and agency across the diversity of the pedagogic and epistemological approaches relevant to a modern applied university.
The Curriculum Design Framework sets out the core institutional themes and principles that inform the design, content and structure of the provision. The drivers for the Framework are clearly embedded in the Pillars of the University Strategic Vision:
Moulding the next generation of Game Changers
Being a force for positive impact
Opening doors for everyone
The Curriculum Design Framework contains four core design themes which should be evident in all of provision. Each programme of study, leading to an award of the university should address each of the design principles in a manner appropriate to the subject, academic level and mode of study.
Research and Innovation led
Education for Sustainable Development embedded
Inclusive by design
Scaffolding Personal Development
The Learning, Teaching and Assessment Framework sets out the core factors that need to inform the way in which learning is enabled and assessed. The drivers for the Framework are clearly embedded in the Values of the University Strategic Vision:
The Learning, Teaching and Assessment Framework takes an outcomes-based approach to defining the core experiences that should be included in all programme delivery and assessment. These are presented as five Factors of Success and can be applied at all levels of the programme design process and as relevant to each learning interaction as well as at a whole programme level. Each programme of study, leading to an award of the university should address each of the Factors of Success in a manner appropriate to the subject, academic level and mode of study.
Each programme and learning event should consider:
Sense of Belonging
Sense of Purpose
The Factors of Success are multi-factorial and interact with each other. Whilst each factor is relatively easy to define it must be recognised that concepts are complex and will vary between individual students and will change with time. The purpose of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Framework is to challenge those delivering and assessing programmes to consider how each learning engagement has been constructed to address each of the factors.
The University’s Strategic Framework identifies ‘valuing people’ as one of four core values and commits to providing development opportunities for staff to ensure they ‘achieve beyond their expectations’. This is further articulated in our People Strategy (2020) which notes that “we will invest in our staff to ensure they are qualified and professionally accredited through effective use of apprenticeships, attainment of teaching qualifications and HEA accreditation and other indicators of teaching and professional quality” (p.8). Therefore, Fellowship (FHEA) is a contractual requirement for all new permanent members of lecturing staff and an expectation for more longstanding lecturing colleagues at the University. Our recruitment information explains that those who join the University (or those within the University who move from a temporary to permanent role), and who do not currently hold FHEA, SFHEA or PFHEA, must achieve Fellowship professional recognition within 24 months of appointment. Line managers will discuss this requirement as part of the induction process. There is also a monthly admissions meeting which brings together colleagues from HR with the APL and Pathfinder leads to discuss the route to FHEA for each new colleague. Senior Lecturers are encouraged to pursue SFHEA, when they have built up the requisite levels of experience, and this is monitored through our internal Development and Professional Review processes (annual appraisal). SFHEA is written into job adverts for Senior Lecturers and is an ‘essential’ requirement for Associate Professor appointments via our Learning and Teaching route.
Currently, 82.5% of full-time, permanent lecturers hold one category of Fellowship professional recognition (the majority holding FHEA). The equivalent figure for all teaching staff employed, irrespective of contract is 53%. Recent data shared by Advance HE shows that the University continues to track above the sector average for the percentage of academic staff with Fellowship. There are also five colleagues who are 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. We continue to learn from the experiences of the pandemic and, as restrictions are withdrawn, will retain the positive aspects of these adaptations and approve them into the new ways of working.
6. Identifying good practice and actions
The University has a long history of sharing examples of innovative and good pedagogic practice through a central programme of academic staff development, and an online community of practice. Following a hiatus during the pandemic the annual Learning & Teaching Conference was restarted in 2022 allowing the sharing of innovative practice as well as pedagogic research. Students have been active participants in the Learning & Teaching Conference since 2012.
In response to the outbreak of the corona-virus pandemic, the University implemented a mandatory Digital Practice Development Programme for all academic roles with significant teaching responsibilities. The training and development programme supported the Blended Applied Learning Model (BALM) put in place by the University as a strategic approach to learning and teaching throughout the pandemic. The programme was implemented to ensure all academic staff enhanced their levels of confidence and capability to teach through digital environments and deliver a high-quality blended learning student experience. The University reviewed student support services and assessment strategies. It identified several student support services that can be accessed digitally, and the type of assessment strategies that are deployed. There is some evidence to suggest that awarding gaps have narrowed during this period and may be to do with these adjustments.
A new programme of staff development was put in place to prepare academic staff for the academic year 2021/22, further enhancing capability and confidence in the digital teaching environment. The new digital practice programme includes online courses to support digital accessibility and support staff to deliver to the standards of our institutional Digital Learning Baselines that set the level of required practice to ensure a high-quality student learning experience. In addition, the University procured the AbilityNet programme to address accessibility and inclusivity of digital learning materials. During summer 2022 the training programme progress to focus upon the new Curriculum Design and Learning, Teaching and Assessment Frameworks.