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.
Our data over the last five years indicate the following trends:
a) Attainment of good honours overall increased by 4.6pp over this period (2015-20). Average of 67.4%.
b) Disability. Attainment of good honours for students with declared disabilities increased by 4.7pp from 67.0% to 71.7%. On average, the attainment of good honours of students with declared disabilities (67.4%) was in line with no known disability (67.4%) over this period (2015-20).
c) Gender. Attainment of good honours of female students (70.6%) was 7.6pp higher than male students (63.0%) over this period (2015-20).
d) Ethnicity. Attainment of good honours of white students (74.1%) was higher than black (47.8%), Asian (60.7%), Mixed (64.6%) and other (62.7%) students over this period (2015-20).
The awarding gap between white and black full-time, UK domiciled students (20.0pp, 2018/19) is a key Institutional priorityand an Access and Participation Plan (APP) target measure.
In April 2019, the University’s Academic Board approved the 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, an Attainment Group was established in June 2020 working closely with Colleges having responsibility for driving change across the University. The Academic Board approved action plans 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 Academic 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 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. 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. 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 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. Membership and the terms of reference for these sub-committees is reviewed periodically, with the most recent update undertaken during 2021.
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 and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) quality code. 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 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.
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* and our progress in building student and staff digital capabilities. Other examples include our Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy, the Student Experience Framework, Personal Academic Tutoring Policy and Anonymous Marking Policy.
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 75.13% full-time, permanent, academic staff holding Fellowship or Senior Fellowship status with Advance HE, and currently five 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.
*The Strategy has been continued forward as a working strategic document beyond its original 2020 expiry date.
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: The Ideas Factory, and an annual Learning & Teaching Conference/Festival of Learning. Students have been active participants in the Learning & Teaching Conference since 2012.
In response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 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.
In preparation for the academic year 2020-21 the ‘Best of Blends’ programme included the University authoring and delivering a bespoke online course for academic colleagues to work through, co-designed through a student and staff partnership approach. The course was facilitated by our experts in pedagogic practice, digital and online learning to support academic colleagues to enhance their practice through an applied experience. The design principles afforded colleagues the opportunity to gain essential experience as a student in the digital environment through engagement with online resources, asynchronous and synchronous activities.
A new programme of staff development has been 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.