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Universities UK supports conclusion of HEPI report on comparability of degrees

Issued on 03 June 2010

A report published today (Thursday) by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has concluded that it is “neither feasible nor desirable” to try to compare the outcomes of all degrees in today's diverse higher education system.

Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said: “We agree with the report's conclusion that it is unrealistic and somewhat simplistic to expect degree outcomes to be perfectly equivalent. The higher education sector in the UK is large and diverse and it’s good that there is variety in courses and not uniformity.

“The only way to make every degree identical would be to have a national curriculum and a national examination system for higher education. In our view, neither of these would be practical or desirable.

“However, we do have a national system which assures the quality and standards of our awards. This ensures that the standard of degrees is broadly comparable across the system. Not equal or identical but broadly comparable.

“We are constantly working to review and improve the safeguards which make up this national system. The sector, funding bodies and QAA are striving to ensure that these safeguards are working well, and that there can be every confidence in the standards of UK degrees. This is being done through the strengthening of institutional audit, the review of external examining and the evaluation of the Academic Infrastructure. The UK model for assuring quality and standards in higher education is well-respected internationally.”

In relation to proposed reforms to the degree classification system in the UK, Professor Smith added: “There has been agreement that the UK's classification system is now passed its sell-by-date. As a result of the Burgess Group’s report, the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) is currently being piloted in a number of institutions. This document will help employers and others by providing more detail about how each student has performed throughout their course.”



  1. The report will be available from the HEPI website:
  2. Universities UK published this week a policy statement on standards in higher education. It provides updates on the latest developments in this area.
  3. Universities UK has also launched a Quality and Standards micro-site, giving an insight into how both are assured at UK universities. The site provides information on how the system works, FAQs, statistics and updates on the latest media and news stories from the quality field.
  4. Universities UK is the major representative body and membership organisation for the higher education sector. It represents the UK's universities and some higher education colleges. Its 133 members are the executive heads of these institutions. Universities UK works closely with policy makers and key education stakeholders to advance the interests of universities and to spread good practice throughout the higher education sector. Founded in 1918 and formerly known as the Committee for Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), Universities UK celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2008.

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