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Report outlines future reforms for degree classification

Professor Bob Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester

Report outlines future reforms for degree classification

Proposed changes in degree classification

Issued on October 16 2007

A report published today (Tuesday) recommends changes to the way student achievement is recorded at the end of an undergraduate degree.

Following consultations with the higher education sector and employers, the report recommends introducing a single document, to be known as a 'Higher Education Achievement Report' (HEAR), which would be the key vehicle for measuring and recording student achievement.

The report recommends:

  • introducing the 'Higher Education Achievement Report' (HEAR) by academic year 2010/11, running it alongside the existing degree classification system.
  • basing the content of the HEAR on the current academic transcript and incorporating the European Diploma Supplement.
  • the HEAR having core content common to all institutions, which will be free to add additional information as they see fit.
  • a transitional, exploratory stage allowing institutions to develop the HEAR in parallel with the honours degree classification.

Professor Bob Burgess, Chair of the Measuring and Recording Student Achievement Steering Group which produced the report, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: "The report presents a strong case for change. The UK honours degree is a robust and highly-valued qualification, but the degree classification system needs updating. The continued use of overall judgements such as upper second and lower second actively inhibits the use of wider information about students. Graduates deserve more than simply a single number to sum up their academic work when they leave university.

"During the consultation we listened carefully to the views of a range of stakeholders. As a result, the report recommends a four-year development and testing phase for a new transcript system as part of a 'Higher Education Achievement Report'.

"Such a system will contain a wider range of information than the current academic transcript and will capture more fully than now the strengths and weaknesses of the student's performance. As we explore and develop a new system, it is anticipated that alternatives to the existing honours degree classification will be explored."

Professor Rick Trainor, President, Universities UK, said: "This has been a thorough consultation and I welcome the report's recommendations. The higher education sector is now changed beyond all recognition from that which gave rise to the traditional honours degree classification system over 200 years ago. I urge the sector to take on this challenge to develop a system for recording achievement that meets the demands of the 21st century."

Pamela Taylor, Chair of GuildHE and Principal of Newman College of Higher Education, said: "Students in our universities and colleges work tremendously hard over a period of years to achieve excellent results, often in the face of financial and other pressures. It is right that we take time to consider how best to present those results so that employers and others can recognise the full range of student achievement. I welcome the Burgess report and am grateful to those who have taken such care in considering how to proceed."


Notes to editor

1. The report will be available to download from the Universities UK website from 9am on Tuesday 16 October 2007 by clicking here. Journalists interested in receiving an embargoed copy of the report should contact the Universities UK press office. For further press enquiries, please contact the Universities UK press office on 0207 419 5407 or e-mail

2. The report has been prepared by the Measuring and Recording Student Achievement Steering Group - the 'Burgess Group' - for the UK higher education sector. This is the group's third, and final, report on measuring and recording student achievement. It is published at the end of a series of presentations, discussions and consultations, which began with the work of the original Scoping Group in 2004 and which has been brought to a conclusion by the Steering Group.

3. Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE (then the Standing Conference of Principals), supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), established a Scoping Group to consider whether there was merit in change and in investigating alternatives. The Measuring and Recording Student Achievement Steering Group (the Steering Group) was established in February 2005 to consider, develop and consult on practical proposals for the implementation of the Scoping Group's recommendations.

4. Steering Group membership was drawn from across the UK. The current degree classification system is UK-wide and it is proposed that the new approach should also be UK-wide. Colleagues from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were invited to participate in the work of the Group.

Gareth Morgan, Senior Press & PR Officer, Universities UK Direct tel: +44 (0)20 7419 5407, E-mail

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