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Assessment

1. Introduction: Credit and CATS

Credit is a quantified means of expressing and measuring learning equivalence, awarded for the demonstrable achievement of learning outcomes. The University recognises credit as a means of measuring, describing and comparing learning achievement which sets out how much learning is required for each course and at what level. Warwick uses the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) to express credit weightings for each unit of learning. Credit is expressed in quantified form so that achievement in different contexts can be broadly compared in terms of intellectual depth (level) and relative volume (number of credits).

The Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme is a system which enables learners to accumulate credit and which facilitates the transfer of that credit within and beyond the providing institutions. The scheme was established by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) and adopted by the mid 1990s by 80% of UK HEIs, including Warwick.

The CAT Scheme equates 1 credit (or credit point) with 10 hours of learning effort or notional learning time, used as a measure of volume. Notional learning time is the number of hours which it is expected that a learner (at a particular level) will spend, on average, to achieve the specified learning outcomes. This might comprise a variable combination of contact time, (lectures, seminars, labs etc.) and self-directed learning time (background reading prior to classes, research for written assignments, and examination preparation). Thus, a module allocated 30 credits or ‘CATS points’ should require students to commit approximately 300 hours of work to achieving the learning outcomes for the module.


2. Credits and Courses

The University’s module proposal form asks departments to attach a credit weighting expressed in CATS points to each module. The table of Warwick Qualifications below sets out the University's minimum requirements for the volume and level of credit that students should take for the qualifications awarded by the University. The Course Regulations set out the number and combination of modules which students must undertake to accumulate the prescribed amount of credit for the award of the qualification for which they are enrolled.

There are nationally-recognised volumes of credit for qualifications at all levels of the QAA’s Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), although the Framework itself is formally credit-neutral. None of the nationally-recognised volumes is prescriptive.

 

Typical Qualifications at Each Level in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (England)

Typical Qualifications FHEQ Level Former Level Descriptors
Doctoral Degrees 8 Doctoral D Level

Master’s Degrees

Integrated Masters

Postgraduate Diplomas

Postgraduate Certificates

PGCE

7 Master's M Level

Bachelor's Degree with Honours

Bachelor's Degree

Graduate Diplomas

Graduate Certificates

6 Honours H Level

Foundation Degrees

Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHE)

Higher National Diplomas (HND)

5 Intermediate I Level
Higher National Certificates (HNC)

Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE)

4 Certificate C Level

 

 

Warwick Qualifications

Qualification

Qualification level

FHEQ Level

Total credits

Highest level of credit

Minimum number of credits at highest level

Level of balance of credit

Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE)

C

4

120+

FHEQ 4

90

FHEQ 3

 Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)

I 5 240+ FHEQ 5 90 FHEQ 4

Foundation Degree

I

5

240+

FHEQ5

90

FHEQ 4

Honours degree

H

6

360+

FHEQ 6

90

Up to 30 credits at FHEQ Level 3 in year 1 of a full-time degree or equivalent. Up to 150 credits at Level 4 but no more than 30 credits in total to be taken in years 2 and 3 of a full-time degree or equivalent. Remainder at level 5.

Postgraduate Award

M

7

20 - 40

FHEQ 7

Total number

FHEQ 7

Postgraduate Certificate

M

7

60+

FHEQ 7

40

FHEQ 6

Postgraduate Diploma

M

7

120+

FHEQ 7

90

FHEQ 6

Integrated Master’s

M

7

480+

FHEQ 7

120

FHEQ 6

Master’s

M

7

180+

FHEQ 7

150

FHEQ 6

Professional Doctorate

D

8

540+

FHEQ 8

420

FHEQ 7

Doctorate

D

8

540+

FHEQ 8

540

n/a


3. Course nomenclature

Some qualifications are deemed to be ‘postgraduate in time but not in level’. Examples include courses such as the Diploma in Economics and the Diploma in History of Art, which are designed as 'conversion courses' to bring graduates of other subjects to graduate competence in the named subject. Without exception, the level of an award made by the University is set out in the appropriate Course Specification, which should use the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications as a reference point.

Where courses have been established under a particular title for many years, the general presumption is as follows:

Courses at level C should use the title 'certificate'
Courses at level I should use the title 'diploma'
Courses at level H should use the title 'advanced diploma'.
 

Departments should ensure in the drafting of publicity materials produced for courses that nomenclature is clear and unambiguous and that terms such as ‘certificate’ and ‘diploma’ are appropriately contextualised so that potential applicants and other stakeholders are clear about the level of each course.


4. Course Structure

The module is the smallest unit of learning recognised in approval and review processes, and student records systems. Modules are combined to form courses (degrees, diplomas, certificates, awards) as set out in the relevant Course Regulations, which encapsulate the course structure approved by the Board of Undergraduate or Graduate Studies as appropriate, after consideration by the relevant Faculty Undergraduate/Graduate Studies Committee/Sub-Faculty. Students registered on a course must follow the appropriate Course Regulations and take the appropriate modules listed in them.

A clear distinction is made between the number of credits which a student may attempt in an approved course of study and the credit requirements for the conferral of an award. The standard is based upon the required number and level of the credits. The number of credits to be attempted in a course of study leading to an award is a matter for course developers and the University to determine. However, in recognition that students’ performance is likely to be affected detrimentally through attempts to accumulate an excessive number of credits, the University recognises the nationally-accepted load for a full-time undergraduate courses of 120 credits, requires that full-time Honours degree courses be designed to require the accumulation of a minimum of 120 credits per year, and recommends that courses normally be designed not to require the accumulation of significant quantities of credit in excess of this 120 credits per year. The equivalent load for full-time postgraduate courses is 180 credits, as most such courses take place across twelve months, rather than three 10-week terms.

The normal load on a Pass degree course is 90 credits per year.

Some courses are designed to carry heavier loads than 120 credits (UG) or 180 credits (PG) per year for sound academic reason. The rationale for the design of all new courses is tested through the course approval process.

No cap is currently imposed at a cross-University level on the number of credits a student may attempt in any year, although no more than 150 credits taken in any year may count towards an undergraduate student's degree classification. Students' module choices are approved by their departments, and departments are not required to permit overloads; many do not.

(For students commencing undergraduate courses of study from Autumn 2013)

Students will be permitted to take no more than 150 CATS points in any academic year of study, where permitted by the course regulations for their course of study and in line with any additional criteria set by their departments. Examination Boards will cease using additional numerical credit in the calculation of the year end mark but may take into account in borderline cases the full amount of additional credit taken by students up to 150 CATS.

(From 2011/12 academic year) Within the normal credit load for the course, Course Regulations may permit a student to take, in the second or subsequent year(s) of study, credits at first year level (FHEQ level 4) or Stage 1 language modules, provided:

  • the total number of credits taken after the first year does not exceed 30; and
  • Language modules with stage 1 learning outcomes may not be taken in the final year of study or, for students studying for an integrated masters degree, in either the penultimate or final year of study. (For the avoidance of doubt, stage 1 "Beginners" level modules are prohibited, whereas "Beginners accelerated" level modules are allowed).

If approved by the Academic Quality and Standards Committee, Course Regulations may permit a higher number of first year credits/Stage 1 language modules to be taken in the second and subsequent year(s). An example of when different limits may be appropriate includes where this is necessary to comply with the requirements of a professional, statutory or regulatory body.

In the interests of providing progression routes for students, if Course Regulations permit students to take language modules in more than one year of the course, the Regulations should normally permit students who have taken a Stage 1 language module in one year to take a Stage 2 language module in the same language in the next year of the course.

5. Module Characteristics

Every module is approved with a set of characteristics, including a specified credit weight, defined intended learning outcomes, and assessment methods (which may include a choice of assessment methods).

At undergraduate level, the University recognises two separate credit tariffs, or schedules of credit volumes:

either 6, 12, 18, 24, 48; or 7.5, 15, 30 45, 60.

At postgraduate level, the re-calibration of tariffs which took place in a number of departments in 2000-01 when the University moved from 120 to 180 credits for Master’s courses led to the emergence of a further tariff model for these courses of:

10, 20, 30.

In this instance, the following model would be typical:

6 x 20 credit modules + 60 credits dissertation = 180 credits.

It was acknowledged at the time that some courses, especially those with a large number of modules or in areas where there are national standards for vocational provision (e.g. MBAs, PGME), were likely to remain outside this pattern.

Each module has a single credit weighting. The exception to this is where departments choose to offer substantially the same teaching leading to substantially the same learning outcomes assessed in substantially the same way but with different credit weightings (e.g. 24 and 30 credits). This module promotes interdisciplinary study and is useful where courses offered in different departments use different credit tariffs, allowing students to ensure they are able to follow modules leading to the required number of credits. In this case the module needs to be approved for delivery at each credit weighting to be offered, and there will be key differences, for example in additional learning outcomes, additional syllabus coverage and more assessment, as appropriate. Where a module is offered at different credit weightings, these are formally considered to be separate modules within the SITS Student Record system, with a suffix on the module code indicating the credit weight.

Assessment criteria should describe how staff will determine whether students have achieved the prescribed learning outcomes for each unit of study, i.e. by providing detailed expectations in terms of learner performance. There should be a clear and demonstrable link between learning outcomes and assessment criteria for each module, however delivered and assessed. No additional credit can be awarded for achievement above the specified threshold level, although relative achievement can be recognised through the award of marks or grades. Credit at a higher level than that specified for the unit of study concerned cannot be awarded for exceptional performance.

The achievement of learning outcomes is tested and measured by one or more assessment tasks; a module might have only one piece of assessment (e.g. a written exam or a long esay, etc), or a module may be assessed by a number of different assessment tasks (e.g. a series of lab reports and a practical exam, or two assessed essays and an exam, etc.). The University's Electronic Mark Utility (EMU) is designed to function as a repository for the marks for individual pieces of assessed work and module results.

The assessment of a module gives rise to one (only) module result. A module result is derived from the assessment of one (only) module. Different arrangements for assessment apply on the MBChB course.

Any pre-requisites for a particular module must be clearly stated in the module description and applied fairly.

Modules are normally designed to be completed within one academic year. Modules may be designed to run across two academic years where this suits the structure of the course and where there is no Board of Examiners or other progress bar between the two years. It is therefore unlikely that any undergraduate modules will be offered which run across two years, and only a small number on certain part-time taught postgraduate courses.

Where a module has a limit on the number of students who may take it and it is oversubscribed, the department responsible for it must apply a fair method for allocating places.

Departmental committees are responsible for the approval for module proposals and module revisions, with Faculty Sub-Committees having responsibility for approving modules offered by interdisciplinary research centres which are not located within an academic department. Further guidance on module approval processes is available on the Teaching Quality Website.

6. Modules from different credit tariffs

The adoption of the different credit tariffs by departments at Warwick means that there cannot always be direct interchangability of modules between departments using different tariffs. Thus, whilst students may take options from a department other than their own, subject to approval from their home department, those seeking to take a module from a department using a different tariff will find that they will either:

· Accumulate more credit than actually required e.g. by taking a module rated at 30 credits where they only require 24 credits, or

· Need to undertake additional assessed work or examinations where they require 30 credits but where the module is typically offered at 24 credits

The University recognises that, notwithstanding the normal load of 120 credits per annum for a full-time undergraduate degree, with a consequent normal load of 360 credits required to achieve an award at level H, students may accumulate a higher number of credits than necessary. This may occur because they are enrolled on a course which carries a higher credit tariff for the prescribed range of modules, or as a result of their own choice of optional modules. Staff should advise potential and actual students clearly that the conferral of an award is dependent upon the accumulation of the prescribed number of credits for their course, not just the accumulation of 360 credits where their course stipulates a higher number.


7. Module choice and registration

Students choose and register for modules in line with the process published by the Academic Office. Their choices are governed by the relevant Course Regulations.

There are provisions for departments to seek approval to vary the Course Regulations for individual students, and for approval to be given for students to take unusual options. Course Regulations cannot be varied arbitrarily. Departments may not permit students to take modules which are outside the Course Regulations except by following the formal approval procedure for this sort of variation. Departments must have procedures for allocating students to modules where some modules are likely to be over-subscribed.

Heads of Department have the authority to approve variations to Course Regulations for individual students in respect of optional modules. Students may only vary their module choice for core modules with the permission of the Chair of the relevant Faculty Undergraduate/Graduate Studies Committee/Sub-Faculty. With the exception of Science students taking a credit overload recognised through the Seymour formula, proposals for an individual students to register for more or less credits than is normal for a particular year of study can be approved by the Chair of the relevant Faculty Undergraduate/Graduate Studies Committee/Sub-Faculty only where supported by a compelling case.

Some departments permit students to register for more modules than required, and subsequently de-register from some of the those modules, reducing their load to the normal level. Students may not de-register from a module after a significant proportion (more than 10%) of the assessment has been undertaken.

Course Regulations stipulate the range of optional modules from which students may choose. If the Course Regulations or the department permit a student to take a module at a lower level than suggested by their year/stage of study (e.g. a final-year undergraduate taking a level C [first-year] module), the credit rating of the module cannot be altered. If departments believe that the module should not count at its full credit weight, they should not permit students to take that module. The Assessment Conventions Working Group has proposed limits on the amount of credit from a lower level that can be counted towards degree classification decisions.


8. Assessment

Every module has a pass mark

For undergraduate modules (levels C, I and H; FHEQ Levels 4, 5 and 6) this is 40%

For postgraduate modules (levels M and D; FHEQ Levels 7 and 8) this is 50%

Module results contribute to overall degree results in direct propertion to their credit weighting, as set out in the relevant degree classification conventions.

There are different schemes for combining module results from different years of degrees and other courses in calculating the final overall result for the course. For example, on the three-year Honours degrees the following weighting is typical for Arts and Social Studies courses:

Year 1 0%: Year 2 50%: Year 3: 50%

On three-year Honour degrees in the Faculty of Science the following is typical:

Year 1 10%: Year 2 30%: Year 3 60%

Where students take an intercalated year, the assessment is usually not counted towards the degree. There is normally a requirement that the student produces a report or other work based on the intercalated year, and this is assessed. Where the report is not of a passable standard, the student is normally transferred to a variant of the degree without Intercalated Year, and the degree certificate makes no mention of the intercalated year. Details should be included in Course Regulations and Course Specifications.

Some modules offer students a choice of assessment methods. Where this is the case, students may not change their chosen assessment method to discount a failure to submit a required piece of assessed work, or change their chosen assessment method after the deadline for a significant proportion (10%) of the module assessment has passed. To ensure equity in the treatment of students and to enable the exam timetable to be constructed efficiently, students may not change their chosen assessment method after the end of the fifth week of the Spring Term, even where this is before the deadline for submitting the first piece of assessed coursework.


9. Assessment for part-year visiting/exchange students

Special arrangements may be made for visiting exchange study at the University for part of a year, such that they cannot follow full modules and complete the normal assessment tasks.


10. European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

In common with other UK universities, the University of Warwick equates 2 Warwick credits to 1 ECTS credit. Examples are given in the table below:

Warwick credits ECTS equivalence 
30-credit module 15 ECTS credits
Full-time undergraduate year: 120 credits 60 ECTS credits
Full-time postgraduate year: 180 credits 90 ECTS credits
Honour degree: at least 360 credits at least 180 ECTS credits
Masters degree: at least 180 credits at least 90 ECTS credits
Integrated Masters degree: at least 480 credits, including at least 120 at level M at least 240 ECTS, with at least 60 ECTS credits at 2nd-cycle level


Visiting/exchange students and partner institutions sometimes request ECTS grades in addition to normal Warwick module results. Unlike Warwick marking, which is criteria-referenced (the mark for a piece of work is decided after judging the work against assessment criteria, with no quota for particular grades), ECTS grades are norm referenced as follows:


grade A top 10% of students passing the module
grade B next 25% of students passing the module
grade C next 30% of students passing the module
grade D next 25% of students passing the module
grade E next 10% of students passing the module
grade FX fail; some more work required to pass the module
grade F fail; considerable further work required to pass





  • This version approved by the Senate, 2 July 2008 [minute 93(d)/07-08]
  • Clarification in section 8 approved by chair's action on behalf of AQSC, 29 April 2009: addition to the final sentence of the phrase "To ensure equity in the treatment of students and"
  • Amendment to Section 4 relating to language modules approved by the Senate, 7 July 2010
  • Amendments to Sections 2, 4, 5 and 8 approved by AQSC, 5 December 2012, to reflect changes in policy on the total number of credits to be taken (approved by Senate 3 July 2012); national changes in nomenclature of levels of study.
  • Amendments to Section 2 (table of Warwick Qualifications) and Section 7 approved by Senate 29 June 2015