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Degree Outcomes Statement 2021

In May 2019, the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) proposed that Higher Education providers should publish a Degree Outcomes Statement analysing their institutional undergraduate degree classification profile and articulating the results of an internal institutional review. For background information on degree classifications and Degree Outcomes Statements, please see the UKSCQA’s publication Degree Classification Transparency, Reliability and Fairness - A Statement of Intent.

This review should also help assure providers that they meet the Expectations of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education that relate to protecting the value of qualifications, and, for providers in England, the Office for Students’ ongoing Conditions of Registration on academic standards (B4 and B5).

Degree Outcomes Statements are not a regulatory requirement, however, UKSCQA, with the backing of Universities UK (UUK) and Guild HE actively encourage Higher Education providers in England and Wales to prepare statements, and where possible, publish them annually on their websites.

In accordance with the UKSCQA expectation, the University has published its second public Degree Outcomes Statement. Please expand the sections below or click on the PDF in the right hand bar to view the statement. The statement will be updated on an annual basis at the end of each academic year. To supplement the Degree Outcomes Statement 2021, which is based on data up to and including the 2019/20 academic year, the University has also published a report on the impact on degree outcomes of its No Detriment Policy. This policy was introduced in March 2020 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student outcomes, whilst maintaining the integrity of Exeter Awards. Please click on the PDF in the right hand bar to view the report.

Prior to publication, the statement, supplemental report and the data on which they are based were scrutinised by a range of internal bodies, from the Degree Outcomes Steering Group through to Senate and signed off by Council. In addition, the University also regularly engages with representatives from the University of Exeter Students’ Guild (Exeter Campuses), the Exeter and Falmouth Students’ Union (Penryn Campus), the University’s Centre for Social Mobility and the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team when reviewing degree outcomes.

The University of Exeter is an autonomous Higher Education provider holding university title and degree awarding powers under the UK’s Higher Education and Research Act 2017. This autonomy means that the University is responsible for setting and maintaining the academic standards and quality of its undergraduate degrees and other qualifications. It does this within the context of the academic policies and ordinances of its Council, and in accordance with the procedures, frameworks, codes of good practice and guidance set out within its Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) Manual.

The purpose of this statement is, therefore, to present prospective and current undergraduate students, partners, stakeholders and other interested parties with information, and thus assurance, on how the University monitors and manages the academic standards of its undergraduate awards at Levels 4-6 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-awarding bodies (FHEQ). The statement also aims to meet the expectations of the UK Standing Committee on Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) to ensure transparency, reliability and fairness in relation to outcomes for University of Exeter students.

Please note: This statement is based on data up to and including the 2019/20 academic year. It does, therefore, include data which may have been impacted by Industrial Action or by measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the implementation of the University’s No Detriment Policy.

2.1 Trends in Undergraduate Degree Classifications

This section presents trends in the classifications of degrees awarded by the University to all its undergraduate students between 2015/16 and 2019/20. This includes UK domiciled and international students. The data is presented as the percentage or proportion of different degree classifications awarded (1st, 2:1, 2:2 and 3rd).

The data also includes Integrated Masters Degrees, which are four year, Level 7 FHEQ programmes, which incorporate an honours degree. The results for students on the Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery, who are not awarded traditional degree classifications, have been excluded from the data.

Figure 1: University of Exeter Trends in Undergraduate Degree Classification

Over the past five years, there has been an upward trend in the number of 1st and 2:1s (together referred to as ‘good honours degrees’) awarded by the University and an associated decline in the award of 2:2 and 3rd class degrees.

Please refer to section 2.5 below for analysis of how the implementation of the University’s No Detriment Policy may have influenced degree outcomes for 2019/20.

 

This section presents the trends illustrated in Section 2 above, in comparison with the same trends for the following groups within the Higher Education sector:

  • The Sector - all undergraduate degree awarding institutions;
  • The Russell Group - a group of research intensive Universities, of which the University of Exeter is part; and
  • The Competitor Group - similar institutions within the sector.

The data is drawn from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Data Set for 2019/20 and is used for benchmarking purposes.

Figure 2: Comparison of University of Exeter Trends in Degree Classification with the Higher Education Sector

 

Over the past five years, the University’s trends have been well aligned with those found across the Russell Group and its Competitor Group, particularly in respect of the award of 2:2 and 3rd class degrees. The two areas of difference are in respect of the award of ‘good honours degrees’ and are as follows:

  • The University’s award of 1st class degrees has been lower than the Russell Group and its Competitor Group (at 36% compared to 40% in 2019/20) and more in line with the Higher Education sector as whole; and
  • The University’s award of 2:1 degrees has been higher than all three comparator groups over the past five years, although the differential has fluctuated (in 2019/20 it was 55% compared to 48%, 54% and 51% respectively).

The University’s overall trend of an increase in the award of ‘good honours degrees’ is mirrored across all comparator groups.

Please refer to section 2.5 below for analysis of how the implementation of the University’s No Detriment Policy may have influenced degree outcomes for 2019/20.

 

This section presents data on the ‘good honours degrees’ awarded by the University to its undergraduate students between 2015/16 and 2019/120, differentiated by key demographic groups.

Table 1: University of Exeter Award of Good Honours Degrees by Demographic Characteristics

 Proportion Awarded % (1st and 2:1)
 2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Age Group Mature
77%
82%
79%
78%
88%
Young
87%
87%
89%
88%
92%
Disability Disability
86%
86%
88%
88%
92%
No Disability
86%
87%
89%
87%
92%
Ethnicity BME
72%
77%
74%
76%
82%
White
90%
90%
92%
90%
94%
Gender Female
90%
91%
92%
90%
94%
Male
81%
82%
84%
83%
89%
Participation in HE LPN
84%
89%
90%
78%
93%
Non-LPN
90%
90%
92%
91%
95%
School Type Independent
89%
88%
91%
92%
95%
State
85%
87%
88%
87%
91%

Key:

BME - Black and Minority Ethnic students
LPN - Students from Low Participation [in HE] Neighbourhoods


Table 2: University of Exeter Award of Good Honours Degrees by Ethnicity

 Proportion Awarded % (1st and 2:1)
 2015/162016/172017/182018/192019/20
Asian 68% 74% 72% 71% 78%
Black 74% 59% 71% 77% 85%
Mixed 86% 91% 85% 90% 90%
Other 65% 77% 66% 64% 84%
White 90% 90% 92% 90% 94%

Key:

Asian - Asian or Asian British - Bangladeshi; Asian or Asian British - Indian; Asian or Asian British - Pakistani; Chinese; Other Asian background
Black - Black or Black British - African; Black or Black British - Caribbean; Other Black background
Mixed - Mixed - White & Asian; Mixed - White & Black African; Mixed - White and Black Caribbean; Other Mixed background
Other - Arab; Other Ethnic background
White - White; White British; White Scottish; White Irish; Irish Traveller; Gypsy or Traveller; Other white background

The data demonstrates that there are a number of awarding gaps between and within different demographic groups of students. Some of these gaps have fluctuated more notably over time due to smaller cohort sizes. Furthermore, in some cases awarding gaps have reduced over time, although only the gap between students declaring a disability and students with no known disability had been closed by 2019/20. Further data and analysis will, however, be required to establish whether or not the latter is a longer term trend and if further positive interventions will be required to ensure that this gap does not re-emerge.

Please refer to section 2.5 below for analysis of how the implementation of the University’s No Detriment Policy may have influenced degree outcomes for 2019/20.

Contributions to the improvement in student performance and awards between 2015/16 and 2019/20 include: (i) sustained improvements over time in the entry standards of students; (ii) the development of new educational facilities and resources; and (iii) the pan-institutional focus on enhancement of teaching, learning and assessment practices. As the impact of (ii) and (iii) has not been isolated, there may be an element of what the Office for Students (OfS) define as unexplained change, that is: change over a time period that cannot be accounted for by change in the characteristics of the graduating cohort1.

The University is confident that its commitment to excellence in teaching and learning, alongside investment in educational facilities, resources and support services has had a positive impact on academic outcomes for its students. However, there is a need for more definitive evidence to establish a clear relationship between such factors and the increase in ‘good honors degrees’ awarded. The University will, therefore, be undertaking further research and analysis to better understand the multiple contributions to the improvements in awards.

Additional data held by the University indicates that there are differences in the degree awarding profiles in individual Colleges and between Disciplines within those Colleges, which are scrutinised at an institutional level through the Quality Review Framework and the Board of the Faculty of Taught Programmes. While these reflect sector-wide patterns, the University is committed to developing its understanding of these differences and instigating and supporting appropriate responses at College and Discipline level.

The University recognizes that awarding gaps exist between some of its demographic groups of students and it is committed to driving down and eliminating such gaps. These are defined by the OfS as identified gaps in degree outcomes for underrepresented groups when compared with their peers2. It should be noted that the data above relates to all undergraduate students at the University, including international students. There may, therefore, be some differences in the gaps shown above and those identified in the University’s Access and Participation Plan. This plan utilizes data from the OfS’ Access and Participation Data Dashboard which covers UK Domiciled students only.

Additional data held by the University indicates that there are also differences in the scale of awarding gaps shown between individual Colleges and between Disciplines within those Colleges. The University is using these analyses to consider actions at a finer-grained level of detail (e.g. at Discipline and College levels). There have been some improvements since 2015/16, with awarding gaps reduced or closed, however, addressing such disparities remains a top priority for the University, in particular, reducing the awarding gap between BME and white students, which stood at 12 percentage points (pp) for ‘good honours degrees’ in 2019/20. This is, therefore, an area in which the University is committed to, and engaged in, further research, analysis and action.

This commitment is evident in the University focus on ‘Success for All Our Students’ within the University’s Education Strategy (2019-2025) (see Section 7). Furthermore, in 2020, the Provost's Commission, which oversees work to ensure an open, diverse and safe university community for all, established in conjunction with the BME Staff, Students and Allies Network a forum focusing specifically on the BME awarding gap. The ‘Let’s Talk’ series provides an open forum to discuss work underway to improve the University’s BME awarding gap, and consider opportunities to increase the impact of actions and the pace of change.

The series has already identified a number of key areas that are being taken forward, including: work to support the transition of BME students into and through Higher Education; the development of a BME support and mentoring network and tailored health and wellbeing support. Finally, the University has enhanced collaboration within Professional Services to ensure that there is a strong join-up between Widening Participation, Social Mobility, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Education and Student Support and Taught Faculty Professionals.

Please refer to section 2.5 below for analysis of how the implementation of the University’s No Detriment Policy may have influenced degree outcomes for 2019/20.

1 Analysis of degree classifications over time: Changes in graduate attainment from 2010-11 to 2017-18, OfS 2019 (updated 2020) Available at: officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/analysis-of-degree-classifications-over-time/

2 Office for Students Access and Participation Glossary. Available at officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/promoting-equal-opportunities/access-and-participation-glossary/

In April 2020 the University implemented a No Detriment Policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, campus closures and the rapid pivot to on-line teaching, learning and assessment. The aim of the policy was to ensure the fairness and integrity of the Exeter award, as well as to support students through a difficult situation in a way that allowed them to progress or be awarded.

The policy was based on the calculation of a benchmark for all taught undergraduate and postgraduate students using credit-weighted grades achieved up to and including 15 March 2020. This benchmark acted as a ‘safety net’ and ensured that students received an award or stage average that accurately reflected their academic attainment during their time on their course, unimpaired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The key elements of the policy were as follows:

  • The benchmark was based on actual achievement from the current academic stage as far as possible;
  • In order for the benchmark to be reliable, it was based on a mean mark derived from sufficient credit (equivalent to at least half the total credits of the relevant stage);
  • If insufficient credit had been accumulated in the current stage, achievement in the previous University of Exeter-based stage was included within the calculation;
  • If there was no prior University of Exeter-based stage, then the benchmark was provisional until, in the case of Postgraduate Taught students (PGTs), sufficient credit has been accumulated to confirm the benchmark;
  • The benchmark was calculated and applied after all other normal assessment processes had been completed (e.g. condonement, mitigation, scaling, and late penalties); and
  • For students who passed the current stage during 2019/20 academic year, the credit-weighted mean for all assessments contributing to the stage were compared to the benchmark, and the higher of these two results was used as their overall result for the stage.

The key institutional observations for the 2019/20 academic year, following the introduction of the policy, are as follows:

  • There was an increase in the award of ‘good honours degrees’ and most notably in 1st class degrees in 2019/20:
    • Up 6% from 31% in 2018/19 to 37% in 2019/20.
  • There was a reduction in the awarding gaps between different demographic groups in 2019/20 with examples being:
    • The gap between mature and young students closed by 6pp from 10pp in 2018/19 to 4pp in 2019/20;
    • The gap between students disclosing a disability and students with no known disability closed by 1pp from 1pp in 2018/19 to 0pp in 2019/20; and
    • The gap between BME and White students closed by 2pp from 14pp in 2018/19 to 12pp in 2019/20.

A report published by Universities UK (UUK) and Guild HE on Degree Classifications in 2019/203 indicates that these observations reflect degree outcomes across the sector under No Detriment and other ‘safety net’ policies, stating that:

  • “Across the UK, there was a six-percentage point increase of upper awards (1st class and 2:1 awards) in 2019–20. The proportion of 1st class awards rose to over a third (35%); and
  • Analysis shows that despite the disruption, 2019–20 saw a narrowing of attainment [awarding] gaps for the graduating cohort by deprivation, gender, disability and ethnicity.”

A sub-group of the University’s Degree Outcomes Steering Group (see section 7.4 below) has been undertaking more detailed data analysis to determine the impact of the policy on degree outcomes for students, including different demographic groups of students. Analysis is on-going, however, the early indications are that the policy in itself is not responsible for the increase in 1st class honours degrees awarded, nor the closing of awarding gaps.

Just 1.4% of UK domiciled final year students and 1.2% of international final year students were found to have seen a change in degree classification due to the ‘safety net’ benchmark. The analysis further revealed that of those students that did rely on their benchmark:

  • A large number saw a small change in their credit-weighted stage mean;
  • A small number saw a large change in their credit-weighted stage mean; and
  • A few saw a change in their degree classification, as a result of a change in their credit-weighted stage mean.

In addition, the demographic analysis did not identify a significant differential impact on any particular group. It was, however, noted that students originating from Low Participation [in Higher Education] Neighbourhoods (based on the Participation of Local Areas (POLAR) Quintiles 1 and 2), who had relied on their benchmark, were twice as likely to have seen a change in their degree classification, as a result. This suggests that the policy did achieve its objective in that the most economically disadvantaged, who were also more likely to have been impacted by the social and economic conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, benefitted the most.

As a result of these initial findings, an additional focus of the sub-groups research and analysis will be on the impact of the changes to teaching, learning and assessment made after 15th March 2020. Of particular interest will be the move to different types of assessments and examinations, such as on-line, open-book assessments, and whether or not the associated enhancement of accessibility enabled more students in total and more students from specific demographic groups to fulfil their potential. There will be lessons to learn from the outcomes of this research and analysis in relation to future assessment strategies.

A more detailed report of the sub-group’s work will be published on the Degree Outcomes Statement section of the University’s website.

3 Degree Classifications 2019/20, UUK and Guild HE, 2021/ Available at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/degree-classifications-in-2019-20.aspx

Regulation of standards is set out in the University’s Taught Programmes’ Handbook. The University has a robust and rigorous approach to assuring the standardisation of assessment, marking and decision-making on the award of its degrees, confirmed through prior QAA Institutional Review and Institutional Audit. These have not changed significantly during the period covered by this. Consistency of marking is ensured through standard and best practice quality assurance measures, such as anonymity (wherever possible) and the use of moderation and sampling. External Examiners are appointed to oversee the standards of assessment on all taught programmes, producing annual reports, which feed into the University’s quality review processes.

The University operates a three tier system of Assessment Progression and Awarding Committees (APACs). Tier One is the Discipline APAC, whose primary responsibility is to safeguard academic standards. Tier Two is the College APAC, whose primary responsibility is to ensure that academic regulations are applied consistently and equitably across Disciplines within a College. Tier Three is the University APAC, whose primary responsibility is to identify areas where policy clarifications or enhancements are required, to consider patterns of degree outcomes and academic standards and make associated strategic recommendations.

To ensure that the assessment criteria meets sector reference points, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) Subject Benchmark Statements are considered during the approval of programmes, together with the competency requirements of a Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) where appropriate. External Assessors are also appointed during the approval process to ensure that academic standards and the quality of the student academic experience are assured from the outset. The University also supports opportunities for academics to work as External Examiners and Advisors to enhance standardisation within the HE sector and participates in Advance HE's Degree Standards Project.

The procedures governing student academic appeals against assessment, progression or awarding decisions are detailed in the Student Cases Handbook. Students may also apply for mitigating circumstances, the procedures for which are set out in Chapter 10 of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook. This provides a ‘safety net’ in the event that a student is ill or affected by personal circumstances that potentially preclude them from undertaking an examination or submitting an assignment on time.

The Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Exeter are the fundamental rules and principles that govern how the University undertakes its learning and teaching. Detailed Regulations cover the operation of teaching, examinations and other matters relating to students. The Council is the University’s governing body, with responsibility for institutional policies and finances, estates and legal matters. Academic governance is provided by Senate, which is responsible for teaching and learning, examinations and research. The high-level work of Council and Senate is supported through various key Committees and the Dual Assurance structure, which focuses on particular areas of the University’s activity.

The University has a well-established process of annual internal institutional review of its degree classification data, with the Business Intelligence Team of its Planning, Policy and Business Intelligence Department preparing a detailed and extensive report on degree classifications over time, up to and including the preceding academic year. The report is presented to Senate, as the senior forum for academic staff to shape academic strategy and scrutinise plans and raise issues of major strategic importance to the University, as well as to Council.

It is an expectation of the UKSCQA that governing bodies or academic senates should incorporate external assurance into the preparation of their Degree Outcomes Statements. The University is, therefore, to make an appointment to the role of University Principal External Examiner. The Principal External Examiner will not only provide external scrutiny, quality assurance and advice in relation to the Degree Outcomes Statements, but will also play a key role in the University’s overall quality review arrangements, in particular with respect to its strategic focus on ‘Success for All Our Students’ and the objectives of its Access and Participation Plan relating to the reduction of awarding gaps between particular demographic groups within the student body.

Arrangements for teaching, learning and assessment delivered through partnership arrangements are outlined in the Academic Partnerships Handbook and the Validated and Accredited Awards that may be delivered in partnership are listed in the Regulations.

Degree classification algorithms are the rules by which degree awarding bodies consistently determine the degree classification for individual final year undergraduate students. Algorithms may vary slightly from one university to another but are typically based on the weightings attributed to each stage or year of study and the final credit weighted mark achieved. The University of Exeter’s approach to undergraduate degree classifications may be found in Chapter 9 of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes  Handbook. More specifically the Rules for the Classification of Bachelors and Integrated Masters Degrees are set out in Section 9.4.

There have been no changes to the degree algorithms used by the University of Exeter during the period covered by this statement. The degree algorithms are applied rigorously and consistently by Discipline APACs and verified by College APACs. Any exceptions, such as Aegrotat Awards made under Ordinance 16 of the University’s Regulations, must be approved by the Academic Dean for Students / Dean of the Faculty of Taught Programmes at the University APAC.

To ensure that academic standards are upheld, there are consequences for failure in individual assessments and modules, and whilst referrals and repeat study are permitted within strict limits, the maximum grades that may be achieved are capped at the pass mark of 40%. Students may, however, apply for mitigating circumstances, which if approved would permit them additional time or an additional opportunity to complete an assessment without penalty. Further information on the consequences of failure in assessment is available in Chapter 11 of the Handbook.

The University prides itself on its commitment to excellence in all aspects of teaching, learning and assessment. This is evidenced by the award of Gold under the provider level Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) in 2017, an award it still holds. The TEF Panel judged that University of Exeter students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes. The metrics indicated outstanding levels of student satisfaction with teaching, assessment and feedback, and academic support in all cases notably exceeding benchmarks. More information on Teaching Excellence may be found on the University’s website.

Beneath this headline, the University consistently strives to enhance the quality of its teaching and learning. The cross-University work of the Teaching Quality Assurance and Enhancement Department, which provides a range of professional services to both staff and students to support the development of high quality teaching and learning, provides a good example of this and includes the:

The University’s Quality Review Framework sets out the process for the annual Quality Review of Taught  Programmes. This is a multi-layered process starting with the Annual Review of Modules and culminating with the Annual Review of Colleges by the University. There are two elements within this, which focus specifically on teaching excellence and standards:

  • Teaching Excellence Action Plans (TEAPs) have been designed to reflect the strategic importance of teaching excellence, respond to emerging issues and record completed actions, as part of a cyclical process of quality assurance and enhancement; and
  • Teaching Excellence Monitoring Meetings (TEMs) are the annual University scrutiny meeting with each Discipline within the Colleges, which ensure that its expectations in relation to teaching and learning are being upheld and that best practice is highlighted and shared.

The University continues to develop its facilities and services to support its educational priorities, its teaching and learning and the academic experience of its students. Projects overseen by its Estate Services include the refurbishment of existing, and the provision of new, learning and study places and spaces. There is also considerable ongoing investment in Library Resources and Services, both physical and online, and in the Exeter Learning Environment the University’s virtual learning environment, which enables students to access programme materials and interact online.

The University adopts an evidenced based approach to the enhancement of its teaching, learning and assessment practices ensuring that they are designed from the outset to have a positive impact on academic outcomes for students. Monitoring and evaluation is also built into every stage of development and many improvements are co-created with, and reviewed by students through a well-established system of Academic  Representation and close partnership with the University of Exeter Students' Guild (Exeter) and Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union (Cornwall).

7.1 Commitment to Success for All

The University’s new Education Strategy 2019-25 makes a commitment to delivering education and student experience of the highest international quality, and to supporting all of its students to realise their potential; this commitment is also captured in our Access and Participation Plan. One of the strategy’s priorities is to, ‘enhance our undergraduate offer in: the quality of learning, teaching, student support and student outcomes’. The strategy also defines as a characteristic of excellence in education, ‘Success for All Our Students’, underpinned commitments include: to support all students to fulfil their potential and make a positive contribution to the wider world; and to strive to eliminate gaps in access, awarding and progression to employment seen between groups defined by socioeconomic (dis)advantage, ethnicity, age, disability, gender and nationality.

The University continues to evolve its approach to delivering success for all and has augmented its leadership and governance arrangements by creating an enhanced Success for All Strategy Group, chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education), to lead this area of work from 2020-21 onwards. The Strategy Group is supported by a series of working groups, each focusing on a key area of access, success and progression, including the BME awarding gaps. Student Representatives are fully engaged with this process and the work has been further enhanced through the creation of, and appointment to, a new dedicated role of Associate Academic Dean for Students (Racial Equality and Inclusion) in January 2021. Some of the work commenced or completed during the 2020/1 academic year includes:

  • Setting up the Success for All Students Forum;
  • Making ‘Success Stories’ a standing item on meeting agendas;
  • Development of the Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit;
  • Creating the Institutional Inclusive Curriculum and Decolonising the Curriculum Frameworks;
  • Reviewing data collation and access to enable Personal Tutors to plan earlier interventions and better support their students’ personal and academic achievements;
  • Re-evaluating data needs, to better inform institutional practice; and
  • Developing the role of Academic Lead for Student Support (Racial Equality and Inclusion) for each College to support students from marginalized and minority groups.

The University’s Centre for Social Mobility is the UK's only university centre dedicated to improving social mobility through evidence-informed practice and policy. The Centre's goal is to help disadvantaged young people so they do better at school, access higher education and succeed at university. Researchers and practitioners from the Centre will contribute to the University’s work on analysing degree outcomes, in particular awarding gaps, and identifying actions, including through their work to: support a whole institution approach to social mobility to enhance the access, success and progression of widening participation students at the University; and undertake institutional research to enhance knowledge and practices at the University. A key achievement in 2020-21 was establishing a small grants scheme, leading to six projects being funded looking at a range of topics including employability barriers, decolonizing the curriculum research and toolkits and a project on transition points. These projects include both Professional Services staff and Academics and the learning from them will be incorporated into institutional practice.

The University’s Education Incubator is an investment in cultivating innovation and collaboration in the theory and practice of teaching and learning. The Incubator enables any academic from the University to participate in networks of interested peers, providing access to expertise and examples of inspirational educational practice, whilst developing their own ideas and approaches. Partnership with students is a core commitment at the University and the Incubator champions and supports effective partnerships. Work undertaken through the Incubator aligns closely with the University’s Education Strategy 2019-25, with previous and current projects focusing on the experiences of underrepresented cohorts, including peer mentoring initiatives and approaches to developing inclusive pedagogy and curricula.

Chaired by the Academic Dean for Students/Dean of the Faculty of Taught Programmes, a steering group supports the annual internal review of the University’s degree classifications and the preparation of the Degree Outcomes Statement. Drawing on academic and professional expertise across the University and engaging with student representatives and members of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team, this will enable a more collaborative approach to be adopted. Amongst other matters, the Steering Group will focus on: developing a clear annual process by which data on degree classifications and the content of the Degree Outcomes Statement is considered and formally approved; and identifying the questions that need answering, including on the benefit of interventions and impact of policy change.

Throughout this first Degree Outcomes Statement, the University of Exeter has identified areas in which further research and analysis is required to better understand the factors giving rise to the institutional degree classification profile identified, both in terms of the overall increase in the award of good honours degrees and the persistence of awarding gaps between different demographic groups of students. The University recognises that awarding gaps derive from a multiplicity of reasons, academic, social and cultural, and start even before students come to University. The University will, therefore, take a holistic approach to reducing and closing gaps, not only through its academic systems, but through linked work within the Provost's  Commission, Equality Groups, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team and Widening Participation Team.

As outlined in section 2.5 above, a sub-group of the University’s Degree Outcomes Steering Group (see section 7.4 above) has been undertaking detailed analysis of the impact of the 2019/20 No Detriment Policy‌ on degree outcomes for students, including different demographic groups of students. This work has been ongoing during 2020/21. The University will also review the impact of the events of the 2020/21 academic year, which included further restrictions on the Higher Education sector as a result to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. There will be a particular focus on the implementation of the University’s No Disadvantage Guarantee, which implemented a number of new ‘safety nets’ for undergraduate and taught postgraduate students.

The conclusions and recommendations of such activity will be reflected in future versions of this statement. The University is by its nature a learning institution, in which research and education are inextricably linked and learning and teaching is consistently and constantly informed by internal and external research and best practice.