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Section 5: Level Descriptors

Published for 2019-20


1.Level Descriptors define the depth and complexity of each Academic Level and outline the academic skills, amount of prior knowledge and amount of learner autonomy required to pass a Programme or Module at that Level.
2.

The descriptors are closely aligned to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) and, together with the more discipline-specific QAA Subject Benchmark Statements, should be used as a reference point in the development of Qualifications, Programmes and Modules, and for the determination of local Marking Criteria.

Level 3

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated: 

  • A skills base of conceptual and factual knowledge with some appreciation of the Field of Study and of terminology used
  • An ability to apply those skills independently in a range of complex activities or with guidance when working with greater complexity.

Level 4

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated:

  • Knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with their Field of Study, and an ability to evaluate and interpret these within the context of that field
  • An ability to present, evaluate and interpret qualitative and quantitative data in order to develop lines of argument and make sound judgements in accordance with the basic theories and concepts of their Field of Study.

Level 5

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated: 

  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles of their Field of Study, and of the way in which those principles have developed 
  • An ability to apply underlying concepts and principles outside the context in which they were first studied, including, where appropriate, the application of those principles in an employment context
  • Knowledge of the main methods of enquiry in the Field of Study
  • An ability to evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems in the Field of Study
  • An understanding of the limits of their knowledge, and how this influences analyses and interpretations which might be based on that knowledge.

Level 6

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated: 

  • A systematic understanding of key aspects of their Field of Study, including the acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge, at least some of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of the field
  • An ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within the Field of Study
  • A conceptual understanding that enables the student:
    • To devise and sustain arguments, and/or to solve problems, using ideas and techniques, some of which are at the forefront of the Field of Study
    • To describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research, or equivalent advanced scholarship, in the Field of Study
  • An appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge
  • An ability to manage their own learning
  • An ability to make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources (for example, refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the Field of Study).

Level 7

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated: 

  • A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their field
  • A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship
  • Originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the field
  • A conceptual understanding that enables the student:
    • To evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the field 
    • To evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.

Level 8

Students successfully completing Programmes or Modules at this Level will have demonstrated: 

  • An ability to create and interpret new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the field, and merit publication
  • A systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice
  • An ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, application or understanding at the forefront of the field, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems
  • A detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.