Academic Manual


Section 1: Overarching Principles of Assessment

Published for 2023-24

1.1 About

The overarching principles of assessment provide a framework and reference point for the continuous development and enhancement of taught assessment practices throughout the UCL community of students and staff. The principles aim to:
a)Define the core values underpinning the assessment of students at UCL
b)Promote consistency across UCL, and parity in student experiences of assessment
c)Encourage a mutual understanding of assessment processes and regulations by both students and staff 
d)Act as an important reference point for setting and maintaining UCL’s threshold academic standards
e)Act as the starting point for the development and enhancement of assessment processes and regulations, and when applying discretion or academic judgement.

1.2 The Principles

 Purposes of Assessment
1.Assessment is integral to learning and teaching; it must develop students’ knowledge and understanding as well as measuring attainment. 
2.Assessment should align with the objectives of the Connected Curriculum and ensure that all UCL students are able to learn through participating in research and enquiry at all levels of their programme. This includes:
  • Educating through dialogue and active, critical enquiry
  • Creating an inclusive research and learning community
  • Making connections across modules, programmes and beyond the classroom
  • Creating assessments that mirror ‘public engagement’ in research
  • Equipping students to address interdisciplinary challenges
  • Exploring critically the values and practices of global citizenship
  • Engaging students as partners in their education, and as co-producers of knowledge
  • Improving the experiences of both students and staff
3.Students must have frequent opportunities to develop their understanding of assessment, for example through formative assessments, guided marking, peer review and opportunities to practise key assessment methods.
4.Assessment processes and regulations must accord with the principles of natural justice and pay due notice to the danger of inadvertent or indirect discrimination or bias, ensuring that, as far as possible, procedures do not bear more heavily on specific groups, particularly with regard to age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, caring responsibilities, pregnancy or maternity, sexual orientation or assignment, marriage or civil partnership.
 Staff Development
5.Staff must be supported in the design, delivery, marking and moderation of assessment, and in talking to students about assessment, through the provision of information, staff development, and the sharing of good practice.
 Assessment Design
6.Assessment must be an integral part of programme and module design. 
7.Assessment tasks must enable students to demonstrate the extent to which they have attained and exceeded the intended learning outcomes.
8.When designing or reviewing a programme, development teams should consider whether assessment:
  • Is outward-facing, mirrors public engagement in research and encourages communication with external audiences, for example through journal articles, blogs, presentations, exhibitions or films
  • Facilitates academic and intellectual progression
  • Ensures that academic and professional standards are achieved
  • Enhances and rewards qualities which are important to employers
  • Is inclusive, diverse and designed to assess a range of skills and knowledge (e.g. oral presentations, posters, group work)
  • Challenges, stretches and motivates students
  • Encourages the development of autonomous learners
  • Reflects developments in the field
  • Is spread evenly across a programme, avoiding overload for both students and staff
9.Student Handbooks (or equivalent) must explain to students the aims and overarching principles of assessment, and the rationale behind the number, type and timing of assessments on their programme.
10.Internal and external scrutiny must be given to the design and structure of assessment across a programme.
11.Assessment should be regularly reviewed as part of and Internal Quality Review (IQR) process.
 Assessment Requirements
12.The UCL Pass Mark represents the minimum, threshold standards which students should meet in order to pass a module, progress through their programme and be awarded a degree.
13.Faculties, Departments and UCL services must ensure that information for students on all aspects of their assessment is explicit, transparent, targeted towards students, up-to-date and readily available.
14.The Portico Progression and Award Rules Tool must clearly define the requirements for a student to progress through the programme and be eligible for a qualification and a classification.
15.Programme regulations must meet UCL’s threshold academic standards, as defined in the UCL Academic Manual. Subject to approval by UCL Education Committee, or its nominee, a programme may set standards above these thresholds.
16.Students must follow the examination conduct regulations and protocols set out in the Examination Guide for Candidates which is published annually on the Examinations and Awards website.
 Progression and Award
17.Qualifications must only be awarded for the successful achievement of defined learning outcomes.
18.The criteria for Progression and the Award of a degree must be transparent, clearly defined and fair to all students, and aligned with the requirements of the UCL Qualifications and Credit Framework.
19.Programmes must include regular review points to support and evaluate a student’s progress throughout their programme.
20.A student may be permitted to progress from one year to the next and/ or be awarded a degree where they are carrying a small amount of failure, as long as their overall performance is of a good standard and the requirements of any relevant Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies are met.
 Reasonable Adjustments
21.UCL must make reasonable adjustments to learning, teaching and assessment to support students with a disability or other ongoing medical or mental health condition.
22.Students should notify UCL of any such condition at the time of enrolment or as soon as possible thereafter so that UCL can put in place the support that the student needs.
 Extenuating Circumstances
23.Students must notify UCL of any circumstances which are sudden, unexpected, significantly disruptive, and beyond the student's control and which may affect their performance at assessment, such as a serious illness or the death of a close relative.
24.UCL should ensure that alternative arrangements are put in place for such students, such as an extension or deferral of assessment to a later date.
 Marking and Moderation
25.Assessment policies and regulations must respect the academic judgement of the internal examiners in relation to a student’s performance against the published marking criteria.
26.All assessment processes, including marking, second-marking and moderation, should be conducted anonymously unless the nature of the assessment makes this impossible.
27.Marking must be criterion-referenced and students must be made aware of those criteria in advance.
28.Marking scales must be transparent and clearly communicated to students in advance of the assessment.
29.All programmes must include rigorous second-marking and internal moderation processes which promote consistency and fairness.
30.The assessment process for a programme of study must be scrutinised by an External Examiner.
 Assessment Feedback
31.Formative and summative assessment feedback is an integral part of the assessment process. Feedback should:
  • Help students to evaluate their work
  • Enable students to set and achieve short- and long-term goals
  • Give students opportunities to apply previous feedback
  • Include peer-to-peer and teacher-student dialogue
  • Be motivational for all students
  • Develop students’ assessment literacy
  • Be timely, so that feedback can inform future learning
32.Students should receive feedback regularly throughout their programme, on both formative and summative assessments.
33.Classification schemes must be transparent, clearly defined and fair to all students. 
 Consequences of Failure
34.A student who does not meet the Progression and Award Requirements at the first attempt should be reassessed in the failed module(s).
35.A student who does not meet the Progression and Award Requirements at the second attempt must not be reassessed.
36.Any penalties applied, such as those for late submissions or over-length coursework, must be proportionate and applied fairly.
 Boards of Examiners
37.Every UCL taught programme must have a Board of Examiners with a Chair, Deputy Chair and at least one Internal Examiner and one External Examiner for each of the main subject areas covered.  
38.The Board of Examiners is responsible for determining a student’s progression through the programme and for making recommendations for the award of degrees to the Education Committee of UCL.
39.Every Faculty must have a Faculty Board of Examiners which is responsible for the oversight of assessment in the Faculty and to which Boards of Examiners report.
 Student Academic Misconduct
40.UCL must investigate and, where necessary, penalise, any conduct which is likely to give an unfair advantage to the candidate and/ or affect the security of assessment, or the standards of degrees awarded by UCL.
 Award of Degrees
41.Education Committee, on behalf of Academic Committee, is authorised to award UCL taught degrees.