The National Postgraduate Committee notes:
1. Taught postgraduate Master's degrees are offered by most UK higher education institutions.
2. "Until recently. postgraduate Master's degrees were awarded without grade or class (like the class of an honours degree). Nowadays however, Master's degrees are usually classified, either into three categories (Pass, Merit or Distinction), or simply two (Pass or distinction)."
3. A perusal of Master's programmes across the United Kingdom shows that 50% is a very common rate for a Pass and 70% is a very common rate for
4. The same perusal shows that the award of Merit is not consistent across higher education, with some institutions not offering it at all, others
offering it at 60% rate and others at 65%.
5. There are few discernible patterns to the pattern of Merit awards, other than most institutions awarding at 65% being located in London (along with many awarding at 60% or not at all) and it not appearing to be awarded by any Scottish or University of Wales institutions. The pattern of awards cuts across ancient, red brick, plate glass and post 92 universities and also
across universities in the Russell Group, the 1994 Group and the Campaign for Modern Universities.
6. Consequently a Master's graduate who achieves, say, a consistent result of 64% could be awarded, depending upon the institution:
a) Pass with Merit
b) Pass but fall short of Merit
c) Pass on a scheme with no Merit at all
7. The PostGraduate Diploma is also offered in many UK higher education institutions.
8. Some award it at the same pass rate as Master's degrees (usually 50%); others award it at a lower pass rate (usually 40%) and sometimes award it to a candidate who has narrowly failed a Master's degree.
The National Postgraduate Committee believes:
1. The current system of Merit awards is highly confusing and would require an expert to know at a glance the difference between awards from different institutions.
2. The current system results in individual Master's graduates appearing to have a different ranking of results to that which the numerical outcome indicates.
3. The pattern of award of PostGraduate Diplomas can also lead to much similar confusion.
4. Transparency and consistency of awards are essential to enable academic mobility.
5. Individual institutions should be free to set their own marking schemes, but the overall awards should offer a consistent pattern.
The National Postgraduate Committee resolves:
1. To campaign for a consistent pattern of awards for taught degree awards that is transparent, easy to understand and generates consistent comparable outcomes.
2. To work with the Quality Assurance Agency and other relevant bodies in determining and implementing a standard scheme across the sector.
3. To encourage greater consistency in the use and award of PostGraduate Certificates & Diplomas.
Submitted by: Tim Roll-Pickering (University of London Union)