Chapter 7 - Assessment, progression and awarding committees

  1. Assessment, progression and awarding committees (APAC)
    1. Introduction
      1. In accordance with Ordinance 5, every assessment for a Degree, Diploma or Certificate of the University, whether taken at one sitting or in parts, is directed by an Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee.
      2. Where required, APACs may take place throughout the year to consider those programmes with non-standard start/ finish dates. Such APACs must adhere to the membership and quoracy guidelines stipulated in the guidance below and must be clearly minuted.
      3. Preparatory meetings may take place in advance of APACs where required however membership and clear minutes of such meetings must be reported to the principal APAC meetings.
      4. For online programmes offered in partnership with Keypath Education, please see the Special Provisions information for further guidance.
      5. For Nursing programmes offered by the College of Medicine and Health, please see the Special Provisions information for further guidance.
    2. Definitions
      1. The University has a two tier system for Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees. The two tiers are:
      2. Tier One: Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees whose primary responsibility is to safeguard academic standards for the particular programmes under consideration; this applies to all stages of a programme. An APAC may cover an individual programme or multiple programmes. All students, including those on partnership programmes and International Summer School programmes, must be included in an APAC. 
      3. Tier Two: College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees whose primary responsibility is to assure that academic regulations are applied consistently and equitably across disciplines within the College.
    3. Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees – Terms of Reference
      1. Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees are primarily responsible for safeguarding academic standards for the particular programmes under consideration.
      2. To exercise this responsibility Programme/Discipline, Progression and Awarding Committees have the following terms of reference:

        Establishing principles of fairness;
        1. To take an overview of the assessment processes that operate for the programmes and modules in the subject area, with a particular view to ensuring that principles of fairness and impartiality have been applied, including:
          1. Setting examination papers, essay titles, and other assessments.
          2. Marking processes (including moderation, sampling, etc.).
          3. Application of regulations.
        2. To ensure that appropriate and clear marking criteria have been set and applied to identify threshold standards and that classification boundaries are clear.

          Consideration of assessment recommendations;
        3. To ensure that marking criteria are applied appropriately and consistently.
        4. To agree the results of assessments in modules. Exception reporting, (i.e., only noting non straightforward results) is acceptable.
        5. To receive redacted/ anonymised reports from Mitigation Committees1.
        6. To approve the progression of students at all stages, including the application of condonement where clear rules have been set out in advance of the meeting (see Chapter 8) up to a maximum of 30 credits per stage for undergraduates and 45 credits for taught postgraduates.
        7. To make recommendations for awards and classification.
        8. To review statistics on academic performance and to comment upon the performance of cohorts in particular assessments and modules.
    4. Membership of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. Disciplines should nominate staff to become members of a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. Following approval by the College ADE, the membership list should be submitted to the Faculty Office no later than the end of Week 1 of the term preceding that in which the APAC is due to take place.
      2. The Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be chaired by the Head of Discipline or delegated representative, usually the Director of Education.
      3. In accordance with Ordinance 5 paragraph 2, the membership of every Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must include at least one member of the academic staff of the University and all relevant External Examiners (INTO APACs must include a University of Exeter Director of Education or appropriate representative).
      4. Membership should include all relevant module leaders/convenors and other appropriate members of the core academic team as appointed by the Head of Discipline. As a guide, APAC membership should be a minimum of ten individuals.
    5. Attendance at Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. External Examiner(s) are expected to be present at any meeting of the Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee at which recommendations are made for the award of degrees, diplomas or certificates. Attendance in person is recommended, however, it is acceptable for External Examiners to attend by Skype, video conference link or conference call if necessary. When, exceptionally and for good reason, this is not possible, the External Examiner's absence must be approved in advance by the Dean of the relevant Faculty. Under such circumstances, the Chair should ensure that the External Examiner has been fully involved in agreeing marks and that there is, at the meeting, a written record of the External Examiner’s remarks and recommendations on classifications and failures. More information on the role and responsibilities of External Examiners can be found in Chapter 3 of the Quality Review Framework.
    6.  Quorum of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. Only duly appointed members of the Committee, or nominated representatives, and its Secretary should be present at a meeting of a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. However, with the approval of the Chair of the Committee, other members of University staff may be present for the purposes of administrative support or observation.
      2. The quorum for the attendance of members at a meeting of a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be half the appointed internal members, rounded up, in accordance with section 7.5.
    7. Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. Meetings of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees should have the following agenda:
        1. Confirmation of quoracy
        2. Attendance and Apologies for absence.
        3. Terms of reference.
        4. Declarations of interest.
        5. Minutes of the previous meeting, clearly dated with an accurate list of attendees (template for minutes attached in Annex C).
        6. Matters arising on the minutes.
        7. Receipt of a report of Chair’s actions.
        8. Receipt of reports of action taken as a result of External Examiners' reports from the previous year.
        9. Receipt of a report from Mitigation Committee(s).
        10. Receipt of condonement rules (as specified in chapter 8 of this Handbook, or as specified by the College if additional rules have been agreed in advance of the meeting) for all programmes under consideration.
        11. Approval of module marks, condonement up to a maximum of 30 credits for undergraduates or 45 credits for postgraduates and progression.
        12. Justifiable recommendations on award and classification to the College APAC, including exceptional cases.
        13. Consideration of assessment processes (e.g. an oral report on moderation, mitigation, and review of any assessment changes, or issues arising out of the marking process).
        14. Delegation of powers (see 7.7.5 below).
        15. Receive an oral review by the External Examiners.
        16. Date of the next meeting.
      2. This agenda is not exclusive and further items may be added for a particular meeting as Committee business requires (e.g. Prizes and Dean’s Commendations). Where exceptional circumstances prevent the APAC from following the proposed agenda or format, or where quoracy has not been achieved, the APAC meeting may continue, however, this must be reported as a matter of urgency to the Taught Faculty Office.
      3. The External Examiner(s) is expected to confirm the decisions taken by the Committee by either signing the final mark sheet or verbally in their report to the Committee with an appropriate minute made. More information on the role and responsibilities of External Examiners can be found in Chapter 3 of the Quality Review Framework.
      4. It is not the responsibility of a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee to make recommendations about the consequences of failure; this is the responsibility of the College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. [This formulation reflects a legal judgement which requires that processes of academic assessment must be clearly separated from those concerning the consequences of failure.]
      5. The full Committee, at its principal meeting(s), may delegate subsequent action (such as confirmation of referred or deferred assessment, and dissertation marks) to a group smaller than the Committee. This group must involve relevant External Examiner(s) as outlined in section 7.5. Any delegation of action must be clearly recorded in the minutes. This must be chaired by the Head of Discipline or delegated representative, usually the Director of Education.
      6. All Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees must keep formal minutes of their proceedings, recording results (as an attachment if more appropriate) and the reasons for recommendations relating to cases of condonement (template for minutes is attached in Annex C). A copy of all minutes and supporting documentation must be submitted to the Faculty Office for monitoring and review no more than six weeks following the date of the meeting.
      7. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that all evidence relevant to any decision of the Committee is made available in documentary form. Mitigating evidence considered by a Mitigation Committee or equivalent should only be presented to the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee, if relevant and with the explicit permission of the relevant student.
      8. In exceptional cases, the Programme/ Discipline-level APAC can make recommendations to the College APAC on matters of awards and classifications that differ from those calculated e.g. Aegrotat awards where an overall degree mark/ classification can be recommended. The case and rationale should be clearly justified and recorded in the minutes. The final decision would then lie with the Chair of the College APAC to ensure that cases were considered both rigorously and consistently. The Faculty Office requires a written report of such cases to ensure equity of practice across all colleges.
    8. Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee – Terms of Reference
      1. The primary responsibility of Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees is the consideration of assessment recommendations. To exercise this responsibility, the Referral/ Deferral Committees have the following terms of reference:
        1. To ensure that marking criteria are applied appropriately and consistently;
        2. To agree the results of assessments in modules. Exception reporting, (i.e., only noting non straightforward results) is acceptable;
        3. To receive redacted/ anonymised reports from Mitigation Committees;
        4. To approve the progression of students at all stages, including the application of condonement where clear rules have been set out in advance of the meeting (see Chapter 8) in up to a quarter of the total credit required for the stage;
        5. To make recommendations to Senate for awards and classification;
        6. To review statistics on academic performance and to comment upon the performance of cohorts in particular assessments and modules.
    9. Membership of Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be chaired by the Head of Discipline or delegated representative, usually the Director of Education.
      2. All Module Convenors/ Leaders and other academic staff whose modules are to be considered at the Ref/Def APAC.
      3. All relevant External Examiners for the modules/ programmes under consideration.
    10. Attendance at Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. Normally, External Examiner(s) are expected to be present at any meeting of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee at which recommendations are made for the award of degrees, diplomas or certificates. However, for Referral/ Deferral APACs it is acceptable for Externals to attend by Skype, video conference link or conference call if necessary. Where attendance is not reasonably practical, the Chair should ensure that the External Examiner has been fully involved in agreeing marks and that there is, at the meeting, a written record of the External Examiner’s remarks and recommendations on classifications and failures. More information on the role and responsibilities of External Examiners can be found in Chapter 3 of the Quality Review Framework.
      2. Module Convenors/ Leaders whose modules are to be considered and other committee members not present at a meeting should make a written report available which will be counted towards the quoracy of the meeting.
    11. Quorum of Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The quorum for the attendance of members at a meeting of a Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be observed as follows;
        1. The quorum for a meeting shall be at least three members plus the Chair.

    12. Referral/ Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. Meetings of the Referral/Deferral Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees should have the following agenda:
        1. Confirmation of quoracy
        2. Attendance and Apologies for absence.
        3. Terms of reference.
        4. Declarations of interest.
        5. Receipt of a report from Mitigation Committee(s).
        6. Receipt of condonement rules (as specified in chapter 8 of this Handbook, or as specified by the College if additional rules have been agreed in advance of the meeting) for all programmes under consideration.
        7. Approval of module marks, condonement in up to a quarter of the total credit required for the stage, and progression.
        8. Recommendations on award and classification.
        9. Date of next meeting
      2. Where exceptional circumstances prevent the APAC from following the proposed agenda or format, or where quoracy has not been achieved, the APAC meeting may continue, however, this must be reported as a matter of urgency to the Taught Faculty Office.
      3. A copy of all minutes and supporting documentation must be submitted to the Faculty Office for monitoring and review no more than six weeks following the date of the meeting.
    13. College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees – Terms of Reference
      1. The primary responsibility of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees is to ensure that academic regulations are applied consistently and equitably across disciplines. To exercise this responsibility College Committees have the following terms of reference:
        1. To receive approved marks for all students.
        2. To receive decisions of Mitigation Committees and pay particular regard to matters of consistency across programmes/disciplines.
        3. To receive recommendations of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees for classification of awards and recommend these to Senate.
        4. To ensure that Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees have applied pre-agreed condonement rules consistently.
        5. To make decisions about the consequences of failure, including decisions on failed modules where more than the maximum permitted number of condonable credits is involved.
        6. To ensure the consistent application of the Academic Regulations.
        7. To monitor the performance of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees.
        8. To refer back any issues requiring action for the following year.
        9. To identify and share good practice.
    14. Membership of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee should normally be chaired by the Associate Dean for Education or, with approval of the Dean of the relevant Faculty, an appropriate nominee.
      2. Each Programme/Discipline Committee must be represented at the College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee by at least one member.
      3. As decisions relating to standards of awards (i.e., confirmation of marks and appropriate application of threshold and classification standards) are the responsibility of Programme/Discipline Committees, External Examiners are not expected to attend College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees.
    15. Attendance at College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. Only duly appointed members of the Committee and its Secretary should be present at a meeting of a College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. However, with the approval of the Chair of the Committee, other members of University staff or External Examiners may be present for the purposes of administrative support or observation.
    16. Quorum of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The quorum for the attendance of members at a meeting of a College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee;
        a) must be at least the Associate Dean for Education or appropriate nominee, and one member of each Programme/Discipline Committee.
    17. College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. Meetings of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees should have the following agenda:
        1. Confirmation of quoracy.
        2. Attendance and apologies for absence.
        3. Terms of Reference.
        4. Declarations of interest.
        5. Minutes of the previous meeting, clearly dated with an accurate list of attendees (template for minutes attached in Annex D).
        6. Matters arising on the minutes.
        7. Receive oral reports from Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees. It is not expected that oral reports will include every decision but should draw the College Committee’s attention to irregular occurrences or instances where University regulations were difficult to adhere to. Additional points could include:
          1. Confirmation that all module marks (pass and fail) were approved.
          2. Incidences where the condonement rule was applied.
          3. Mitigation Committee decisions.
          4. Justifiable recommendations for awards and classification, including exceptional cases.
          5. Major concerns expressed or recommendations made by the External Examiners.
          6. Decisions on the consequences of failure
          7. Discussion of common themes emerging from Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees and subsequent College actions.
          8. Date of the next meeting.
      2. Where exceptional circumstances prevent the APAC from following the proposed agenda or format, or where quoracy has not been achieved, the APAC meeting may continue, however, this must be reported as a matter of urgency to the Taught Faculty Office.
      3. The College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be provided with all relevant information to enable appropriate decisions to be made. Evidence of mitigation considered by a Mitigation Committee or equivalent should only be presented to the Committee with the explicit permission of the relevant student.
      4. This default agenda is not exclusive and further items may be added for a particular meeting as Committee business requires.
      5. All College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees must keep formal minutes of their proceedings, recording outcomes (as an attachment if more appropriate) and the reasons for recommendations relating to cases requiring discussion, including reference to any documentary or other evidence as appropriate. The Chair of the College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must sign the minutes. A copy of all minutes and supporting documentation must be submitted to the Faculty Office for monitoring and review no more than six weeks following the date of the meeting.
    18.  Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee for Flexible Combined Honours (FCH)
      1. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee is nominated by the FCH Board of Studies, reporting to the Humanities College Executive and the FCH Strategy Board.
      2. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be chaired by the Head of Discipline or delegated representative, usually the Director of Education.
      3. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee consists of academic staff representatives from each subject area teaching FCH students. Other members of staff who are members of the Board of Studies may attend as observers without voting rights. The Chair of the FCH Board of Studies is an ex officio member.
      4. FCH will have an External Examiner appointed by the College of Humanities. The function of the External Examiner will be:
        1. To be a member of the FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee;
        2. To advise on the conduct of the FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee and on the operation of the conventions;
        3. To advise on the regulations and processes of the degree.
      5. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee processes confirmed final marks for modules. Hence Colleges must ensure that the marks recorded in SITS when the FCH Board meets is final and agreed by the relevant Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. The mark will not be subject to revision at the FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee. All such cases should be fully documented and minuted.

        A‌ppendix A: APAC Checklist

1Reports for Mitigation Committees are likely to take the form of spreadsheets, made available to the APAC but not discussed. 

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