Chapter 7 - Academic Level

Each approved module has one academic level. Where modules share significant elements of content and teaching, each module is approved separately at the appropriate academic level. Each module should be distinguished by different learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities and assessment that reflect the academic level. Two modules can share the same teaching while being assessed at different levels. They will have different identifying codes and will differ in the learning outcomes that relate to the appropriate levels and there will be different assessment criteria.

Where it is academically desirable, programmes may be designed so that students are able to take modules at different academic levels in the same developmental year. Programme specifications should indicate clearly where such flexibility exists (see tables in Chapter 9 for information on minimum and maximum credit requirements).

In support of the approved academic levels, the University of Exeter has adopted qualification descriptors in line with the QAA Academic Infrastructure 2008 as described in the tables below. These descriptors indicate the principal outcomes that a student should be able to demonstrate following the completion of an award at a designated level.

Level 3
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 3 will have demonstrated:
a) That they have a knowledge and skills base of conceptual and factual knowledge with some appreciation of the field of study and of terminology used.
b) An ability to work with that knowledge and skills (analyse, synthesise, evaluate and apply) independently in a range of complex activities or with guidance when working with greater complexity.


Level 4
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 4 will have demonstrated:
a)  Knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with their areas of study, and an ability to evaluate and interpret these within the context of that area of study.
b)   An ability to present, evaluate, and interpret qualitative and quantitative data, to develop lines of argument and make sound judgements in accordance with basic theories and concepts of their subject(s) of study.


Level 5
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 5 will have demonstrated:
a) Knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles of their area(s) of study, and of the way in which those principles have developed.
b) 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.
c) Knowledge of the main methods of enquiry in their subject(s), and ability to evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems in the field of study.
d) An understanding of the limits of their knowledge, and how this influences analyses and interpretations based on that knowledge.


 Level 6 
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 6 will have demonstrated: 
 a)  A systematic understanding of key aspects of their field of study, including acquisition of coherent and detailed knowledge, at least some of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of defined aspects of a discipline.
 b)  An ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within a discipline.

 Conceptual understanding that enables the student:

i) to devise and sustain arguments, and/or to solve problems, using ideas and techniques, some of which are at the forefront of a discipline;

ii) to describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research, or equivalent advanced scholarship, in the discipline.


 An appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge.


The ability to manage their own learning and to make use of scholarly reviews and primary resources (e.g. refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the discipline).


Level 7
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 7 will have demonstrated:
a) 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 academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.
b) A comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.
c) 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 discipline.

Conceptual understanding that enables the student:

i) to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline;

ii) to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.


Level 8
Students successfully completing programme requirements at level 8 will have demonstrated:
a) The creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication.
b) 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.
c) The general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems.
d) A detailed understanding of applicable techniques and advanced academic enquiry.

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