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 (APAC).
      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. For each programme an APAC should be held at least once per academic year. Additional APACs may be held when awarding or progression decisions need to be made. APACs held following referred/deferred assessments shall follow the same rules as for other APACs, except where specific regulations apply.
      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.
      6. For Special Provisions for Degree Apprenticeship programmes, please see the Special Provisions information for further guidance.
    2. Definitions
      1. The University has a three tier system for Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees. The three 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, multiple programmes or groups of modules delivered by an academic discipline. All students, including those on partnership programmes and International Summer School programmes, must be included in an APAC. All module results should be received by 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.
      4. Tier Three: University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee whose primary responsibility is to identify areas where policy clarifications or enhancements are required, to consider patterns of degree outcomes and academic standards and make associated strategic recommendations. Tier Three meetings will normally take place after the release of results, reflecting back on completed APAC processes and the fulfilment of responsibilities by APACs, but in exceptional circumstances may be brought forward for quality assurance purposes.
      5. A summary of the purpose, membership and documentation for the meetings associated with each Tier can be found in Appendix A.
    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, and establishing and enacting principles of fairness and impartiality. This includes:
        1. Taking an overview of the assessment processes that operate for the programmes and modules in the subject area, including:
          1. Setting examination papers, essay titles, and other assessments
          2. Marking processes (including moderation, sampling, etc)
          3. Application of regulations.
        2. Ensuring that appropriate and clear marking criteria have been set and applied consistently to identify threshold standards and that classification boundaries are clear.
      2. To exercise this responsibility Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees have the following terms of reference:
        1. To be responsible for finalising and approving module marks for all students on modules overseen by the APAC:
          1. To review module-level data on academic performance, to comment upon the performance of module cohorts and to recommend scaling in either direction to particular modules as required.
        2. To receive confirmation that Mitigation Committee decisions have been applied.1.
        3. To be responsible for confirming and approving progression decisions for all students on programmes overseen by the APAC, including the application of condonement in accordance with Chapter 8.
        4. To make recommendations for awards, classification and consequences of failure for students on programmes overseen by the APAC.
        5. To error check (including condonement, degree titles, classifications, core modules, level of credits).
        6. To consider External Examiner(s) reports.
        7. To consider assessment processes eg. moderation and any assessment changes.
        8. To identify student exceptions that require further scrutiny or advice from College APAC, including:
          1. Individual student adjustments  (in exceptional year)
          2. Dean’s exceptions to be requested e.g. Aegrotat awards
          3. Irregular occurrences or instances where University regulations were difficult to adhere to in relation to consequences of failure.
    4. Membership of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees must have the following core membership:
        1. The Chair must be the Head of Discipline/ Director of Education (or equivalent for College of Medicine and Health), or, with the Academic Dean’s approval, a nominated representative.
        2. At least one member of the academic staff of the University with responsibility for the oversight of assessment and examinations. Where this member is also the Director of Education, an alternative academic should be present as agreed by the Chair. (INTO APACs must include a University of Exeter Director of Education or appropriate representative.)
        3. An Education Support Team member to act as secretary.
        4. An additional Education Support Team member to oversee procedural elements.
        5. External Examiner(s).

          In addition, the following membership is optional, at the discretion of the Chair:
        6. All relevant module conveners for the Department.
        7. Other relevant professional services and academic staff.
      2. The membership of preparatory meetings is to be agreed by the Chair of the Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee, but should include the following:
        1. Academic with responsibility for oversight of assessment and examinations (Assessment Officer / Assessment Lead / Programme Director).
        2. Education Support Team member to act as secretary.
    5. External Examiner 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 module marks are finalised and 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 Academic Dean. 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 4 of the Quality Review Framework.
      2. The following actions of a Programme/Discipline APAC can only be made in consultation with an appropriate External Examiner (whether in person or in writing):

        a) Scaling of module marks.
        b) Changes to an individual student’s module marks, progression status or award, except when made for the purposes of error correction.

        All decisions must be clearly recorded in the minutes and must include details of the rationale for any changes to marks, any noted objections (and any responses to these objections) and the impact on marks.
      3. At Referral/ Deferral APACs it is acceptable for the External Examiner(s) to attend by Skype, video conference link or conference call. Alternatively, a written record of involvement of the External Examiner(s) in agreeing marks, classifications and failures, along with any additional comments, must be presented at the meeting. More information on the role and responsibilities of External Examiners can be found in Chapter 4 of the Quality Review Framework.
    6.  Quorum of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The quorum for the attendance of members at a meeting of a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be a minimum of five individuals, including the core members as set out above in section 7.4.1.
    7. Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. Meetings of Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees should have the following items on the agenda as a minimum. Where items are to be covered by a preparatory meeting or delegated to a subsequent meeting, this should be made clear on the agenda of the main meeting. Any reports from preparatory meetings should form part of the meeting papers.
        1. Introductory meeting requirements:
          1. Confirmation of attendance, apologies for absence and quoracy
          2. Terms of reference
          3. Declarations of interest
          4. Minutes of the previous meetings (Tier One, Tier Two and Ref/Def) and matters arising.
        2. Receipt of confirmation that Mitigation Committee decisions have been applied.
        3. Receipt of programme rules (as specified in Chapter 8 of this Handbook and in programme specifications), including:
          1. Condonement and referral rules for all programmes under consideration
          2. Specific programme rules affecting degree titles (where applicable).
        4. Consideration of module marks and recommendations for module scaling.
        5. Consideration of individual student records of attainment:
          1. Ensuring accuracy with regards to condonement, degree titles, classifications, core modules and levels of credits
          2. Determining recommendations to Senate around awards, progression, classification, condonement (as set out in Chapter 8) and consequences of failure, in line with University regulations
          3. Identifying exceptions requiring further scrutiny or advice from College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees including cases of:
            1. Individual student adjustments
            2. Dean's exceptions to be requested such as repeat study and Aegrotat awards
            3. Irregular occurrences or instances where university regulations were difficult to adhere to in relation to consequences of failure.
        6. Confirmation from the External Examiner(s) that he/she is in agreement with the decisions taken.
        7. Oral review from the External Examiner(s).
        8. Any other business.

          A template for recording the minutes of the meeting can be found in Annex C.
      2. These agendas are 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 in writing as a matter of urgency to the Taught Faculty Office. If it is known in advance that quoracy cannot be achieved (for example, if the external examiner cannot attend), approval must be sought in advance for the meeting to proceed.
      3. The External Examiner(s) is expected to confirm the decisions taken by the Committee with an appropriate minute made. More information on the role and responsibilities of External Examiners can be found in Chapter 4 of the Quality Review Framework.
      4. The following actions must be approved by the External Examiner:
        1. Any scaling of module marks.
        2. Any changes to an individual’s module marks, progression or award (except when done as error correction).
      5. The full Committee may delegate some responsibilities to a group smaller than the Committee (‘Subsequent meeting’). Similarly, at the discretion of the Chair, a preparatory meeting (‘Preparatory meeting’) may be convened in advance of the main Programme/Discipline APAC.
      6. The membership of Subsequent meetings or Preparatory meetings should be agreed by the Programme/Discipline Chair and must include:
        1. An academic staff member with responsibility for oversight of assessment and examinations (normally Assessment Officer, Assessment Lead or Programme Director).
        2. An Education Support Team member (to act as secretary).
      7. The main Programme/Discipline APAC meeting is expected to accept the recommendations/actions of the Preparatory meeting or Subsequent meeting, as long as those recommendations/actions have been approved by the Programme/Discipline APAC Chair. Any actions requiring the approval of the External Examiner (see 7.7.4) must have their explicit approval.
      8. All Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees, including Preparatory or Subsequent meetings 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 and consequences of failure. The minutes of Preparatory or Subsequent meetings must be reported to the full Programme/Discipline APAC, either at the main meeting, or by circulation afterwards. Minutes of the meetings will be approved by the Chair prior to submission to Faculty. A copy of all minutes and supporting documentation should be submitted to the Faculty Office for monitoring and review no more than three weeks following the date of the meeting.
      9. 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. Exceptional Years
      1. Certain powers of Programme/Discipline APACs are only able to be exercised in exceptional years. These powers include:
        1. Ability to make individual adjustments to student module marks.
        2. Ability to make individual adjustments to student degree classifications.
      2. It is at the discretion of the Academic Dean for Students to determine if a year is exceptional. A year would normally only be judged to be ‘exceptional’ when circumstances have had a significant impact on student academic performance, or it has not been possible to assess student academic performance in the usual manner. Reasons that a year may be judged to be exceptional include (but are not limited to):
        1. Natural disaster
        2. War
        3. Disease outbreak
        4. Industrial action
        5. Widespread/ significant IT failure.
    9. Exception Reporting at Programme/Discipline APACs
      1. Although the APAC is responsible for ensuring there has been a review of all modules results and the performance of all students on the programme, this does not necessarily need to be achieved by having all the relevant data reports scrutinised in the main APAC meeting. It is acceptable for the main APAC meeting to consider exceptional cases provided that a preparatory meeting has taken place to scrutinise all reports.
      2. Decisions must be minuted on whether or not to scale any module outliers. Minutes would be received by the Programme/Discipline APAC.
      3. Exceptional cases are those including where:
        1. A student is unable to progress or will receive an award other than the one they were expecting.
        2. The case is likely to be referred to the CAPAC.
        3. A module is proposed to be scaled (module reports).
        4. Some noteworthy occurrence means that the membership of the APAC would reasonably expect that it be brought to their attention.
      4. Where a preparatory meeting has scrutinised the appropriate paperwork and made recommendations it is expected that these decisions will be accepted by the Programme/Discipline APAC, provided that they have been approved by the Chair of the APAC and the External examiner (when involving actions requiring External Examiner approval). When a preparatory meeting has recommended scaling of a module, the module convener should be consulted.
    10. 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 APACs have the following terms of reference:
        1. To receive reports on module scaling exceptions with rationale.
        2. To consider student exceptions that require further scrutiny or advice (as identified in the Programme/Discipline APAC) to include:
          1. Individual student adjustments
          2. Dean’s exceptions to be requested such as Aegrotat awards
          3. Irregular occurrences or instances where University regulations were difficult to adhere to in relation to consequences of failure.
        3. To ensure the consistent application of the Academic Regulations across Programmes/Disciplines.
        4. To identify areas where policy clarifications or enhancements are required.
        5. To identify and share good practice from Programme/Discipline APACs.
    11. Membership of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees
      1. The College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must have the following core membership:
        1. The Chair should normally be the Associate Dean for Education or, with approval of the Academic Dean a nominated representative. Normally the Chair should not have attended the previous programme/discipline APAC meetings.
        2. Each Programme/Discipline Committee must be represented at the College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee by at least one academic representative (normally the Programme/Discipline APAC Chair, Director of Education or Assessment Lead). The representative must have attended the meeting they are the representative of.
        3. An Education Support Manager to act as secretary.
        4. College Education Business Partner or nominee.

          In addition, the following membership is optional:
        5. Other relevant professional services and academic staff as agreed by the Chair.
    12. 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 should be a minimum of three individuals plus one representative per Discipline i.e. the core members as set out above in section 17.11.1.
    13. College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. Meetings of College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees should have the following agenda:
        1. Introductory meeting requirements:
          1. Confirmation of attendance, apologies for absence and quoracy
          2. Terms of reference
          3. Declarations of interest
          4. Minutes of the previous meetings (College APAC from the previous year) and matters arising.
        2. Receive oral reports from Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees to include, where relevant:
          1. Confirmation that the Programme/Discipline APAC was conducted in accordance with the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook Chapter 7.
          2. Incidences where scaling exceptions were applied and the rationale for these.
          3. Major concerns expressed or recommendations made by the External Examiner(s).
          4. Exceptions requiring further scrutiny or advice from the College Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees including cases of:
            - Individual student adjustments
            - Dean's exceptions to be requested such as Aegrotat awards
            - Irregular occurrences or instances where University regulations were difficult to adhere to in relation to consequences of failure.
        3. Discussion of common themes and good practice emerging from Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committees.
        4. Identification of requirements for policy clarifications or enhancements.
        5. Any other business.

          A template for recording the minutes can be found in Annex D.
      2. It is not intended that the College APAC will amend decisions made by the Programme/Discipline APAC, except in cases of actual errors in the application of procedure or policy. Should queries arise, clarification on decisions made should be sought from the Chair of the Programme/Discipline APAC.
      3. As decisions relating to standards of awards (ie. confirmation of marks and appropriate application of threshold and classification standards) are the responsibility of Programme/Discipline APACs, External Examiners are not expected to attend College APACs.
      4. This agenda is not exclusive and further items may be added for a particular meeting as Committee business requires. Where exceptional circumstances prevent the College 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.
      5. The College APAC 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.
      6. This default agenda is not exclusive and further items may be added for a particular meeting as Committee business requires.
      7. 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 Quality and Standards for monitoring and review no more than three weeks following the date of the meeting.
    14. University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee - Terms of Reference
      1. The primary responsibility of the University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee is to oversee assessment, progression and awarding from an institution-wide quality assurance perspective. To exercise this responsibility, the University APAC has the following terms of reference:
        1. To receive reports on Dean's exceptions.
        2. To ensure the consistent application of the Academic Regulations across Colleges.
        3. To identify and share good practice from Programme/Discipline APACs and College APACs.
        4. To identify areas where policy clarifications or enhancements are required.
        5. To make institution-wide recommendations on quality assurance matters relating to APACs
    15. Membership of University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee
      1. The University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must have the following core membership:
        1. The Chair should normally be the Academic Dean for Students.
        2. Associate Academic Dean for Students.
        3. Quality and Standards Manager.
        4. Faculty Policy Advisor, acting as secretary.

          In addition, the following membership is optional:
        5. Other relevant professional services and academic staff as agreed or requested by the Chair.
        6. Chief External Examiner (or similar).
        7. Student representatives.
    16. Quorum of University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee
      1. The quorum for the attendance of members at a meeting of the University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee should be a minimum of three individuals from the core members set out in section 17.15.1
    17. University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Meeting
      1. The University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee meets twice a year, which will usually be in June and November.
      2. The meetings of the University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee should have the following agenda:
        1. Introductory meeting requirements:
          1. Confirmation of attendance, apologies for absence and quoracy
          2. Terms of reference
          3. Declarations of interest
          4. Minutes of the previous meetings (Faculty APAC from the previous year) and matters arising.
          5. Receive a report on Dean’s exceptions from the undergraduate and postgraduate taught APACs and referral/deferral APACs.
          6. Receive College APAC minutes from the undergraduate and postgraduate taught APACs and referral/deferral APACs.
          7. Discussion of common themes and good practice emerging from College APACs.
          8. Review of degree outcomes data (*November only).
          9. Planning for policy clarifications or enhancements.
          10. Any other business.

            A template for recording the minutes of the meeting can be found in Annex E.
        2. The University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must keep formal minutes of proceedings. A copy of the minutes and supporting documentation should be submitted to the Taught Faculty Board.
        3. Alongside the minutes of the University Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee, each year (usually in the Spring term) the Board of the Faculty of Taught Programmes will provide a report to Senate and Council on the University of Exeter’s degree outcomes, which should include consideration of:

          a) Institutional degree classification profile
          b) Assessment and marking practices
          c) Academic governance
          d) Classification algorithms
          e) Teaching practices and learning resources
          f) Identifying good practice and actions
          g) Risks and challenges
    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 Education Strategy Group and the FCH Strategy Board.
      2. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee must be chaired by the Director of FCH or, with the approval of the Academic Dean, a nominated representative.
      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 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.
      6. FCH will not hold a Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee: Tier One.
      7. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee will follow the agenda and regulations of the Programme/Discipline Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee: Part 2 as detailed in section 7.7.1 – 7.7.6.
      8. The FCH Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee will feed into the College of Humanities Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee.

        A‌ppendix A: APAC Summary

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

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