Staff at the Queen Mary University London (QMUL) have been warned that they need to explain their actions, if any group of students have an average grade of below 60%. The grade is the threshold for an upper second-class degree. If too few students pass this minimum then their lecturers could face an investigation.
The 60:60:60 Principle
Staff working at the QMUL’s School of Business and Management have been told to abide by the “60:60:60 principle” when assessing students’ work. Module organisers who issue marks for any assignment where the average mark is below 60 and/or less than 60% of students receive a mark of more than 60 will have to give reasoning to their marking.
Lecturers have been told to check whether their marking reflects the 60:60:60 principle. If not, scaling or other adjustments are encouraged. Scaling is a process used by universities to improve unusually low marks to highlight student achievement.
Lecturers Need to Help Students Reach the Minimum Requirement
Although the 60:60:60 principle is a marking guide for lecturers, it isn’t an aspirational target for students. Instead, the principle is simply the minimum requirement that would instigate further investigation conducted by moderators. In other cases, investigations could go as far as being assessed by exam board chairs.
Grade Inflation is Making it Hard for Students and Lecturers
Such an emphasis on effective marking comes after degree inflation in universities have caused growing concerns. Previous universities minister Jo Johnson warned that grade inflation was “ripping through universities”. He has also urged vice-Chancellors to deal with the issue.
In the last five years, the number of students achieving top honours upon leaving university has reached record levels. One in four students graduated with a top degree classification in 2017. An inflation of grades could easily make achieving these top marks much harder for students. As a result, there is a risk of less students achieving high grades thus creating the impression that standards are slipping.